Rakesh Nigam, CEO, IPRS

Mr. Rakesh Nigam is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Indian Performing Right Society Ltd (IPRS). Under his guidance, IPRS has played a major role in resolving author/composers and owner publishers’ issues, which has, in turn, led to IPRS becoming a Copyright Society, that is now recognised under Sec 33 of the Copyright Act, 1957 to carry on the business of issuing and granting of licenses in respect of musical works and literary works associated with musical works assigned to it by its members as well as to collect and distribute the Authors’ Statutory Royalties, for the exploitation of these works either by way of live performances and/or sound recordings through any medium except when exhibited as a part of a cinematograph film shown in a cinema hall. Joined in  2004, he has achieved path breaking success in growing the Royalty distribution income from  INR 9 crores to around INR 170 crores in the financial year 2019 – 2020.

 

The fact that the music and entertainment business has moved rapidly from physical and multiplexes to the digital world is well known. Digital platforms have opened up a wide array of opportunities for artists from every nook of the country. There is no dearth of content now, and there might be an overdose soon. 

Creators and artists are exploring audiences across a wide array of digital avenues which also raised the challenge of copyright infringement and piracy.  The consumption of content on the digital platforms increased manifolds, and along with it, the fear increased of content being consumed illegally without any remuneration to the creators or the copyright holders. 

The challenges of infringement faced in the digital space are very different from the physical world. Copyright is one of the most important Intellectual Property Rights, which comprises of the rights possessed by the creators for literary and artistic works among other works like films, sound recordings, artistic works etc. The landscape of the Copyright Licensing and Royalty Collection is vast and complex. A composer or author is empowered by law to collect royalty from various sources globally in respect of the exploitation of their works all of this dictated by copyright laws. Thus it becomes painstaking for any content owner to monitor the work utilized commercially across countries and platforms.

Indian law allows only a registered society to collect royalties on behalf of the copyright/right owner. That is where the role of a collective managemnent organisation or ‘CMO’ becomes all the more vital in India.  IPRS is such a Society in India that collects royalties on behalf of its author, composer, and publisher members. IPRS’ revenue of Rs 46 crores in 2017, has grown to over Rs 170 crores, which is further distributed amongst its members viz. the authors, composers, and publishers of music and also to its affiliates.

With users becoming more savvy and powerful, the role of a CMO is only going to gain more importance as they need to step in to help out the creators and music right owners with licensing and collecting royalties. The CMO plays the mediator between the creator/copyright owner and the user and ensures monetary fair play 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 yesteryear to current, at a fair usage price. IPRS provides a collective license in India.  As the use of digital platforms and consumption of music increases, the CMOs will have to work collectively to ensure the ‘right’ value is disbursed among publishers, authors and composers. 

The Parliament of India has recognized Copyright as a Property Right. Just like when someone signs an agreement, stamp duty is levied or like income tax, which is undeniable, so is the case with music licenses and copyrights. Copyright laws are typically strucrted to balance the wtights between copyright owners and the general public For example, venues which don’t use music for commercial use, specififcally hostels or amateur clubs, are exempt. The law also allows a copyright owner to charge a reasonable amount where the content is used for commercial purposes under terms of a voluntary license which has to be paid. 

If an establishment doesn’t procure a music license, then potentially a civil injunction and damages claim can be levied against it. There can be an injunction preventing it from playing music apart from the reputational damages that come with it. Copyright infirngement is also classified as a criminal offence which is non-bailable in nature. 

The Parliament of India felt that copyrights have to be protected.  Breach of Copyright also causes a loss to the national exchequer as GST is not collected, and societies like IPRS cannot pay taxes. Commerical establishments exploiting music have to take music licensing as seriously as the municipal, food, income tax, and other licenses. Unfortunately, there isn’t much seriousness about it yet, unlike in Europe and America.

A majority of music users in India feel that the music industry means a company and the license fees will benefit corporate interests only. What they don’t realize is that there are thousands of artists, big and small, that depend on copyright law for their sustanance. Hence Copyright Societies like IPRS help critically to serve the smaller artists who don’t have a big repertoire or alternate sources of regular income. The royalty they receive becomes a kind of pension and a crucial source of sustenance for them. IPRS also regularly helps artists who need medical help. During the pandemic, IPRS released nearly Rs. 6 crores as Covid aid when income from music came to a standstill. As per the recently published Global Collections Report for 2021 (based on 2020 collections data) by CISAC, The Indian Performing Right Society Ltd. (IPRS) ranked as the 6th largest Society by revenues in the Asia-Pacific region, out of 11 Societies featuring in the Top 50.  The Paris-based International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) is the apex body of 232 Authors’ Societies in 121 countries representing more than 4Mn creators.  In terms of collections for music rights from the Top 50 societies around the world (representing 99% of total collections for this category), IPRS ranked 32nd in 2020 with collections of €20m.  This compares with 47th position in 2018 with collections of just €5.6m.  

So if users don’t abide by licensing norms and pay for the music, apart from the loss to the national exchequer, tax evasion, etc, the creators of the music we love are at a greater loss. It is only fair that the artists are compensated and that is what IPRS is there to ensure. Respect Copyright… Encourage Creativity!

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