Tiff on copyright continues to rage
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The conflict is far from resolved but, as it stands, writers, lyricists and composers have gained the upper hand. Till 2012, the producer alone was considered the ‘author’ of a film. But an amendment made to the Copyright Act in 2012 has recognised the rights of the true owners of the various original works of art that make up a film - the script, the lyrics and the music. They are now entitled to a share of all the proceeds from the future sales of their product.
The amendment also bars a creative person, be it a script writer or a lyricist, from selling a work of art. “So even if a writer wants to sell his work, it is not legally possible. This clause has been inserted as a check against exploitation of creative people,” said Aarti Ashok, a legal expert. Noted Marathi scholar and documentary filmmaker Mohit Gaekwad said the 2012 amendment was poetic justice. “For decades we have been asking producers to sit across the table and conduct a fair negotiation. The law was grossly in their favour and so they were not obliged to heed our request,” Mr Gaekwad said. “You should have seen the clauses they had drawn up in their contracts. It was disgusting,” he said. The people who had the money had all the bargaining power. He said that there were writers of blockbuster films who had died in penury. “The person who wrote the first draft of ‘Seetha aur Geetha’ did not have the money to even buy medicines in his old age,” he said.
Gaekwad said a delegation of South Indian film producers had declared that they would commit suicide if the amendment was passed. “The amendment was passed on June 5, 2012 and I am yet to see anyone dying. What's more, the film industry is growing from strength to strength,” the documentary filmmaker said. Swapna Joseph, a leading executive producer in Tamil films, conceded that producers were an exploitative lot. She however said that the law was now lopsided against them. She argued that it was the producer alone who was taking the risk. “If creative partners want sharing of profits, they should also stand for a sharing of risks,” Ms Joseph said. Now a top composer charges around Rs one crore for six songs. “Why can’t the composer make the sings songs for Rs 30 lakh and then partake of the profits later,” she asked.