On 9th of July 2020, The Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS) released its interim tariff rates for Public Performance of LIVE streaming – of Online Events of Music (Musical & Literary works) by the way of Live Performance, Music Videos and Disc Jockey (Sound Recording). The announcement of this tariff plan, however, created a major uproar amongst the artists, managers and event organisers.
Stakeholders directly affected by these rates were already reeling under the crisis brought on by the enforced lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Expectedly social media platforms were abuzz over this announcement, with most of the artists, legal experts, music journalists, event organisers and other relevant as well as unaffected parties venting their ire on the matter. Most of the views expressed were against this move by IPRS.
Amidst the confusion, IPRS took down the tariff chart from its website and subsequently made a couple of clarifications through press releases. This was aimed to clear the confusion but unfortunately, it didn’t.
In order to provide clarity and explain the exact facts about the proposed tariff plan, Rakesh Nigam, CEO, IPRS, in an exclusive interview to Music Plus, talks about its rationale and the unfortunate furore that has been raging in the Indian music industry.
The tariff structure has been taken down and will be decided in the IPRS AGM to be held in September 2020.
Could you clear the air around it as most of the artists are confused?
First people should know the background for this development. A lot of users approached IPRS for online concerts but the tariff we had online was a general one and was not meant for smaller events. This tariff is meant for the OTT platforms and other similar platforms. The organisers requested us to come up with a tariff plan for the online concerts as they needed it to draw up their expenditure plans. The organisers included Book my Show, Indian Singers Rights Association (ISRA) and the likes.
Our members were also complaining to us about the free usage of their content across social media and other online platforms. So we decided to draw up a tariff plan which was substantially lower than our on-ground events tariff plan.
The Notice Period
As per the law, we needed to give a 60 day notice period to all our stakeholders, members of public etc, to get this tariff plan approved. However, a typing error caused the date to be published as 1st of July 2020 instead of 1st of September 2020. We later clarified about this. Rather than seeking clarification or understanding, people went overboard with criticism. Everyone interpreted it in their own way, plus there are a lot of vested interests who don’t like stability. These people don’t want a society which takes care of the author and composers rights because if there is no society they can get away without paying a royalty. The lockdown has made people anxious but I request them to understand and interpret our announcements in the right manner before jumping to conclusions.
Once the tariff plan was out, the Event & Entertainment Management Association (EEMA) approached IPRS stating, the said tariff plan was on the higher side. We invited them to sit across the table and finalise the best possible solution for everyone involved. We didn’t want the concerts to be free but also wanted it to be affordable. IPRS came up with a clarification that online non-commercial events would not be charged for the next 9 months. Indian classical music, being our country’s heritage, is completely exempted while non-copyrighted devotional and folk music is also exempted.
What were the parameters which were taken into consideration while drawing up the tariff structure?
IPRS has a tariff structure in place for on-ground events which would be on the steeper side for the online events. So we decided to discount it but we kept it as the base for calculating the online tariff for the interim.
We decided to engage with all the stakeholders to draw up the final tariff structure, as for the next 60 days the tariff plan cannot be implemented. It was obvious that during this 60 day period we will receive feedback on the same. If the feedback is constructive, IPRS is open to include it in the plan and a tailor-made plan will be implemented only after the IPRS AGM in September 2020.
As you said these are testing times, did IPRS feel that these tariff rates were steep?
An upcoming artist hardly makes any money to pay such a tariff and even the accomplished ones are not getting the required numbers of viewers even on a free show.
There was a big misunderstanding. The tariff plan was completely misinterpreted. Free events were never under the ambit of the tariff plan. Rest of the shows are either ticketed or sponsored so they are not free events. A sponsor spends an X amount on the show and to spend 10-15 % of that on a licence should not be a cause of concern for the organisers. We are still trying to rationalise the structure according to paid, sponsored and corporate events. IPRS treats corporate events on a different yardstick than the rest, as these events are about building a brand and attracting consumers. The rest is purely about music.
There are a lot of genuine concerns regarding the tariff plan which surely you are aware about. The Indian classical, folk and devotional music by large is free from copyright so by declaring it tariff-free, what message was IPRS trying to put out?
Yes, there were a lot of concerns amongst the Indian classical and folk musicians. They wrote to us whether they also have to pay the tariff. So we had to issue this clarification to clear the air.
Independent musicians, who are not members of IPRS, why would they have to pay?
IPRS has always charged royalty on the works of its members. If the composer or author of a particular content is not a member of IPRS we do not charge royalty. Similarly, if an independent musician is performing songs which are not registered with IPRS we do not and I repeat do not charge royalty. But if a singer-composer is performing a song whose lyricist or publisher has registered the song with us, the singer is liable to pay royalty as the singer is only one of the stakeholders.
Why should an artist register with IPRS?
Artists need to understand the concept of copyright. One is the right to literary musical works which IPRS governs. Once this literary musical work is recorded in a studio with other musicians and singers a sound recording is created. Both have a separate set of skills or individuals involved and are parallel copyrights. One can be the owner of a sound recording as well the author or composer. But royalties have and will be paid separately.
The business of IPRS is to issue Licences to users of music and collect Royalties from them, for and on behalf of its members i.e. the authors, composers and the publishers and distribute this royalty amongst them. For the sound recording royalties, they need to approach the distributor.
Could you elaborate on how will the IPRS-Facebook partnership help the artists as well as the consumers?
Facebook is in plans to set up music channels on their platform so music labels, content owners, producers can upload their music videos or audios on their respective channels. They have already acquired licences from the music labels and publishers. IPRS has signed a partnership to collect the author’s and composer’s share of royalty from Facebook.
If an artist goes live on Facebook, the artist is not bound to pay royalty to IPRS?
All forms of usage, as well as Live content, is covered in this partnership. What is excluded are ticketed or sponsored events. Any event which is done for commercial exploitation is liable to pay royalty to IPRS.