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Singer’s Royalty: What Happens In India?

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All it took was an open letter and a few Tweets for American singer Taylor Swift to bring Apple Music to its knees. The company, which will soon be starting a new service AppleMusic, has decided to pay the artists during the three-month free trial period and even beyond. Can the same happen in India? We will come to that in just a bit.
 
Apple Music launches on June 30. In the US, it is priced at $9.99 per month for one person or $14.99 for families. In India, though the pricing is not official, or whether Apple Music will be launched simultaneously on June 30, some reports suggest it will and it will be priced at Rs 120 per month for one person or Rs 180 per month for family or six users.
 
Apple Music includes a radio station with personalized playlists and a choice from millions of songs on demand. The service includes a live radio station called Beats 1, tools to find curated playlists or individual songs, offline listening and a social music network on which users can comment on music and share it. In addition to iOS devices, the service will also be available on Macs and even on Android, later this year.
 
Now let’s turn to India. There are over 230 FM stations, 800-plus television channels and crore of Internet buffs who access music online. While 
royalties are getting paid to the film’s producers or the music companies, are the singers getting their due?
 
Let me ask you about ISRA or Indian Singers' Rights Association? I bet many of us don’t even know what it is. But some of us do. It is around two year old society of Indian singers, as the name suggests. According to its website, ISRA aims to administer and control the exploitation/ utilisation of  singer performances and collects Royalties as per Section 38A of the Copyright Act, 1957 and then distribute the Royalties to its member singers.
 
Ashish Sinha
ISRA has also listed an elaborate rate plan across mediums. For example: If a singer’s songs are used by a broadcaster of Music-based TV Show/Programme, the Royalty shall be Rs 25,000 per song performance (even if it is part of a song). Similar rate is applicable for a non-music based TV show or serial. And for Broadcast to the public of the performance of a singer on a Music Channel, the Royalty is pegged at Rs 5,000 per hour or 5 per cent of the gross revenue of the Channel for that TV, whichever is higher. Royalty is similarly fixed for mediums like radio, internet, hotels, commercial establishments, commercial vehicle, and Public events among others.
 
So far so good.
 
But privately, singers say that getting a broadcaster or a commercial establishment to pay the royalty on playing their songs is an extremely difficult proposition. In fact, only last month a delegation of singers including Sonu Nigam, Kavita Krishnamurthy and Pankaj Udhas, among others, had met Union information and broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley seeking his intervention. They wanted to ministry to direct certain broadcasters to "stop violations of the Performer's Right", in line with the provisions of the Copyright Act. As per the provisions, which have been introduced  retrospectively, lyricists and singers should get 50 per cent royalty on any commercial use of their songs.
 
In fact, according to Sanjay Tandon, the MD of ISRA, not even one TV channel or radio station is paying any royalty to any singer.
 
As per the amended Copyright laws, royalty can be collected on original songs played commercially by any media, including ring tones by telephone companies, call waiting music, any songs used in any manner by any commercial establishment etc. And the law covers songs going back in time almost half a decade.
 
So when Taylor Swift said the Apple Music plan was "unfair", arguing Apple had the money to cover the cost, the company obliged by announcing to the world it will pay for the trial period too. We wonder when that will be the case for our own singers? May be very soon​​!