Band Baja is okay for Baraat

There was a time when film music was an orphan, the copyright or the creators did their job and the song belonged to nobody and for everybody to make money out of.

There was a time when film music was an orphan, the copyright or the creators, as in the lyrics writer, composer and crooner, did their job and the song belonged to nobody and for everybody to make money out of. To a great extent, that still happens. Be it music portals or be it music companies, they continue to exploit the works of others.

Film songs have been played all over. The creators got nothing in return. When the commercial services of the All India Radio started, film music was their mainstay. What did they pay in return? Re 1 as royalty for a song that millions across Indian listened to!

Music companies were known to mail paltry sums: cheques of sums like Rs 250 as royalty to film producers. Film music was fair game for anybody and everybody.

Then came the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS), the body that represents the music companies in the country. Its job was to safeguard the interests of the creators of film music, apart from the music rights owners. The use of film music was not free anymore.

IPRS even lobbied with the government and got laws made for this purpose. The law made commercial use of recorded music subject to payment of royalty.

The law, however, exempts certain bodies and events from paying royalty for use of recorded music. Marriage processions (baraats) and other festivities associated with marriage are among the events that are exempted. This is not something the general public would be aware of, but still, the band baja would play the songs and the processions would move on with the ‘baraatis’ dancing to the songs. The tradition is age-old and has been practised unhindered.

Now, guess who was exploiting the situation? The very people who were given the job of protecting copyrights.

They started raiding marriage processions or functions demand royalty. How many parents of either the bride or the groom would want their special day to be marred by such intrusion? So, not knowing the law or what to do, they usually ended up paying. The authorities have wised up to this blackmail and called upon the culprits to refrain from acting the way they did.

It would be interesting to know, though, how many such ‘royalties’ that were collected have been acknowledged and credited to the account books of the body that is meant to protect copyrights!

–By Vinod Mirani

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