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‘Copyright Has Been Taken For Granted In Our Country’: SP Balasubrahmanyam

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The Indian Singers’ Rights Association (ISRA) held its first meeting in Hyderabad on August 8. The association was established in 2013 to act as the Performers’ Right Society for singers and ensure that their rights are protected as per the guidelines of the Copyright Act.

At the meeting, veteran singer SP Balasubrahmanyam said, “In our country, copyright has been taken for granted. However, with legal backing in place, singers will now get their due. I have been a singer for decades now, but I have never received any royalty. With suitable legislation in place, singers are now entitled to get a royalty whenever their songs are played in public places. Singers now even have the right to stall the release of a film if payments are due.  We are getting organized so that we will be heard.”

The Copyright Act 1957 (14 of 1957) was updated with the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 (27 of 2012).
Various sections of the Act deals with performers’ rights, which include moral rights of the performers, and being entitled to royalties in case the performance is used for commercial use.

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Playing/using the songs for commercial purposes amount to exploitation of the performer’s body of work and hence needs a clearance from the ISRA by payment of prescribed royalty as per ISRA’s tariffs. Songs played on FM stations, TV and at other public places come under the ambit. Not just film songs, but even folk songs, classical music, devotionals, ghazals are covered.

As per the law, a performer ‘includes an actor, singer, musician, dancer, acrobat, juggler, conjurer, snake charmer, a person delivering a lecture or any other person who makes a performance’.

The ISRA has currently 410 singers, including Lata Mangeshkar, SP Balasubhrahmanyam, KJ Yesudas, Usha Mangeshkar, Suresh Wadkar, Gurdaas Mann, Pankaj Udhas, Alka Yagnik and many others.

In recent years, the issue of copyright has become a game changer in the film industry. Last year in an unprecedented move, SPB was slapped with a legal notice for singing Ilaiyaraaja’s compositions without seeking his permission. However, SPB said that he was ignorant of the legalities and also added that he would not sing Raaja’s songs in his shows henceforth.

There is also the Indian Performing Rights Society which Ilaiyaraaja and AR Rahman are a part of; Javed Akhtar is the chairperson of the group.

Read: Ilaiyaraaja Vs SPB: In This Battle Over Rights, Here’s Why SPB Is Wrong

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