Copyright Act amendments not apt for film and music

By Ameet Datta and Suvarna Mandal, Saikrishna & Associates
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The amendments almost three years ago to the Copyright Act, 1957, are arguably among the most significant made to the act to date. The amendments not only radically altered how copyright ownership devolved but also included film and music industry centric provisions which, in effect, disallowed authors and composers from transferring or waiving a right to profit “equally” from the ongoing exploitation of their works, thus impeding contractual freedom.

Ameet Datta
Ameet Datta

It was clear at the outset that while the amendments impacted everyday transactions and ways of doing business, the success of the author centric changes depended on other provisions which were supposed to ensure that industry functioning was not obstructed. It now appears that provisions intended to streamline licensing administration and valuation remain ineffective on the ground, and the film and music industry and sectors which exploit film and music face exposure on account of gaps in the act and confusion arising due to varying interpretations of the extent of the royalty provisions.

Prior to the amendment which prevents authors and composers from assigning or waiving an “equal share” of royalties, the industry practice was to pay a one-time lump sum consideration as opposed to revenue share arrangements. The provision impairing, in effect, the ability of authors and composers to enter into contracts waiving their monetary rights under the act may be the only such provision in any statute worldwide.

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Ameet Datta is a partner at Saikrishna & Associates, where Suvarna Mandal is an associate. The views expressed in this article are personal.

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