Indian Film Industry Threatening To Strike Over Proposed Copyright Reform That Would Make Them Pay Composers For Music

from the it's-all-relative dept

It's sometimes amusing to see how organizations that are strong copyright defenders, because they rely on copyright for certain aspects of their business, respond when copyright law is strengthened in ways that help others. Suddenly, they seem to react differently, and all the talk about how important copyright is to "protect content creators" goes out the window. Earlier this year, we wrote about India's proposed copyright reform, which would strengthen certain rights for the content creators themselves, at the expense of many third parties. I actually think this is probably not a very good idea, and will do more harm than good, but it's still a bit amusing (via Jamie Love) to see that the Indian film industry is threatening to go on strike if a part of the law that would require it to actually pay composers and lyricists for the music they use goes through. All too often it seems like copyright is only important when it benefits the specific industry fighting for it. If it benefits anyone else, at that industry's expense, suddenly it's bad...


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2010 @ 4:28pm

    lolfail

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2010 @ 4:59pm

    Re:

    Indeed.

     

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  3.  
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    cram, Dec 27th, 2010 @ 8:20pm

    Misleading headline, Mike. The reform is all about sharing royalties with composers and lyricists, not paying them. In case you didn't know, the Indian movie industry works on a work-for-hire basis as far as music and lyrics are concerned. Depending on how popular a musician is, he gets paid a fixed amount of money per film (anywhere from a few thousand dollars to half a million), as does the lyricist. Period. All future income from the film's music goes to the producer. All musicians and lyricists work on a one-time payment basis. The proposed Act reformation is trying to correct this by including composers and lyricists in future income, which means they would start getting paid repeatedly for something they did years ago. Surely you should be opposing that!

     

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    michael, Dec 27th, 2010 @ 9:45pm

    thanks and no thanks!

    Hey Cram,

    Thanks very much for clearing up the headline and contents of the article. However NO THANKS to the last comment you made.

    I'll explain.

    Every time a song is sold, someone has to pay. Every time a song is played, someone has to pay. This system was setup in the USA a long time ago to keep the recording industry in business. Digital Music and Video files and the Internet have literally killed most of the careers of most of the professional artists who survive on royalties of music licensing. in case you have not guessed i am one of them.

    What you are saying in your comment is that it is ok for a producer to keep selling their movie and making more money each time it is sold, but the music that powers the movie should only be sold a single time. That is not quite fair.

    The issue worth discussing here is the fee that publishing companies might charge the licensor. It is certainly possible that the rate be too high or too low. That rate should be fair so everyone can make money and the consumer does not have to pay more as a result of a change.

    This system has worked fine in the USA for over 50 years. A similar system could and should be adopted worldwide to protect the careers and families of recording artists and the millions of other people attached to the industry.

     

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  5.  
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    cram, Dec 27th, 2010 @ 11:08pm

    Re: thanks and no thanks!

    Hi Michael

    I am happy to hear you are getting royalties for your creative work. All artists deserve it. But sadly that's not how it works in India for those in the movies. The producer owns everything; everyone else works for a one-time fee. All risks and rewards go to the producers; they don't have to share anything with anybody, which is why they don't want the status quo disturbed.

    I didn't say it was OK for the producer alone to make money. I was merely pointing out that this is how it works in India. Have you heard of AR Rahman? He won a couple of Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire. For his first movie in 1992 he was paid 25,000 rupees, which was probably about 500 USD. That film was a massive national super hit and the producer made tons of money, though he didn't get any part of it. What he did get was tons of publicity and enormous exposure. And he ended up doing what musicians and lyricists in Indian films have always done (in line with the Mike Masnick Doctrine): charge for work yet to be created.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 27th, 2010 @ 11:19pm

    Re:

    Depending on how popular a musician is, he gets paid a fixed amount of money per film (anywhere from a few thousand dollars to half a million), as does the lyricist. Period. All future income from the film's music goes to the producer. All musicians and lyricists work on a one-time payment basis. The proposed Act reformation is trying to correct this by including composers and lyricists in future income, which means they would start getting paid repeatedly for something they did years ago.

    Weird. Why would they want a law for that? Why not just negotiate it in the contract? And if the answer is they can't, well then the market has spoken pretty clearly, hasn't it?

     

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  7.  
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    Rekrul, Dec 27th, 2010 @ 11:29pm

    Re: thanks and no thanks!

    Every time a song is sold, someone has to pay. Every time a song is played, someone has to pay.

    I helped design a business card for a friend, for her home business. Am I entitled to a share of her profits anytime she hands out one of those cards and the person ends up calling her?

    This system was setup in the USA a long time ago to keep the recording industry in business.

    That's right, it was set up to benefit the big corporations, not the artists.

    Digital Music and Video files and the Internet have literally killed most of the careers of most of the professional artists who survive on royalties of music licensing.

    No, the industry's unwillingness to change is what is killing careers.

    As soon as the music industry saw that MP3 files were becoming popular for trading music, each record company should have put up their own online store to sell digital copies of music in MP3 format. No monthly subscription, no special software, no DRM, just a one-time payment to buy the songs you wanted. Also, they should have been priced fairly cheaply, such as $0.50 a song. This wouldn't have completely stopped online music piracy, but it would have been heavily curtailed, perhaps to the point that file sharing wouldn't be as popular as it is now. How do I know this?

    Look at the iTunes Store and look at all the obstacles they imposed to buying digital music and yet it still succeeded. You need to use special software, the songs could only be played on a computer that supported iTunes, or on the iPod, you could only use the music on a limited number of devices, you could only burn a limited number of CDs, and the songs were priced at $1 each. In spite of all this, people still bought digital music and the store became a success. Now think what would have happened if each music company had set up their online store with cheaper prices and none of the restrictions. People would have used it.

    Instead, the music industry freaked out and basically tried to kill the entire concept of digital music, even going so far as to try and get MP3 players banned.

    And why exactly is it that they all need iTunes or some other retailer rather than just setting up their own stores?

    What you are saying in your comment is that it is ok for a producer to keep selling their movie and making more money each time it is sold, but the music that powers the movie should only be sold a single time. That is not quite fair.

    Does everyone who had a hand in making the movie get a share of the profits? Like the special effects guys? The stunt men? The camera operators? The makeup artists?

    This system has worked fine in the USA for over 50 years. A similar system could and should be adopted worldwide to protect the careers and families of recording artists and the millions of other people attached to the industry.

    Correction: It has worked for over 50 years, for the artists and corporations. It works to the detriment of everyone else.

    Do you know how many older TV shows and movies can't be released in their original form because it's too expensive to license the music that was originally used? Shows like WKRP in Cincinnati, which relied heavily on music, have been butchered because copyright has become too much of a mess and the rights to the music are too expensive to work out. Other shows have also had all their music changed. In most all cases, the new music is badly inserted into the soundtrack, often drowning out the dialog, or requiring that lines be re-recorded by different actors, all because it's virtually impossible to work out deals with everyone required and the costs would be too great. Some old movies can't be released at all because nobody can figure out who owns the rights to all the music.

    Then there's the issue of the public domain. Like most people, you don't seem to be aware of how copyright was originally intended to work. It was meant to provide protection for a limited amount of time, before the work inevitably passed into the public domain. Originally the term was 14 years, and could be extended by another 14 years. 28 years was the maximum before a work became public domain, then the artist would have to write something new if they wanted to keep earning money. The world got a work that they could use freely and artists were encouraged to keep creating new content.

    Today, copyright lasts a ridiculous length of time, ensuring that you'll never see anything created during your lifetime become public domain. How is having a copyright that lasts for almost 100 years after your death, in any way "limited" as far as you're concerned? Copyright was never meant to provide royalties to your great, great, great grandchildren.

    Finally, answer me this: Why is it perfectly ok for Disney to raid the public domain any time they need a story idea that they don't have to pay for, but yet it's fine for them to fight tooth and nail to stop even a single one of their works from becoming public domain?

    The system is completely one-side and in desperate need of reform. Unfortunately that's not going to happen as long as our corrupt politicians are on the entertainment industry's payroll.

     

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    cram, Dec 28th, 2010 @ 12:23am

    Re: Re:

    The market's very fickle, Mike. And the equations can change rapidly: you can go from nobody to massive national sensation back to a nobody in months. So negotiating is easy only as long as you remain current and popular. The moment a couple of your movies bomb, your chances of negotiation fly out the window. And the competition is intense; in some ways it is an efficient market--no one can ever take his place for granted, you are always on your toes.

    Unless there's a law in place, music composers and lyricists will never ever get paid repeatedly for something they did ages ago. Of course, until now none of them ever expected to. You sang, wrote or composed a song and got paid for it once. If you were "good enough," you got offers and upped your price accordingly. This concept of film music or lyrics functioning like an annuity is new to India. All creative artists are expected to work hard and earn their keep. Only producers are entitled to recurring income because that's how they recoup their investment.

     

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  9.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 28th, 2010 @ 12:53am

    Re: Re: Re:

    And the competition is intense; in some ways it is an efficient market--no one can ever take his place for granted, you are always on your toes.

    That seems like a good thing. I'm confused how that's bad?

    Unless there's a law in place, music composers and lyricists will never ever get paid repeatedly for something they did ages ago. Of course, until now none of them ever expected to. You sang, wrote or composed a song and got paid for it once. If you were "good enough," you got offers and upped your price accordingly. This concept of film music or lyrics functioning like an annuity is new to India. All creative artists are expected to work hard and earn their keep. Only producers are entitled to recurring income because that's how they recoup their investment.

    And is there anything wrong with that?

     

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  10.  
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    The eejit (profile), Dec 28th, 2010 @ 1:39am

    Re: thanks and no thanks!

    1) It did work. But, as it depended on people not getting wise, ti is now failing.

    2) No-one deserves to get paid just for producing a work. You get paid by fans. And to do THAT, you need to connect with them, not treat them like criminals every time soemthing shiny comes out.

    3) You've obviously never heard of Wall Street. They do all the crashing of economies and get all the bonuses. That's clearly fair, isn't it? [/sarc]

     

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  11.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Dec 28th, 2010 @ 2:58am

    Re: thanks and no thanks!

    Every time a song is played, someone has to pay

    So the guy who paved my driveway is gonna be paid everytime I drive up to my house with my car. Are you nuts?

     

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  12.  
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    cram, Dec 28th, 2010 @ 3:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oftentimes a movie is a huge success thanks to the music. But the men behind the music get paid only once; no share in profits for them. Naturally they feel aggrieved. They may have lobbied with the state, but I am not sure.

    Perhaps the government feels that reforming the act will send more money into the pockets of musicians. In India, federal and state governments are known to do things that seemingly make the lives of starving artists better.

     

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  13.  
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    cram, Dec 28th, 2010 @ 3:39am

    For too long, producers and stars have enjoyed the lion's share of a movie's profits. Though musicians and lyricists have played a big role in various successful films, until now they have never had the bargaining power to ask for more than a one-time fee, however high it may be.

     

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  14.  
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    Richard (profile), Dec 28th, 2010 @ 4:33am

    Re: thanks and no thanks!

    Every time a song is sold, someone has to pay. Every time a song is played, someone has to pay. This system was setup in the USA a long time ago to keep the recording industry in business. Digital Music and Video files and the Internet have literally killed most of the careers of most of the professional artists who survive on royalties of music licensing. in case you have not guessed i am one of them.
    What you are saying in your comment is that it is ok for a producer to keep selling their movie and making more money each time it is sold, but the music that powers the movie should only be sold a single time. That is not quite fair.


    I earn my living from teaching. The students pay (or the state pays on their behalf) a one off fee. Some of those students go on to earn huge incomes - far more than I could dream of - all based on what I have taught them.

    Could you please explain the difference between your situation and mine that entitles you to a continuing income from work you did in the past while I get nothing?

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2010 @ 4:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well I will repeat what I hear from a lot of musicians.

    Go produce your own music then or in this case go on to produce your own movie if you are not content in doing a job and want to share the profits.

    I think the Indian copyright law makes a lot of sense right now. You work, you deliver your work and you get paid and that is the end of it.

    Why musicians and lyricist deserve special treatment at all?

    Why not give shares to everyone involved in the production of a film then?

    Stuntman should lobby congress to get a cut, Light technicians should too, sound technicians, the coffee lady, the people responsible for building sets, the apparel technicians too.

    Are those people not good enough to receive the same royalties? If they were not there would production be possible?

    Honestly you sound like those guys that complain about other making more money then you, just because they are making money.

     

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  16.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Dec 28th, 2010 @ 5:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Oftentimes a movie is a huge success thanks to the music. But the men behind the music get paid only once; no share in profits for them."

    Isn't that just a contract negotiation issue? If they think their work is important enough to the success of the movie then they need to put their money where their mouth is and argue for a better contract.

     

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  17.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Dec 28th, 2010 @ 5:42am

    Re:

    "Though musicians and lyricists have played a big role in various successful films, until now they have never had the bargaining power"

    I don't see how their 'bargaining power' has changed with this story. Forming a union would be a change in bargaining power; getting the law changed kinda takes away the bargaining aspect altogether.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2010 @ 5:42am

    But composers and lyricists are a lower caste and should not be paid! They should be happy to serve!

     

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  19.  
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    Gabriel Tane (profile), Dec 28th, 2010 @ 5:51am

    So, what's the problem?

    What we see here, just like in the US, is argument for government-protected royalties. And I ask "why do we need such protections"? I've heard before that we would have no art if the royalties weren't protected. I think that's BS. What we have now are a bunch of cookie-cutter 'artists' like Bieber and Spears who don't really (in my humble opinion) add anything to the enrichment of society. All they do is market themselves out to make their labels money. That's not art, it's prostitution without sex (or really damned close in Spears' case).

    I propose that if we were to remove the protection that we have now (instead of increasing it), we would have artists who create art for the sake of creating art. I know that there are artists out there doing exactly that, but they are being drowned in a sea of mediocrity (and that's being generous). If we do away with the business of art, we would still have artists. As a bonus, we’d have a lot less crap made solely for a buck.

     

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  20.  
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    Jose_X, Dec 28th, 2010 @ 5:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think the bluff should be called. It will open up opportunities.

    Also, it is sad that some who work hard get so much lower financial compensation than others that arguably work not as hard but certainly not much harder. The artists make much less than those coming in with the investments and running the businesses.

    So reward is not nearly based on hard work as it is on how much money you already have, which itself has a fair amount to do with luck (starting with the family under which you were born).

    Even factoring in "risks" of loss, hard, smart, diligent, etc, work in not nearly rewarded on a similar level (the business and investment skill, of all skill classes and fortunes necessary to keep society going, getting a much sweeter deal).

    Again, I think if the bluff was called, these people would still put their investments on the line just as quickly (after doing their song and dance). At the end of the day, a great opportunity will still exist for them to use their existing assets to gain more. Naturally, though, they have many strong levers so want to exercise them to shut out as many as they can from lucrative royalties.

     

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  21.  
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    chris (profile), Dec 28th, 2010 @ 8:48am

    Re: thanks and no thanks!

    Digital Music and Video files and the Internet have literally killed most of the careers of most of the professional artists who survive on royalties of music licensing. in case you have not guessed i am one of them.

    sorry to hear that. maybe you should get a real job where you negotiate your rate up front.

    A similar system could and should be adopted worldwide to protect the careers and families of recording artists and the millions of other people attached to the industry.

    that boat has sailed my friend. the 80's are over and they're not coming back. you owe it to yourself and your family to move on to greener pastures, maybe something involving the internet?

     

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  22.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Dec 28th, 2010 @ 12:13pm

    Re: So, what's the problem?

    "I propose that if we were to remove the protection that we have now (instead of increasing it), we would have artists who create art for the sake of creating art. I know that there are artists out there doing exactly that, but they are being drowned in a sea of mediocrity (and that's being generous). If we do away with the business of art, we would still have artists. As a bonus, we’d have a lot less crap made solely for a buck."

    More than that, the artists that are left would be better off because they wouldn't be competing with those just trying to take advantage of the system. Norah Jones would likely stay rich, because she's popular and talented, but would be joined by other talented artists who never had a chance before. Likewise, Lady Gaga would probably stay rich and popular because she's a talented artist (even if her music isn't particularly to my taste). Whether they'd make more or less I have no idea but I believe fully that the distribution of wealth would be better spread amongst talented artists if we didn't have a protection system set up for the greedy to abuse.

     

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