Protection law for local artistes is Sikkim’s most recent need

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In Pic: OMAS members with Tourism Minister BS Panth. Members met the Minister recently to enlighten him about the legislation for the protection of artists of Sikkim.

In light of the growing public consciousness of the rights and obligations of artistes and the pace in which their importance is growing is as such that, one cannot limit oneself by choosing conventional jobs.
Art lovers living in Sikkim are now vying for the introduction of Sikkim Artistes’ Protection & Guarantee (Bill). Sikkim has large stakes in creating strong folklore in the entertainment community, which can be a boon not just to the state, but the entire country. But the prevailing circumstances of the absent ecosystem for artistes has failed to embolden the budding performers and art enthusiasts.

Just as an ocean is unaware of what desert is, a greedy man is unaware of what a charity means. The same way are unaware of the value of local artistes until we recognize their contribution and until a strong law protects them.

The steps taken by the Organisation of Musicians and Artist of Sikkim (OMAS) for the introduction of the draft law that protects the artistes of Sikkim will certainly energize people for new avenues in the field of art, culture, and music and will spark curiosity and creativity. The signature campaign that was organized by OMAS and their consistent pursuit in support of the law has certainly changed the public perception towards the protection of the arts and music just over a period of time.

We cannot deny that there is an absent of ecosystem for the artistes in Sikkim, but what we can accept is that there is a possibility that can spark the light of curiosity in the minds of those who think art is their future.

Legislative support
The voice and demands that were echoed by the artistes reverberated in the recently concluded Budget Session of the State Assembly, when the new government at the helm of affairs had shown a liberal approach to form the Sikkim Creatives’ Forum and to connect the artistes with the national institutes of arts and creativity. So, we all can presume that the support that is resonated in the assembly may soon pave the way for the Artiste Bill.

Building an ecosystem of opportunities and possibilities
OMAS in its signature campaign has already placed their demands for financial security, exposure trips for artistes, protecting traditional art and culture and other pro-artist arrangements, so, unlike many demands, these will certainly safeguard the dignity and retain the artistic talents within the competition to build the better ecosystem of possibilities.


The challenges
Defining Artiste
The outmost important facet of the new Bill should be in consonance with Section 2 (c) & (d) of the Copy Right Act, which defines ‘artistic work’ and the term ‘author’, which in its broad terminology includes literary work, musical work, photography, dramatist, cinematographer, etc.
Establishing copyright societies
To coordinate with different affiliates at the national and international level, for wider participation among its members, to collect royalties for the benefits of its members and to establish a welfare fund of copyright society in accordance with Section 67 of the Copyright Rules, 2013.
Minimum royalties to the Sikkimese artistes
The main objective of the Bill should be to give at least minimum standard royalties to those artistes who perform in any of the function organised within the state. The copyright societies should be vested with the responsibilities to fix minimum royalties.
How can artistes protect their work?
Enjoying an exclusive right over one’s creative work Under Copyright Law, an author shall enjoy an exclusive right on their original work, which means that the original work shouldn’t be the colourable imitation of any other work and further the artiste has got the right to produce, perform, etc., or to give it for any commercial purpose. Under section 22 of the Copyright Law, the total term of copyright subsists for the period of 60 years i.e. from the death of an author.
Registration
Registration of copyright is not mandatory in India and thus, non registration will not deprive an author of his rights under Copyright Law. However, a person who is desirous of registering original work can approach the Registrar of Copyright with an application along with the enclosed original copy of no objection certificate issued by the author in his favour. It shall be the duty of the person registering the copyright to serve a notice of his application to those who are having any interest in the subject matter of the copyright. Thereafter, upon satisfaction of the correctness of the application and considering objection (if any), the Registrar shall issue a registration certificate.

Rights of performers of literary and musical work to receive royalties from broadcasters
Section 31 D prescribes the payment of the advance amount by the broadcaster i.e. radio-television and others who are desirous of communicating the musical and literary work of the owners to the public through their medium. Provided that the said work has already been released or published.

Apart from this, the performer has got the exclusive right to authorise to make a sound recording which includes reproducing his original work, giving it for commercial rental, sale, broadcast, etc.
Procedure for making cover version

We are in a time where a cover version of any old or previously recorded song is becoming more popular than the original version. In such a situation, the maker of the cover version and the owner of the original content has to exercise caution and due diligence in order to facilitate swift exchanges.

The Copyright Law prescribes the person making the cover version of any sound recording to take the prior consent of the owner and also the maker of the cover version shall send advance copy of the cover or labels to the maker. It also provides that the sound recording (cover version) shall be in the same medium as the last recording, unless the medium of the last recording is no longer in current commercial use.

The maker of the cover version shall pay the advance amount as royalties to the owner of the original work. The Appellate Board established under the Copyright Act shall have the power to entertain the complaints brought in by the owner of the original work if the owner is aggrieved by the non-payment of the royalties.

Infringement and remedies
According to section 51 of the Copyright Act, copyright is said to be infringed if a person without the permission of the owner and the registrar of the copyright uses it for profit, sells the original work or distribute it by causing prejudice to the owner. If the owner is aggrieved by any form of damages then the owner can avail civil remedies of injunction and damages.

Any person who infringes any copyright works that person shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months and with a fine.

Conclusion
Apparently, when we come to the problem faced by the artistes of Sikkim, the situation is really crying aloud for a solution. To save many budding talents from switching to conventional professions, we genuinely need a protection law at the earliest and further, to strengthen the artiste community of Sikkim.

By Pramit Chettri. The author is an Advocate who hails from Malbassey, Budang village under Soreng Sub-Division, West Sikkim and is currently practicing law before the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court. He can be contacted via his email id pramitchhetri@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this article are intended for the sole purpose of generating a public debate and eliciting public response.

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