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WPPT treaty is the way ahead towards Performance & Intellectual Property Rights for the Indian Musicians- John Smith

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The International Federation of Musicians (Federation Internationale des Musiciens – FIM is a non-governmental organization representing the “voice of musicians worldwide” with millions of musicians globally. John Smith President FIM UK at the 4th FIM international Conference on Streaming organized by Musicians Federation of India in Mumbai shares the  agenda, behind the conference, what brings FIM to India, key challenges which the Indian music industry faces in-terms of performance rights and the way ahead to find solutions to help the Indian musicians in a tet-e-tet with

Talking about the idea behind the conference this year in Mumbai Smith says, “The agenda of this conference is in continuation to the previous conferences we had in the US, UK and now in India, we look into the position of streaming which initially started as the music streaming, but now we are also looking at Film and TV streaming, how it is expanding and paying the performers.”

Smith elaborates on the practices in western countries saying, “What happens in most of the countries is that its a buyout i.e there is a one payment and even if it’s very successful it’s not fair because with the evolution of technology  digital streaming is evolving multifold, and is expected to replace radio and television in the next 20 years. Today, people can have what they want easily as it is both user and consumer-friendly.

So what brings FIM to India, “We have the only concern that the artists and performers are paid properly and so the purpose of this conference really is to understand what is happening in India because India is such an important country and has an outstanding industry, not just music but everything,”adds Smith.

Talking about key challenges in India as compared to the other countries, tells Smith “It is very different here than the situation in other countries. Since in the US, UK, and European countries, the unions are very strong and there is a lot of collective bargain, and that’s what is not happening here in the Indian music industry. While in Europe and the UK there are very strong performance rights and intellectual property rights. So India’s disadvantage is to both as there is no collective bargain and also for not having strong performance rights and they all need to come together. It seems to me as they are talking about using the courts and the legal procedures, but I’m not sure if they are good enough, because since performers here too want that satisfaction, so your country needs to go with the international treaty which supports the performing rights. As performers, you need your country to sign this treaty and not have reservations on your rights.”

What are your key findings that you think can be worked out in the Indian music industry, “We found through our surveys that the public really knows the importance of the side musicians or the non-featured session players or musicians, who are not the ‘star’ or a ‘featured artist’ but they are the supporting musicians who can also be the fans of a star like for example Elton John had his band members like the guitarists, and accompanying artists without which a star musician or a featured musician cannot do anything, or without the orchestra players and the session musicians. So we want to support these musicians in this worldwide campaign to talk about their rights to remuneration especially on digital and streaming platforms.”

Smith mentions the problems he sees with the streaming platforms in India, saying, “I see that most of the income is going to the streaming platforms but they are not sharing it with the artists. So how can we rectify this problem by talking to various Indian music industry stakeholders, streaming platforms, record labels and government of India is the key idea behind having this conference.”

Smith gives an outline of the key facets of the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT)  and the key points of debate in the conference, saying “ The debate was mainly based on the internet streaming both audio and visual streaming which is all the more prevalent, as well as the running theme through all of these services with the functioning of the ‘making available right’ called the ‘on-demand right’ of the  WIPO World International Property Organisation’s Treaty that is being applied to all the streaming services from the last 2 years. Now here in Mumbai, we want to particularly focus on the Indian musicians,entertainment and creative industry and the technology industry to work in consensus. Thus, we are here to find what is streaming doing and the way ahead.”

Smith further points out, “We need to ensure that the performance rights which are outlined in the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) help the performers across the world. While we see that there are some countries around the world that have not implemented the right to equitable remuneration that is mentioned in article 15 of WPPT to include China, Australia, and India, who have not considered the application to be a part of the treaty.”

So what benefits can the treaty bring to the Indian musicians, answers Smith “  Well, we think the situation here is a little bit more complicated in that sense since the industry can actually reward the performers by contract to be secure with their intellectual property rights for performance. Our organizations have been talking to local musicians in different countries and in my opinion composers, creators and songwriters from across the globe always think that it’s great to look at the WPPT as it protects the rights of the performers as it defines performers too.”

Smith concluded by giving the definition of performers as per WPPT “ The performers are the actors, singers, musicians, dancers and other persons who act, sing, deliver, interpret or otherwise perform literary artistic works or expressions of folklore.”

Also,present on the occasion were Ray Hair VP FIM UK, Geidy Lung Senior Counsellor Copyright law division WIPO, Ratish Tagde President MFI India, Kishore Jawade General Secretary MFI and eminent personalities from the indian music industry.

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