challenges, digital, ipr

Digital And The IPR Conundrum

what ipr laws are doing to digital media in india The digital revolution has completely changed the way we communicate.

Unfortunately, the legal system has a long way to go to keep up.

We’ve been developing the agency website for a while now. And we’ve been driving ourselves nuts trying to figure how we can showcase the work we’ve done.

But legal opinion is against us.

The issue is this:

When clients commission a TVC, they pay for the right to air their work in television and broadcast media. What no contract includes – initially, at least – is permission to put the commercial online.

And when they do put it online, a problem arises because clients own the rights to the visuals of the TVC, and not the soundtrack.

Which means that – legally, at least – the composer, voice artists, singers, etc. are owed royalties. Because they can easily argue that the work has been posted online for commercial purposes – either to further build the brand, or to let the agency showcase its talents.

Now, every one of us has at some point or the other uploaded the TVC we’ve worked on to YouTube. Inadvertently putting the client – and perhaps the agency – at legal risk.

It would be simple, it seems, to solve this issue. Simply buy the rights to the soundtrack as well.

That’s right. But…

There is a body called Association of Voice Artists (India) – AVA, in short. AVA works towards protecting the rights of voice artists, and making sure they’re fairly treated and compensated.

According to data available on the AVA website, yearly licensing fees are ten times the unit fee charged by the artist. Similarly, the fee for changing the medium of the original recording is 50% of the artist’s unit fee. So, a VO that cost Rs. 3000 to put on-air costs an additional Rs. 31500 to put online. And considering that each film has (on average) three voices, that works out to a not-inconsiderable cost of Rs. 94500 – just to upload it online. For a year. The license has to be renewed annually.

And then, there’s the composer’s royalty. Which could be several hundred thousand rupees per film.

But the problem is not the fee. All professionals deserve to be paid what they’re worth. Clients who pay upward of Rs. 5000000 per TVC aren’t going to cry foul over another Rs. 100000. Especially when it’s reaching such a wide audience.

The problem lies in the medium.

Certain brands may not have an online audience. So, they wouldn’t put the film online and seed it.

However, there’s no telling who might.

Once again exposing the advertiser to legal risk.

So much so that we’ve even been asked to take down our portfolio blogs because we may be sued. (Unlikely, given the relationships agency folks share with voice artists and composers, IMHO.)

Our laws have a long way to go to catch up, and there’s no guarantee that they will for another five years.

So, we need to make buying out the soundtrack as well (in perpetuity, across all media) a standard operating procedure. This would mean an agreement on rates between AVA and an industry body that would represent agencies and clients – perhaps the Advertising Agencies’ Association of India (AAAI).

That would let us put up our agency showreel for the world to see. And let me reactivate my portfolio blog.

Until then, we’re guilty as sin.


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