Imagine yourself as a popular musician, be it a composer or a performer. Your songs are being played somewhere remote and you are not aware of it at all. You can be a writer too; clueless of the fact that yours manuscripts have been pirated heavily. In every way, you become an author, deprived of your rights. The rights you hold to your intellectual creation, which in legal terms is called copyright.
As an author, it is impossible for you to keep track of your works being used, since exploitation occurs everywhere, almost regularly. It is equally impossible for you to administer your own rights and defend it legally when they are violated. Dissemination and commercialization of intellectual works such as music, photographs, paintings, computer software, etc. has reached its peak today due to the global convergence of technology and communication. For the management of copyright and related rights, the global trend is to take initiatives both in governmental and non-governmental level. This initiative is called the collective management organisation or CMO, popularly known as the Copyright Society.
On behalf of the creative band of authors involved in intellectual property generation, whenever any work of the author’s is used or performed anywhere within a country, the societies administer the licensing of rights, collect royalties according to the multiple uses of the works, deliver the royalties to its owner with full transparency and enforce the author’s rights on behalf where and when applicable. To avoid possible ambiguities, royalties here refer to the process of usage-based payment for the rights of an asset, specifically an intellectual property (IP), agreed on licenses between two parties, the licensee and the licensor.
Collective management organisations or copyright societies work as private, not-for-profit, legal entities that are established under Governmental supervisions. They work as the mediator between the copyright users and the copyright holders. Any individual entity having copyrighted works is eligible to be a member of the societies. The decade old Copyright Act 2000 of Bangladesh however contains the provision mandating formation of the CMO but the establishment of the CMO has yet not been done resulted a mess in the Bangladeshi Copyright law arena. In the absence of a CMO the collection of royalty and the overall right administration has become a complex issue. Authors literally are clueless as to how they can best exploit their music rights and also with regard to their likely action when their right are violated or infringed.
However, it needs to be stated that one of the prime duty of the CMO members is to update the society on their available copyrighted works and the deals or agreements they have signed or the license they have issued to the users of their work. To operate appropriately, the societies obtain exclusive authorized rights of the copyrighted works from the members by way issuing license. CMOs as a result hold the ultimate right to grant license of the copyrighted works for different purposes and in return collect royalties from the same entities or individuals. In addition CMOs has the mandate to track and identity infringements or right violations and initiate appropriate legal action.
The idea of collective management organization was formulated in France in the mid nineteenth century and as of June 2011, the total number of copyright societies from 121 countries are 232 that represent around 3 million creators and music publishers covering all the genres of art including music, drama, literature, audio-visual, graphic and visual arts.
In a country, the copyright society can be only one in number bringing the authors of all genres together or there can be individual societies responsible for each of the unique genre. For example the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) solely conducts rights management for the entire music industry in Japan. They also maintain the liaison with similar organisations located abroad on a reciprocal basis. On the other hand, Malaysia has four distinctive societies for exploitation and management of copyright works. For motion picture copyright management, there is Motion Picture Licensing Company Malaysia (MPLC). MPLC represents over 400 producers and distributors from major Hollywood studios to independent and foreign producers. Music Authors’ Copyright Protection (MACP) Berhad represents 2 million international composers, lyricists and publishers from all over the world. It collects royalty for the songwriters and publishers when their works are used. On the other hand the Public Performance (Malaysia) or PPM works for the protection of the rights of recording companies.
Compared to the global array of copyright societies, Bangladesh is visibly nowhere in spite of the huge demand for our local art and music by the non-resident Bangladeshis spread worldwide. Existence of a CMO in Bangladesh could have further boost up our inward foreign remittance sent by the NRBs provided that the said CMO in Bangladesh would eventually have a nexus with other similar organizations abroad and collect royalties for the Bangladeshi art or music works used abroad. According to the annual Global Economic Survey, released by CISAC in 2012, the gross amount of royalties collected by CISAC’s member societies is greater than €7.5 billion, something Bangladesh can only learn about and gasp in amazement.
The music fraternity in Bangladesh has long been organizing themselves to establish the first ever CMO in Bangladesh but they yet to hit the mark. At this stage it is however a dire need that we have the much desired CMO established in Bangladesh which shall automatically get rid of dozens of complex issues that currently exist in our music fraternity. It is of encouragement that the CISAC is playing an appreciable role to assist us with the CMO establishment too. The CISAC officials in their last Bangladesh visit in 2011 urged highly on setting up a copyright society to bring the ever deterioration situation of copyright infringement and piracy under control. This being the burning question of the day, Bangladesh right now has no alternative but to establish the vital collective management organization before it is too late.
The story was first published in INTELLECT Issue no.1, dated April 2012