RADIO broadcasters have expressed concerns over the proposed move to introduce Section 33A in the Copyright Act which would give unfair powers to the music societies to fix tariff and could potentially derail the radio industry already reeling under massive losses.

An executive of a radio broadcaster said that even though industry players would have the right to appeal against the rates, it would take years to get any relief from the Copyright Board. In fact they would have to pay the demanded tariffs before even going for an appeal to the Board. Unlike TDSAT or Income Tax Tribunal , the Copyright Board is not a full-time court with powers to grant interim relief. The Board meets only a few times a year and is not empowered to issue interim orders , the executive added.

The proposed amendments in the Act, suggested by the HRD ministry , also appear to be diluting certain powers of the Copyright Board. Under the provisions of Sec 19A in the present act, the Copyright Board has the jurisdiction to adjudicate on issues arising between copyright societies and users who have obtained voluntary licenses. These powers are now proposed to be deleted, making it virtually impossible for copyright users to seek judicial assistance .

The industry believes there is a need to have a statutory licensing provision in the Copyright Act. Statutory licensing means that a user can use any copyrighted work as soon as it is published, if it is willing to pay the approved royalty rates.

The dispute over music royalties between the music societies the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) and the Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) and radio stations has been a long standing one since PPL and IPRS together have been demanding as much as 30% of revenues from the radio companies as royalty charges. In contrast, the music societies in most developed radio markets like the US, demand no more than 3-4 % of radio revenues. If the music industrys demands were met by the radio broadcasters there would be no radio industry left. The industry is said to have invested roughly Rs 2000 crores in One Times Entry Fees (OTEF) and setting up stations. After so many years of being in existence, they are still to record profits.

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Tags : Copyright Act (11) tax tribunal (8)

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