Musicians, authors, composers and songwriters have a general fear that their work will be used by others without their permission or knowledge, and that they will not be compensated for the same. The Performing Rights Society (PRS) was set up to ensure that the creative forces in our society face this predicament less frequently. The PRS provides intermediary functions and helps, in particular the collection of royalties, between right holders and parties who use the musical works publicly. The PRS works to protect the works of writers, musicians, songwriters, filmmakers and various other original creative content creators. Such societies ensure that creators receive compensation every time their work is used by structuring and organizing the licensing and royalty collection and distribution processes.
The US has removed Pakistan from its Priority Watch List of IPR and this is great progress for Pakistan. After removal from the Priority Watch List, the establishment of Collective Organization for Music Rights in Pakistan (COMP) is another achievement of the Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan (IPO). COMP is the first official Performing Rights Society of Pakistan. The Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan (IPO) was the force behind the establishment of COMP, with the Government of Pakistan sanctioning the same.
Under the Pakistan Copyright Ordinance, 2002, there is a statutory requirement under section 31 to set up a PRS or Collective Management Organization (CMO) to facilitate writers, musicians, songwriters and composers for royalties' collection of their work. If Pakistan does not comply with these requirements, or stops complying with the requirements, then Pakistan will not meet the international standards being complied with by other royalty collection agencies of the world. This will also inhibit Pakistan's ability to take its due share from international music by joining a membership of different international forums like the Confederation of International Societies for Authors and Composers (CISAC), the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC), the Performing Rights Society (UK), and Broadcast Music, Inc.
COMP's effectiveness is due to the fact that it is endorsed by music lovers and performers in Pakistan, as it not only works to support them but also works to represent them. COMP helps to monitor and keep track of the member's creative content, ensure that royalties are collected from the end users, negotiate license fees for public usage of the content, including pubic performances and other avenues of reproduction, and it helps to distribute royalties amongst the rightful owners of the content. An essential aspect to this is ensuring that the licensing of the content to the end users is done in a streamlined manner.
With the changing times and the availability of creative content through various mediums, it is absolutely essential for an organization like COMP to have a mandate to protect creative content makers. Pakistani artists have suffered a great deal at the hands of audio-visual piracy, the internet and various websites including YouTube as well as other advents of our digital age. Fortunately, over the last ten years, due to the exposure of social media and the potential of careers flourishing through the power and sheer magnitude of social media, more and more people have realized that depriving individuals of their hard work, their efforts and creativity is morally and ethically wrong. As a result, we have a society today which is more likely to abide by rules set forth to protect intellectual property rights. The situation is far from perfect, but the increasing awareness in our society is a major milestone.
Pakistan has been fortunate to have always enjoyed a very active music industry with hundreds of individual artists being able to share their music with people in the country and with international audiences as well. Pakistani television shows have also enjoyed a very wide domestic and international audience. With the advent of COMP, folklore in our country is also getting protection the way it deserves to be recognized. Before the developments in relation to COMP, folklore was not considered a credible industry. Therefore, folklore artists and performers could not be promoted domestically or internationally.
Furthermore, international collective agencies contribute immensely to their country's GDP and as such, have full support of their mandate and control of their work. BMI ended fiscal year 2017 by becoming the first performing rights organization in the world to generate over $1 billion in revenue for its affiliates. Pakistan needs to draw inspiration from the support that is given to such entities the world over and should do the same for COMP. Singers, writers, composers, stakeholders should join this organization and respond to this call, whereby they give their rights of music for taking financial benefit and general protection of their work and rights. If such individuals register their work first with IPO -Pakistan and then with COMP and fulfill all other directives then Pakistan can take a lead in the international music industry by facilitating them monetarily through this royalty's collection mechanism. As the ratings of Show biz go, our musical stars are so famed and well recognized both nationally and internationally due to their talented work. Some of them are world renowned and known for their legendry work in the music industry.
For decades, creative content producers did not have their rights protected nor were they compensated in any way for use of their work. The first Performing Rights Society in the United Kingdom helped to change that and accorded artists and writers with the protections they deserved. COMP is going to do the same for artists, writers and content creators in Pakistan. Since then, due to the Pemra laws, which are supporting more indigenous music through licensee and a broadcasting service provider, changes in technology and more awareness in society in terms of intellectual property and the rights associated therein, vast improvements have been made to help ensure that musical works can be shared in a reasonable way with the masses and end users, while compensating the content creators for the same. Pakistan and people related to the music industry both can take economic benefits of CMO's culture and can improve their livelihood and revenue collection for the national exchequer through this legal source.
(The writer is a former Judge, IP Attorney and Senior Partner ABS @ CO) [email protected]