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First pay up, then play our songs

Last Saturday, at the release of Javed Akhtar’s book Tarkash in Marathi, Lata Mangeshkar, reacting to the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010, congratulated the writer-lyricist on his two-year fight, regretting that she hadn’t raised the issue when she was in Parliament.

music Updated: May 23, 2012 19:04 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

Last Saturday, at the release of Javed Akhtar’s book Tarkash in Marathi, Lata Mangeshkar, reacting to the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010, congratulated the writer-lyricist on his two-year fight, regretting that she hadn’t raised the issue when she was in Parliament.

Her Ayega Aanewala was voted the best song of the last millennium, but its composer, Khemchand Prakash, died two months before Mahal (1950) released. Later, his wife was found begging at Malad station.

If this Bill is passed, Akhtar is confident that such a situation will not arise again. “Sir Elton John has not written a song in five years, yet he makes $22 million a year from royalties for previous works even after 31 years,” he says.

While Akhtar has found support in producers-directors Vipul Shah and Ashutosh Gowarikar, along with filmmakers of the Producers Guild, he reveals that there some sticky issues that still need to be resolved. For instance, the two-year waiting period before royalty can be claimed, so the cost involved in creating and publicising a song can be recovered, needs to be discussed.

While composers and lyricists insist that a song like Munni badnaam would earn the most in the first four months and be dead after 24 months, Shah doesn’t buy the argument. “Six to eight hours of daily programming on any radio station is devoted to songs that are between two and 20 years old. Good songs will always be rewarded. Flops songs, even if eligible for profit from day one, will not get any as they won’t be playing on any platform,” he reasons.

Now, with screenwriter Anjum Rajabali and the Writers’ Guild, they’re campaigning to renegotiate the contracts of film writers as well.Will the Bill upset the industry’s status quo? Shah says that individual talents like AR Rahman have retained royalty rights from day one, without reducing the price of the music rights. “If there are any ramifications in terms of financial losses, we’ll know in six-12 months and sort things out,” he says.

Adarsh Gupta, business head of SaReGaMa, insists the proposed legislation will affect music companies. “We pay a lot of money to the producer for copyright and it’s hard for us to recover our investments,” he says. “This bill will further hamper our monetary potential with respect to radio and TV. We’ll decide how to counter this. There could be litigation from our side in store.”

Song less and penniless
* OP Nayyar died penniless in a fan’s house in Nalasopara.
* Khan Mastana, Mohammed Rafi’s co-singer in the patriotic song Watan ki raah mein, died a beggar at the Haji Ali Dargah.
* Ghulam Mohammed, music director of Pakeezah, died in penury.
* Meena Shorey, the Lara lappa girl, died a victim of abject poverty.
* Vinod, composer of musical classics like Wafaa (1950) and Laadla (1954), died in 1959, without a rupee to his name.
* Ghulam M Durranim with whom Lata Mangeshkar sang her first duet, begged for work and money.