Hindi music industry locks horns over royalties, copyright

MUMBAI: While the tussle between the Hindi film producers and multiplexes is yet to be sorted after a month of meetings and negotiations, there is a new legal tussle that has been brewing in the Indian film industry.

Like the producers, Hindi film music composers and lyricists have also come together to fight a legal battle in the court against big music labels for better pay cheques, copyright and royalties for their work.

However, composers and lyricists seem to have just woken up and realized the kind of revenues the big music labels are earning from different formats like ringtones etc. According to a KPMG report India’s music industry is worth an estimated $151 million and is projected to grow to $216 million by 2013.

Speaking to Businessofcinema.com music director Suleman, of the Salim Suleman duo, said, “This was bound to happen at some point of time and though it should have happened earlier, it’s good that people have started realizing this issue about copyrights and are now getting together to fight it.”

He added, “Our demands are just to make sure our copyrights are protected because the royalties that we get are meager in comparison to what should be given to a composer, the lyricists are paid peanuts for their work in our industry.”

Suleman further says, “This has been going on since the last 30 – 40 years. Old composers like Laxmikant Pyarelal or RD Burman never saw royalties; some of their famous songs have been exploited over the limit, which never went to him. That is why we want to ensure that in our old age we will be taken care of by our property.”

Singer Udit Narayan says that though he does not know much about this issue, he feels that composers and lyricists should definitely get what they are asking for. “It’s a good demand. In fact, if you ask me I would be happier if singers too got royalties instead of being paid a meager amount for lending their voices.”

Nayayan adds that if singers had to depend on films alone for their livelihood, it would be difficult to make ends meet singers today are surviving because of the shows they do.

While veterans like Javed Akthar and Gulzaar were not ready to speak about the issue, lyricist Sameer was more forthcoming about the tussle that is going on. “Earlier we were not so aware about copyrights etc. but now the scenario has changed with the corporates coming in  people are more aware about their rights. This case has been in the Supreme Court since the last five years. The music companies are earning so much from different resources like remixes, radio, ringtones etc. but  they are not ready to give us a single rupee as royalty. All of us are in this fight together right from Gulzaar Saab, Javed Akthar, Prasoon Joshi, A R Rahman and all the other composers and lyricists,” informs Sameer.

He said that Rahman had even refused to compose for Om Shanti Om as the producers were not ready to comply to his demands of retaining the rights over his songs.

On the other hand T-Series chairman and managing director Bhushan Kumar denies the fact that such a demand is brewing up. He says, “If that was the case then composers like Sameer, Irfan, Salim Suleman , AR Rahman would not be working with us. I have even dealt with Rahman directly and bought the rights of Slumdog Millionaire from him. What I have heard is that the composers and lyricists have been fighting with the IPRS. But as far as T-Series is concerned the composers we normally work with we have had no problems.”

Kumar says that if at all such a situation does arise in the future then they decide how it can be dealt with peacefully.

The path that this new story will take in the future, remains to be seen.