- Dinkar Sharma
- 03 August 2017
WHOSE SCRIPT IS IT, ANYWAY?
A brief introduction of the Copyright Amendment Act 2012
To be a good screenwriter, the foremost thing is to be well informed. But why is it so that screenwriters seem least concerned or aware about unfair industry practices related to screenwriting? Why do they seem to care less while signing contracts?
I ask myself - Does every screenwriter know that there’s a law in place which puts him/her in a commanding situation while negotiating with producers? Because, that is one true fact!
It’s imperative for all screenwriters, whether they write film screenplays or TV episodes or lyrics, to be aware of the Copyright Amendment Act 2012 and know its implications. Now, I’m no Copyright Law expert but I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the company of people who are. Over the years, I’ve compiled the following information from various sources that should be like a sacred text for all writers out there!
Read on, and you might feel like a Copyright expert yourself!
Salient Features of The Copyright Amendment Acts 2102
As per the Copyright Amendment Act 2012, the Copyright is a BUNDLE of rights that the author or writer of any musical or literary/dramatic work possesses.
SET OF RIGHTS UNDER THE COPYRIGHT –
- Economic Rights to derive economic benefits from your work in the form of fees and royalties.
- The right to reproduce your work in any material form
- The right to publicly perform it or to get it communicated to the public by any means
- The right to make copies of that work
- The right to make sound recordings or CDs, DVDs of that workx
- The right to make a film out of that
- The right to adapt
- The right to translate
- The right with respect to adaptation and translation and the other six rights
- Inalienable Moral Rights against mutilation, misrepresentation and non-acknowledgement of your work.
- The Right of Paternity – the right to be recognized as the parent of your particular work
- The Right of Integrity - If somebody amends or modifies your work to such an extent that it amounts to mutilation or distortion or is prejudicial to your reputation or honor you can take actions against him/her.
- The Right to Broadcast your work to be broadcast in any form
- The Un-Assignable and Inseparable Right to Royalty
TRANSFER OF COPYRIGHTS –
- The transfer of transferrable rights has to take place in writing and the specific rights being transferred have to be separately mentioned.
- If there is no contract or agreement then it is presumed that all these rights are with the Writer and not with the producer.
- If the term is not mentioned in the agreement than it is presumed that it is for 5 years.
- If the territory is not mentioned it is presumed that that it is the territory of India only.
- If the person to whom you have assigned your copyright doesn’t utilize it in a period of ONE year then it automatically comes back to you and you can give it to somebody else UNLESS you have specified otherwise in your Agreement.
What is Royalty?
As per the Copyright Amendment Act 2012, exploitation of a writer’s literary work through any medium other than a cinema-hall generates Royalty for the writer. As per the same law, a writer’s royalty is separate from the remuneration, even if the contract mentions otherwise. While the Copyright is assignable, the Right to Royalty is un-assignable and inseparable (i.e. NOBODY can take it from you!). It remains with the writer as long as he/she lives and then, with the respective family till after 60 years of death.
You might be wondering what does the law consider as Literary Work, right?
As per legal experts - The term ‘literature’ or ‘literary work’ is defined as ‘a creative or imaginative piece of writing’. Now, at least I don’t need a special kind of interpretation to deduce that that lyrics, dialogues, story and the screenplay fall under that definition.
But, is this Act unfair to the producers?
Not at all! The experts tell you that it’s the opposite! Actually, the producers are not going to be affected directly because the writer is not asking the producer to pay the Royalty. It’s a win-win situation for everybody because the idea of a hefty Royalty would work like an inspiration for any writer to create content, which can be viewed multiple times, across platforms, and over the years. That increases the producer’s share even before the Royalty is calculated!
How important is a Contract?
Very! In fact, the time of signing the contract and its wording are both equally important. In case, the script is being written, the future Copyright can be assigned to the producer through a contract. If the script has already been written, the Copyright in the script would vest with the writer till the date of enforcement of the Copyright assignment agreement.
However (as stated under TRANSFER OF COPYRIGHTS), there's no assignment of copyright without a written agreement. Until an agreement is drawn the Copyright stays with the writer, provided he or she has timely registered the material.
Now that you know about the Copyright Act, here’s hoping that henceforth, you’ll be able to give a piece of advice to producers trying to lure you with a lopsided contract.
Dinkar Sharma is a freelance writer-director and script consultant. He studied screenwriting at Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. Formerly, he worked with Whistling Woods International as a faculty for Screenwriting. He's a guest script-mentor at FTII and WWI, and guest faculty for recently started FTII short-term script writing courses.