Management of Rights in the Digital Era – IPRS

Management of Rights in the Digital Era

As seen new avenues come with opportunities as well as challenges. While digital platforms opened the path for aspiring as well as established artists to explore the international music world, they also posed the challenge of infringement or piracy.

Copyright is one of the most important Intellectual Property Right which denotes the rights possessed by the creators for literary and artistic works. In our new monthly series #AskAmeet with leading IP lawyer, Ameet Datta we will try and explain the legal aspects surrounding the music industry in as simple terms as possible.

You can mail us your queries, we will try to accommodate as many queries as possible.

In the first session titled, Management of Rights in the Digital Era, we will highlight the challenges, unknown & lesser-known facts related to IP rights and copyright infringement in the digital domain, the remedies, and the enhanced role of CMOs in the digital era. Below are a few highlights.Please click here to view the entire video:

What are the challenges faced by Copyright owners in the Digital Era?
In the pandemic, we haven’t discovered or invented new forms of technology. The traditional licensing sources did disappear though. The license revenue dried up from sources like shops and establishments, the hospitality industry, and the physical live events industry. The death of physical live events meant that the artists were left without work and were at home. So were the artists involved with the recording industry. This meant, no one was able to work or earn. The big companies couldn’t create and release content so they also didn’t earn and as a result, couldn’t pay salaries.
At the same time, the consumption of content on digital platforms increased manifold. Which was great. But there was always that innate undertow, in the online sphere, of a large body of this content being consumed illegally without any remuneration to the creators or the copyright holders. This resulted in a massive jump in piracy and infringement. In spite of this, the digital platforms substituted for a large part of the revenue generation for the overall music industry.

The challenges of infringement faced in the digital space are very different from the physical world. The digital world offers anonymity. Someone sitting in a remote part of the country can operatea large broadcasting service. The world was not ready for this challenge in terms of technical prowess, ability, and the power to stop it.

Opportunities and challenges both have come up with the rise of digital platforms. Live online shows became the flavour. A lot of artists started releasing their original content themselves and some even set up their labels.

Copyright related to the content available on the internet – Myth vs Reality
It’s a reality but many people are led astray. Even in the music industry, there are myths regarding how much use of a copyrighted song can be made without permission. People think they can use it for 8 Bars or 8 or 30 seconds. These myths have been long there and I have confronted people who think this myth is a reality.

Copyright applies to the digital and physical world. India is a part of the international copyright treaties like WIPO Internet Treaties like WCT, and WPPT which extend copyright to the digital space. The Indian law was designed to include physical and digital spaces.

There are a lot of myths about copyright in the digital world one of them is the ‘implied license’. No content can be assumed to be‘copyright-free’ on the internet unless the owner makes it available for free use. There are no free lunches.

Defining Fair Dealing or Fair Use in the Digital Environment. How are copyright/IP rights protected by the Indian Judiciary in the digital era?
Years back, the Copyright Law was seen as an impediment to freedom of speech. Globally there is a provision for Fair Dealing. But what is Fair Dealing?

If an author is writing an article about a music personality, the law allows the use of small portions of the said personality’s work for free use. One doesn’t need the entire movie or sound recording to analyse or criticize a body of work. Sound recordings can be used freely in schools, hostels, amateur clubs, and events where there is a non-paying audience. The court ensures this balance is maintained.
Copyright is termed as a monopoly act but I think otherwise. If there is fair dealing involved, the question of monopoly doesn’t exist. The parliament has drafted the act in a way by which there is a balance maintained between copyright owners and legitimate users.

There can be mitigating circumstances but all copyrighted sound recordings cannot be used freely for non-commercial events and use.

The Indian courts have taken into account the reality and complexity of the digital domains. If there are portals, even if it is based in a foreign country, beaming unauthorized content, courts have passed orders to block them starting about 5-6 years ago. In these cases thecourt directs the Department of Telecom to issue order to the telecom companies and ISps to block the offenders permanently within 48-72 hours. This is done after ensuring the complaint’s legitimacy and if the website is a rogue or pirate website.

CMOs are playing an enlarged role in the digital era. Throw some light on this in the context of IPRS.
The CMOs are important as it is impossible for any content owner to personally grant licenses or collect royalties for their works. Also, a license seeker can’t go around procuring licenses and paying royalties. It is not cost-effective for both. A CMO plays the mediator between the both and ensures monetary fair play too as they provide a collective license or blanket license with a laid-out tariff card. This license ensures that the logic of both sides is pooled and the required balance is maintained. It also provides millions of songs, from yesteryears to current, at a fair usage price.

IPRS provides a collective license in India.
The Indian law states that only a registered copyright society can collect royalties for authors, composers and owner publishers. This is where the role of a CMO becomes all the more important in India. IPRS is that society in India. Around 2017, IPRS’ revenue for Rs.46 crores is now around Rs.170 crores which are distributed amongst the authors, composers and owner publishers. IPRS presents the most beautiful and optimistic portion of the Indian music industry today which serves each and every member without discrimination. If there is a problem, it works with the people involved to reach a solution. Nothing is perfect in this world, but as long as the intention is honourable, bodies like IPRS come into play. In India, IPRS is vital and critical for the copyright sector.