NEW DELHI: A group representing composers, lyricists and music publishers has initiated the process of seeking royalties from Indian telecom companies and platforms such as Apple and YouTube for the use of their works, including songs and music made available for streaming and downloads.

The Mumbai-based Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) sent notices to carriers including Bharti AirtelBSE -1.75 %, Vodafone India, Idea CellularBSE 0.43 % and Reliance Jio Infocomm last month to sign licensing agreements with them for collecting royalties.

“We have sent letters to all, asking them to obtain licence for the literary and musical works, sound recording and cinematographic film that we own as part of the value added services that they offer,” Rakesh Nigam, chief executive officer of IPRS, told ET. The society, which was formed in 1969, was granted registration under the Copyright Act and Copyright Rules in November 2017.

Apple, which has iTunes, YouTube, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and other telcos did not respond to ET’s queries on the notices. The Cellular Operators’ Association of India, which represents all carriers, said it will meet with IPRS on February 20 to discuss the matter.

“We would like to get more clarity on the issues raised by IPRS on the scope and scale of their representations and the claims that have been made on the carriers,” said Rajan Mathews, director general of the association. Nigam said the seeking of licence agreements to pay royalties to owners of the original works is a valid demand.

“We deal with the licensing of underlying literary and musical work,” Nigam explained. He said that while the society has not made any monetary demands, it has set royalty rates for 48 categories of music used in places including airports, amusement parks, clubs, factories and on-demand streaming services.

In the case of mobile value added services, the royalty varies from 8% of the end-user price less taxes and/or the revenue generated by downloads with a minimum fee for ringtones and caller-back tones and the sale or download of songs in a digital format, to 12% for music streaming services on a yearly basis.

Officials from some carriers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the notices don’t hold much relevance because they get their music and other content through different ways, including aggregators such as Saregama and Hungama, platforms such as Hotstar and AltBalaji and from direct partnerships with original content creators, for instance, Netflix. In each case, some form of revenue-sharing or payment is involved.“Most of the aggregators say that they have been granted only one kind of right, which may be that of sound recording or cinematography, but not that of underlying literary and musical work,” said Nigam.

Experts said it would be hard to ascertain whether claims made by IPRS are valid because the agreements between original content creators and those granted the rights to use the content will have to be seen.“It is not possible to comment on the validity or otherwise of the claims made by IPRS without examining the complete chain of paperwork and agreements/documentation,” said Pavan Duggal, a senior lawyer who specialises in cases of cyber-law and intellectual property rights.

There are normally three kinds of contracts – one that the original musician signs in favour of a record or label company, the other is what the record company signs with individuals or production houses that buy those rights, and third between the rights owners and those to whom the rights get allocated in terms of service providers, he added. Sometimes, there can be just one or two agreements.

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Last modified on Monday, 19 February 2018 09:52
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