Recently, the human resource development ministry issued a proposal to amend the Copyright Bill so that lyricists, composers and other music creators may retain the right to royalties on their work. Wait, don’t they already have that? Isn’t it ridiculous that this is what musicians have to be fighting for in this day and age?
Thank God it’s at least happening now! I’m so grateful to the people in the HRD ministry responsible for amending these acts in our favour. This week, a press conference was held in Delhi, where legends like Javed Akhtar, the person largely responsible for spearheading the movement amongst artists to help update the laws, along with my father Pandit Ravi Shankar, Shubha Mudgal and Shankar Mahadevan came together to express gratitude to the HRD Ministry, and also to raise awareness about the situation, so that hopefully the government will accept the amendment when the Bill goes before Parliament in February.
Currently, all laws are in favour of record companies, rather than the artists. All the music of this country recorded over the last 70 years or so is owned by just a few music companies. They have done the contracts in such a way that they can re-release music any way they want or license music to foreign territories and different companies as much as they want, all without permission of the performers or creators of the music. The relationship between music companies and artists is closer to bonded labour than anything else; artists are exploited as they are forced to take these unfair deals in order to get work and the earnings from successful songs or musical pieces only go to the record companies, rather than the creators. It’s just not fair that artists have no say about their own creations, it’s wrong financially, but fundamentally too.
As you can imagine, the Music Houses are fighting to keep their unfair advantage, and they will do all they can to make sure the laws are not updated. It’s good to see a collective springing forth amongst artists because no artist, however successful, will be able to fight the record companies alone. We have to be responsible to each other and fight together for the correct representation in our contracts and deals. Sometimes it’s exhausting; I’ve seen in my father’s case for example, literally hundreds of illegal releases, copies or bootlegs of his music. And trying to take on each and every case would take several lifetimes. I thought it to be a hopeless situation. But finally, I have a glimmer of hope that the Indian music industry will cease to be an embarrassment and that we will give artists the rights they enjoy in the rest of the world. I really hope the Bill is passed by our government. I hope music companies will be reasonable and that this exploitation will come to an end.