Conference on Intellectual Property


On November 14 and 15, 2009, Underscore Records Pvt. Ltd. organized a two-day conference entitled Pro Music Pro Musicians: A Conference on Intellectual Property Rights for Indian Musicians at the Nehru Centre, Mumbai. The purpose of the conference was to bring musicians, instrument makers, record labels, archivists, event & artiste managers, concert organizers, and music students onto a single platform to critically discuss issues related intellectual property and the Indian music industry. The two-day symposium received generous support from the Ford Foundation.

The panelists included Professor T.N. Daruwalla (Senior Partner, Jehangir, Gulabbhai, Billimoria and Daruwalla, Advocates and Solicitors), Dr. Ashok Da Ranade (Eminent scholar -musician and composer), Ameet Dutta (Partner, Luthra & Luthra Law Offices), Lawrence Liang (Legal Researcher with Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore), G.R. Raghavender (Registrar of Copyrights & Deputy Secretary, Department of Higher Education, Government of India), Darius F. Dalal (Partner, Jehangir, Gulabbhai, Billimoria and Daruwalla, Advocates and Solicitors), Prafull Anubhai (Saptak Archives, Ahmedabad), Dr. Shubha Chaudhuri (Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology, Gurgaon) and Vishal Dadlani (Musician and Music Director).

Day 1: Copyright, Performer’s Rights, & Traditional Knowledge

Justice B.N. Srikrishna, former Supreme Court Judge, inaugurated the conference on the morning of November 14. He highlighted the central role of music in shaping culture, and accordingly, the state & society’s responsibility in ensuring that the integrity of artistic works are protected. Dr. Ravina Aggarwal, Program Officer, Higher Education, Media, Arts and Culture, The Ford Foundation, highlighted the salient features of the various programs that were being funded by the Ford Foundation to empower sections of Indian society and also enable them to utilize media effectively.

The first session was on copyright, or the exclusive legal rights given to an originator or an assignee to exploit a literary, musical, or artistic work in any medium (print, audio, and/or visual). Panelists Professor T.N. Daruwalla, Lawrence Liang, and G.R. Raghavender addressed questions ranging from what legally constitutes copyright to the specific steps required in obtaining one.

The second session took up the case of performers’ rights, as led by speakers Professor T.N. Daruwalla, Ameet Dutta and G.R. Raghavender.  Discussions focused on the broadcast of live performances, the illegal recording & reproduction of concerts, and active steps that musicians can take in order to protect themselves and their live performances from being misused. The presence of several well-known solo and accompanying artists was crucial in keeping the discussions of performers’ rights within the context of Indian music, since convention often relegates accompanying artistes to a secondary status and jeopardizes their rights.

The final session for the first day brought to limelight the oft-debated position of traditional knowledge in public consumption. G.R. Raghavender gave an overview of the national and international regulations for protecting traditional knowledge, and what falls within that corpus in the Indian subcontinent.  Dr. Ashok Da. Ranade and Lawrence Liang also shared their insights on the subject.

Day 2: Patenting, Digital Era and the Internet Age, Archiving

The fourth session, beginning on the second day of the conference, was dedicated to how instrument makers can patent their work. Patents refer to the exclusive rights granted by the government to an inventor for publicly disclosing an invention. As a case study, a short-film explained how musician Ulhas Bapat had successfully patented his modification to the kalams or mallets of the santoor. The panelists included Professor T.N. Daruwalla and Ameet Dutta, who enlightened the participants about the difference between patents, trademarks, and copyright.

The realities of file sharing, illegal downloading, and the general ease with which music is ‘illegally’ circulated was the subject of the fifth session. The ways in which the digital era and internet age are both enabling and disabling to musicians and listeners were debated by Darius Dalal, Lawrence Liang, G.R. Raghavender, and Vishal Dadlani.

The sixth session brought into focus the role of music archives as discussed through the perspective and experiences of Dr. Shubha Chaudhuri (Archives & Research Centre for Ethnomusicology) and Prafull Anubhai (Saptak Archives). A large portion of the discussions centered on the particular principles that guide an archive’s acquisition, cataloguing, preserving, and dissemination practices and the kinds of relationships that currently exist and are possible between store houses and musicians, collectors, scholars, and any other individuals wanting access to recorded materials. As both a scholar-musician and key figure in guiding certain archives in India, Dr. Ashok Ranade also contributed his views on the ethical aspects of archiving -especially the relationship between artists, collectors who deposit into archives, and the management entrusted with such materials.  Legal issues related to the migration of archival material from one format to another were also discussed and a consensus was reached that proper legislation pertaining to archiving was required.  G.R. Raghavender and Ameet Dutta also added expert comments.

The final panel consisted of Darius Dalal and Lawrence Liang, who addressed the nuances of making and signing contracts in the music business. Contracts for performances, management, publishing, and recording, were some of the major types of contracts that were discussed from the viewpoint of musicians, event organizers, and record companies. Many of the performers asked questions related to their own experiences. The legal experts insisted on the necessity of written contracts for all live performances and recordings.

In addition to the panelists and the organizing team led by vocalist Shubha Mudgal and tabla-player Aneesh Pradhan, the conference was also attended by musicians, representatives of independent record labels, members of the legal fraternity and students.

by Sudev J Sheth
with inputs from Aneesh Pradhan