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Producer's immunity for inadvertent omission of credits is unfit in copyright contracts for OTT releases

Recently, I negotiated a music composition agreement for developing a song for a web-series, and there I found myself set up against a mechanical lawyer who would go so by the playbook and the sanctity of their templates - that any appeals to reason or highlighting factual circumstances would land on deaf ears.

Sample this. In content development agreements including for developing music commissioned by a producer, usually there is a clause that says (in simpler words), “That the composer gives up all moral rights”. Along with this there would be a condition that “The composer won’t object in case the producer inadvertently skips any credit attribution in the credit rolls.”

In the times before internet charges became dirt cheap, when satellite channels were the primary source of content - it made sense to institute the condition providing immunity to producer against inadvertent omission of credit attribution.

This is because satellite content has to abide by TRAI’s Quality of Service parameters, as well as fit in advertisements for commercial reasons. This entailed chopping off start or end credit rolls to fit into limited on-air time.

Owing to the above, committing to credit attribution for every creative contributor would be a challenge, and to avoid ending up in breach, producers would try to insert an immunity clause exempting them from liability for any non-attribution made ‘inadvertently’.

However, on internet - no such limitations control producer’s decisions. Credit rolls can keep rolling endlessly until the viewer is interested in watching.

But for some reason, media lawyers with a very mechanical approach would keep insisting on pushing for such immunity even for content that is being developed as a web-series for exhibiting through an OTT.

For argument’s sake, one may say that the web-series could be put up on satellite channels, sometime in the future - but that's a very improbabilistic argument because of the difference in format, audience category, and sensibilities when it comes to TV and internet audience in India - where the difference is not only in viewing preferences, but rather in the viewing generations itself. For e.g., the post-millenial generation is almost exclusively on OTT, whether as subscribers or as consumers of free content on short form video platforms.

One could add a bit of nuance by letting producer's immunity for inadvertent omissions - be applicable only in case of any transmissions over satellite channels. Accordingly, producer could be made fully accountable for inadvertent omissions in case of online streaming through OTT platforms. Even this nuance wouldn't matter for content that is exclusively made for OTT platforms, yet one could do this if one has to - but sadly rigid and mechanical lawyers seldom desire seeing light and continue to pose resistance.

Important Disclaimer: The information provided herein this article is our interpretation and understanding of the law. The legal analysis presented hereinabove is not given for application to any specific set of facts or circumstances peculiar to you or your organization. You may rely on the write-up for your peculiar facts or circumstances at your sole risk (or benefit) only. We will not be liable, answerable or responsible to you under any client-attorney relationship.

Screengrab of a credit roll flowing at the end of a film


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