Parliament has made a whole lot of artistes, song writers and performers happy by passing the Copyright Act (Amendment) Bill, 2012, declaring authors as owners of the copyright. It is a development with the potential to transform a number of lives because, until this amendment, copyright was assigned to producers who inadvertently took home the benefits, leaving the creators to survive on whatever they saw fit to dole out to them.
The Bill makes it mandatory for broadcasters, both radio and television, to pay royalty to the owners of the copyright each time a work of art is broadcast. It also bans cover versions of any literary, dramatic or musical work for five years from the first recording of the original creation.
The nicest part is how it provides for exemption from copyright for any work prepared for the physically challenged in special formats (Braille, for instance) and permits compulsory licence to be granted for a certain number of copies in non-special formats to non-profit organisations working to help the disabled. At the risk of our sounding cheesy, this makes it a Bill with a heart.
Interestingly, it was passed unanimously by members from all parties. According to HRD minister Kapil Sibal, it will help previously deprived artistes live better lives and ensure that they continue to earn even after they retire. Considering the fact that world renowned artistes like shehnai exponent Bismillah Khan passed away in conditions that can only be described as pitiable — stories of their inability to pay house rent or medical bills have been reported often enough — this is a step in the right direction.
The best part: The Bill empowers our artistes. It helps them stop worrying about where the next cheque must come from, and frees them to concentrate on their art.