In the winding, maze-like corridors leading to his office at the Committee Offices of the Senate in Islamabad, Senator Faisal Javed Khan is hard at work putting together the finer details for a bill that will give Pakistani artists and creatives a much-needed sigh of relief — he is fixing the Copyright Act, 1962 so that it empowers artists with the rights to demand royalties.
But first, the resolution, which he proposed back on December 24, will have to be passed by the Senate without opposition.
The senator isn’t worried. In fact, he believes that it will get through unanimously. The resolution is a part of the Senate's January 17 agenda.
And why would it not pass? The issue of royalties is one of the two important matters afflicting the media industry of late — the other being the film policy, which is still immovably stuck at the bureaucracy level. Resolving the issues of royalties is the least the government can do in its tenure.
Who would want to stand in the way of artists and creatives getting their fair share of royalties? Surely, this matter is bigger than petty politics and party affiliations…right?
A former advertising and marketing executive before his foray into politics, Senator Khan knows the necessity of passing this resolution and rectifying the Act.
“I started working on the matter back in April,” he said. It took a while to compile the feedback from the artist community and their lawyers, he explained.
"Actors are given royalties worldwide. If we don’t change the working environment of our artists, or change the way they live, then we will have killed creativity ourselves,” he reasoned.
Having gone through the mountain of paperwork on the issue that has piled-up on his table — including a copy of the Copyrights Ordinance, 1962, that has his notes scribbled all over it — the senator is adamant in getting the resolution through, he tells Images in an exclusive interview.
Once passed, the resolution will help initiate the modification of the Copyright Act, which is “redundant and outdated”, according to him. The Copyright Act has key sections pertaining to licensing and royalties.
“The definition of 'artists' and their assignment of work needs to be expanded upon. Sub-categories would be added, if need be. It would include those who contributed in the creation of that work of art — be it actors, producers, directors, writers or musicians,” he explained.
When the Copyright Act was first introduced, it didn’t have terms and definitions for digital and new media. “Royalties will be shared for content made for digital and OTT platforms, as well as percentages for first and subsequent runs of a production in all mediums,” Senator Khan said, although, he added, the exact terms, tiers and percentages, are still to be debated upon.
Once approved as a law, royalties can be ensured in any contract that is written under the Copyright Act.
“In Pakistan, no one reads the contract. If royalties are not in the contract, then they cannot be contested afterwards,” he said. “The first responsibility would then be of the artists, who would have to ensure that the terms of their new contracts have the specifics for royalties, as per the law.”
Let’s hope the resolution passes today for the betterment of the industry.