IT IS about time that the rights of the writers are recognised, says veteran Hindi film writer Anjum Rajabali, as he takes the necessary steps to form the first-ever copyright society in India – the Screenwriters Rights Association of India (SRAI).
Rajabali has come together with fellow writers like Juhi Chaturvedi, Saket Chaudhary, Zaman Habib, Rajesh Dubey and producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah and others to create the copyright society. The application for the copyright society is currently with the Registrar of Copyrights, who has announced on their website that if there are any comments or objections from stakeholders, they can raise them until December 27.
“The copyright amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2012 and was unanimously passed. The copyright rules were modified, and it called for a creation of a copyright society and that the said society should be managed jointly by writers and producers. What the law also did was to add that under no circumstances should a writer sign away his right to royalty, and no producer should be able to buy it off,” says Rajabali, who has written films like Ghulam, The Legend of Bhagat Singh and China Gate.
“ The copyright society is essentially a company. We had been struggling to put together the copyright society. We had given an application to the registrar of companies in 2016, but it kept getting stalled. The big players are slightly hesitant, as they think they will have to shell out more, but the amended Act clearly says that when the film even when it earns an earth-shattering amount, while its being run in a cinema, shall not pay any royalty to the writer. It’s only in the second run, when it appears on satellite TV, or OTT, if there is a remake, or an adaptation that the writers will be paid a royalty,” says Rajabali.
The creation of the copyright society has led to some resistance by the big studios, producers and OTT platforms, many of which are multinational companies. “In the spirit of co-operation, I have written to everyone and have extended an invitation to come, sit on the table, and have a discussion. We can resolve this. What we are doing is not because of greed, we are even ready to negotiate the tariffs,” says Rajabali.
Vinod Ranganath, EC member of the Screen Writers Association, echoes Rajabali’s sentiments and affirms that it is high time that the writers got their due.
“We are the largest film producing industry in the world, and we don’t have anything like this in place. There are about 90 countries that have about 200 copyright societies operating in them, even countries such as Columbia, China and Poland,” says Ranganath, who has written shows such as Swabhimaan.
“The irony is, film music gets royalty. Music royalty in India is primarily film music. FM music stations run only on film music. There is a breakout pop album, sure, but it is not the same like the West, where non-film music is huge. If we are happy to pay royalty for a song, but why don’t we pay the writer who made it all possible? What people forget is, that the film music is part of a larger story written by an author. That song is only coming to you, because there was a writer who wrote a film with that situation, with those characters, and those characters then go about singing those songs. That is our storytelling pattern,” he says.