CISAC’s Benjamin NG and Liam Donnelly with the IPRS’ Rakesh Nigam on the path forward for India’s royalty distribution

In 2019, the Indian Performing Right Society Limited (IPRS), the country’s foremost music authors copyright society was welcomed back into the fold of The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC). Founded in 1926, the organisation oversees 228 authors’ societies from 119 countries representing music publishers and creators from music, audiovisual, drama, visual arts and literature.

The IPRS was temporarily expelled for a period of two years from CISAC after a compliance review found shortcomings and lack of compliance with rules. For the time since its reinstatement, the IPRS has been steadfastly transforming itself to adhere to international standards while simultaneously attempting to structure and add transparency to India’s copyright and royalty distribution ecosystem. As India is on the cusp of our music crossing over to global territories, the importance of copyrights societies becomes more pertinent than ever. As part of CISAC’s ongoing mentorship of the IPRS, Director of Asia-Pacific Affairs, Benjamin NG and consultant on the IPRS Developmental Review Programme, Liam Donnelly, paid a visit recently to the IPRS in India.

Benjamin NG, Director of Asia-Pacific Affairs, CISAC
Liam Donnelly, Consultant, IPRS Developmental Review Programme, CISAC

In an exclusive chat with Music Plus, CISAC’s NG and Donnelly along with the IPRS’ CEO Rakesh Nigam, talk about their symbiotic relationship and recommendations for making India more compliant with international practices.

When did the IPRS develop a relationship with CISAC and why is it important to have such a relationship with such a governing body?

Rakesh Nigam (RK): Since its inception in 1969 IPRS has been associated with CISAC, which is the world’s leading network of authors’ societies. Copyright societies across the globe are registered as a member of CISAC as it helps to protect the rights and promotes the interests of creators worldwide. CISAC enables collection management organisations (CMOs) to seamlessly represent creators across the globe and ensure that royalties flow to songwriters, composers, and publishers for the use of their works anywhere in the world.

Benjamin NG (BN): We’ve seen significant improvement in terms of collection results and but also other aspects like the way the IPRS operates and supports its members. India is not an easy market to work with and there are a lot of challenges. We still have a long way to go in terms of broadcasting licensing. Right now, radio stations are refusing to pay for usage of music and India is the country in the world that has these kinds of hard decisions to make. TV broadcasters are also another challenge and only a few of them have TV licenses with the IPRS.

Another very interesting thing is that IPRS is only able to get royalties from international DSPs. Unfortunately, local DSPs are not willing to pay for the usage of music and this is something we must work together with IPRS but also the international community in general to make sure that the copyright protections should be improved locally for these local operators. They should be in line with the international players that are in India otherwise the international players will also [not want to pay].

We look forward to providing more support to make the IPRS a world-class CMO that’s up to international standards. The IPRS has reached the sixth position in Asia Pacific in terms of collections in the region. The list is as follows, Japan, Australia, Korea, China, Hong Kong. Maybe this year, the IPRS will surpass Hong Kong and become fifth in the region.

How does CISAC’s involvement with the IPRS affect Indian Performance Rights in India?

RK: The collaboration lends clarity on ways we are supposed to function as a copyright society adhering to global standards. CISAC ensures a commonality in which we and our sister societies work, in terms of data registration, claims, royalty collection, distribution, and much more, so that the best practices of data management, licensing, royalties, and revenues are adhered to amongst all CMOs across the globe.

As a member of CISAC, another benefit lies in our enhanced global footprint through reciprocal agreements with our sister societies. This entails that wherever our members’ work is utilised, around the globe, IPRS will be able to collect the royalties through the affiliate societies, thus ensuring that our members don’t miss out on their rightful dues.

Liam Donnelly (LD): CISAC wants to help the IPRS and set up a developmental review. I was asked to come in and coordinate that project which started in June 2019 and we’ve done two visits since then. The program has continued to run virtually as we’re doing now. My role in the project is to support the IPRS team by sharing best practices on an international level but also bring in experts from around the world from the CISAC network. A lot of credit goes to the IPRS for coming together; it’s not a secret that there’s been a lot of friction and challenges within the board and now I get the sense that the board is working a lot better.  

The specific agreements the IPRS has with nearly 60 societies around the world, it has a responsibility to collect royalties in India on behalf of hundreds and thousands if not millions of copyright holders from around the world. That responsibility is important and they do not take it lightly and are making distributions to foreign societies. 

Can you talk about how the IPRS benefits from CISAC’s involvement?

RK: As part of the association, the IPRS has been a regular participant in CISAC committees and in global policy and legal affairs activities. CISAC organises seminars and training events for its member societies from time to time for better systems and processes and enhanced performance. CISAC membership also provides access to the Common Information System (CIS) tools, and representation in CISAC’s creators’ councils.

Admission as a CISAC member is a hallmark of trust and confidence in society. By joining CISAC, a society signals to its counterparts across the world that it is committed to meeting the governance standards and rules laid and adopted by the CISAC community.

What can Indian DSPs and other entities do to encourage more standardisation and regulation in terms of performing rights?

RK: First and foremost, DSPs and all platforms playing music should ensure that the metadata uploaded by them is correct and complete in all respects. It will be a big step towards rightly compensating the creators and music publishers, and enable the rights management societies like IPRS to efficiently track, claim, collect and distribute royalties to the creators and rightful owners of the music. Secondly and most importantly, the DSPs and all entities involved in the streaming of music should step forward to procure a music license and help the creator economy to flourish by supporting fair pay and fair play of music.

BN: I think the IPRS needs to do more outreach and work with the government and government institutions to educate people on why it’s important to pay. The government also needs to play a stronger role in facilitating this discussion with these players. In such a huge country, support from the government is very important.

The IPRS s doesn’t only represent Indian members but they also represent millions of creators around the world. There are a lot of people who have huge expectations of this market, they expect a lot of returns when their work is being consumed in the country.

On one hand, the IPRS needs to work towards negotiating more with these service providers and take necessary legal actions if needed and engage with the government to support and do more educational campaigns and then facilitate these entities to pay the royalties.

For broadcasters especially there’s issues when it comes to TV and radio. Here the government should take the initiative to clarify that India needs to abide with international obligations. They can’t choose a unique way to not pay royalties to right holders. The IPRS needs to convince the government to do more on this part to ensure that broadcasting royalties are more efficiently collected. 

Also, creators need support from the government through educational campaigns for the promotion of copyrights and create awareness in the general public to understand the importance of protecting copyrights. Another importance step is for the government to make use of its own assets, by getting the world to appreciate Indian culture more.

LD: In my experience, it’s starts with good deals with DSPS and to ensure fair value for their members’ rights. Once that’s established, then it’s the usage reporting that comes from those DSPs. It has to be accurate and inputted in a society system to match against that copyright information. It’s then encumbered to have good quality data from its members and from sister societies so that those matches can be made between what’s been used and what’s been registered.

Ultimately, its key that that data is accurate is accurate so we’re paying the right people as quickly as possible. Value, accuracy and speed are three key ingredients and the fourth is to do it at a fair commission price. The cost of that administration should be reasonable. Typically, in our industry the deductions would be in the region of 10%, it can vary by country but that’s a typical range.

BN: Lastly, international cooperation between societies is also very important. What we’re doing in Asia is to get societies to share data for more efficiency. There is a fair big Indian community in Hong Kong, for instance, they consume Indian music. For Hong Kong societies to distribute royalties back to India is difficult. Sometimes the matching of data may not be easy for them. That’s something that we’re working towards to match data with DSPs. This is needed for global data exchange initiative. This sort of cooperation model in the digital world is very important and this process must be done transparently. It’s very important for members to have confidence in a system that is very accurate and transparent.

Even for users, they think they’re paying money to societies but do they really process money and send it back to relevant creators? All these elements will give confidence to members, users, the government and to the foreign rights holders.

Running a royalty collection organisation is not easy but there are a lot of people in this industry that have a common goal to help creators to receive fair remuneration and to have the incentive to create more work.

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