The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police has registered an FIR against Yash Raj Films (YRF) Pvt Ltd, its chairman and managing director Aditya Chopra, his brother Uday Chopra, and others for alleged criminal breach of trust and failure to pay an estimated Rs 100 crore in royalty to several music composers and writers since 2012.
The FIR was registered on a complaint by the Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS). This is the first criminal case initiated by the IPRS after it was re-registered as a copyright society in 2017. YRF did not respond to questions regarding the case.
What is the Indian Performing Right Society, and how does it function?
The IPRS is a representative body of artists, including music owners, composers, lyricists, and publishers of music, which collects royalties due to the artists if their work is used anywhere from a wedding to a New Year function or on radio or TV — in other words, wherever music is played. The body was set up in 1969, and re-registered as a copyright society in 2017, following which it started functioning actively.
The IPRS has its offices in Mumbai, and lyricist Javed Akhtar is its chairman.
A 2012 amendment in The Copyright Act, 1957 laid down that artists would get 50% of royalties every time their work was used, even if the copyright remained with the production house or the music brand. Which meant that every time a song was played in, say, a large party in a hotel or by a radio station, or streamed or even used as a mobile phone ringtone, 50% of the royalty would go to the production house or music company, and the other 50% would be split between the lyricist and composer of the song.
The IPRS is responsible for collecting the 50% royalty that is due to artists involved in “literary work accompanied to music” — meaning lyricists, music composers, and publishers of music.
While even individual artists can theoretically approach the users of their work directly, it is likely to be a difficult and long drawn-out process. As members of IPRS, they have better infrastructure at their disposal to press their claim and collect the money due to them.
How does the process of licensing with the IPRS work?
The IPRS has a database of around 10 million songs, including Indian and international numbers, for which it collects royalty.
If cases of big events, the IPRS generally approaches the organisers beforehand to inform them about the licensing required to play the songs of artists who are registered with them. Most online streaming platforms are registered with IPRS, and licensed to use the artists’ songs.
After being re-registered as a copyright society in 2017 under the amended Copyright Act, the IPRS sent letters to all media platforms, asking them to ensure that artists are paid 50% of the royalty as per the Act.
In 2017-18, the IPRS collected Rs 45 crore in royalty on behalf of artists, and in the following year (2018-19), it collected Rs 166 crore. Between 2012 and 2017, annual collections was usually under Rs 40 crore, an IPRS official said.
In April this year, IPRS distributed royalties of more than Rs 20 crore to composers, songwriters, and publishers.
What can IPRS do if songs are used without licence?
IPRS has both civil and criminal remedies available to it under The Copyright Act. It has filed civil suits in 20-25 cases earlier, but the move against YRF was the IPRS’s first criminal complaint.
According to IPRS, YRF was one of the entities it had written to after 2017, seeking royalty for artists. However, despite the amendment to The Copyright Act, YRF allegedly paid only a minuscule amount to artists. After the dispute remained unresolved despite the exchange of several letters, IPRS lodged a formal complaint with the Mumbai Police some two months ago.
Since the amount involved was high, the matter was handed over to the EOW. After inquiring into the matter for around two months, the police registered an FIR against YRF on charges of criminal breach of trust, along with sections of The Copyright Act.
What difference has IPRS made for artists seeking copyright dues?
While IPRS has some numbers to show, not all artists are satisfied that it has delivered on its promise. Some music companies and production houses have allegedly found ways to dodge the requirement of sharing royalty with artists. On some occasions, the fees paid to artists are termed as “advance royalty”, meaning the royalty has already paid; on other occasions, the artist is allegedly offered a deal to sign a letter giving the royalty back to the music company. Some big production houses that don’t get along with IPRS have started their own body to collect royalties for artists working on their projects, say these artists.
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