Aamir Khan’s resignation spurs an interesting copyright debate
Contributed by Sarthak Saran
17/Feb/2010 – Aamir Khan’s resignation from the ten member panel constituted by the Government of India to review the amendments proposed to the Copyright Act has initiated a welcome discussion with respect to copyright ownership of creative works in movies. The Copyright Act provides that a producer of a movie would be copyright owner of a work created for him by a person if valuable consideration is paid to the author in the absence of a contract to the contrary. The relevant provision of the Copyright Act is provided hereunder:
“17. Subject to the provisions of this Act, the author of a work shall be the first owner of the copyright therein:
(b) subject to the provision of clause (a), in the case of a photograph taken, or a painting or portrait drawn, or an engraving or a cinematograph film made, for valuable consideration at the instance of any person, such person shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright therein; …”
Unfortunately, the specific text of the proposed Amendment Bill is not available for review. However, it has been reported by reliable sources that the Amendment Bill proposes the following changes with respect to the film and music industry:
Incorporation of provisions with respect to statutory license for version recordings in order to provide compensation to the authors of music and lyrics;
Extension of term of copyright for movies by making producers and principal director as joint authors; and Copyright protection for seventy years to principal directors.
While the statutory license provision facilitates version recording and provides financial benefits to authors, the other provisions add to the rights of the producers. Principal Directors are made authors and are given great importance. As the actual text is not available, valid inferences cannot be made based on available data.
Having said that, on the face of it, the provisions giving rights to producer’s and extending the term of copyright of films seem very one sided. Giving prevelance to producers over authors is not only against the objectives of copyright law but is also against public interest. Rights to producers would add de jure dominance of producers to an already de facto dominance being exercised by them. In the light of the drawbacks, the provisions must be thoroughly debated before any decision is made.
UPDATE: 20/Feb/2010 14:00 IST
Aamir Khan has withdrawn his resignation to the Copyright Board in a letter sent to HRD minister Mr. Kapil Sibal. In the letter Aamir Khan said, “Sir, I have given a lot of thought to your request to take back my resignation. I have also read the letter forwarded by other members reposing faith on my integrity… I am withdrawing my resignation.”