Protection of performers' rights
PERFORMERS specially singers and musicians should be happy to hear
that their rights have been duly protected by the New Intellectual
Property Act No. 36 of 2003.
The earlier Legislation Intellectual Property Act No. 52 of 1979 did
not contain specific provisions for the protection of Performers'
Rights. In the New Act, the Term Performers is defined as follows.
"Performers means singers, musicians and other persons who sing,
deliver, declaim, play in or otherwise perform literary of artistic
works or expressions of folklove".
Singers and musicians who sing or play melodies created by others,
are termed as performers. In Sri Lanka most of the popular singers fall
into this category.
Performers do not enjoy copyright protection as they're merely
instrumental in relaying somebody else's creations.
In the recent past the question of the ownership of a song was highly
debated among composers, lyric writers and singers.
Most of the singers claimed that they also have equal rights, along
with composers and lyricists. Yet it is a globally accepted fact that a
singer does not have copyright for a song, sung by him as there is no
In our region (South Asian) a song is identified with a singer. Most
of the songs get popularity due to the personality of a popular singer,
notwithstanding, a melody and lyrics.
In the chapter two of the present legislation, provisions have been
introduced to safeguard the rights of a performer, under the title of
The performers are only entitled to Related Rights or Neighbouring
Rights, since they do not create original work.
Section 17 of the Chapter II reads as follows.
Sect. 17 (1) Subject to the Provisions of Section 21, a Rights to
carry out or to authorise any of the following acts:-
(a) the broadcasting or other communication to the public of his
performance or a substantial part thereof, except where the
broadcasting, or the other communication.
(i) is made from a fixation of the performance, other than a fixation
made in terms of Section 21: or
(ii) is a re-broadcasting, made or authorized by the organization
initially broadcasting the performance or substantial part thereof;
(b) the fixation of his unfixed performance or substantial part
(c) the reproduction of a fixation of his performance or substantial
(2) Once the performer has authorized the incorporation of his
performance in a audio-visual fixation, the provisions of subsection
(i) shall have no further application.
(3) Nothing in this Section shall be construed to deprive performers
of the right to enter into contracts in respect of their performances or
terms and conditions more favourable to them.
(4) The right under this section shall be protected from the moment
the performance taken place until the end of the fiftieth calender year
following the year in which the performance takes place.
Section 18, 20, deal with the rights of sound Recorders and
Broadcasting Organization, Section 21, deals with limitation of the
right of a performer which reads as follows.
21. Section 17,18,19 and 20 shall not apply where the acts referred
to in those sections are related to -
(a) the use by a physical person exclusively for his own personal
(b) using short excerpts for reporting current events of the extent
justified by the purpose of providing current information;
(c) use solely for the purpose of face to face teaching activities
for scientific research;
(d) cases, where under copyright, a work can be used without the
authorization of the owner of copyright.
Enforcement of rights and disputes resolution are described in the
The owner of rights is entitled to get an injunction and claim damage
for the infringement.
Also Court has the jurisdiction to grant injunctions, to order the
impounding of copies being sold or to order for a payment of damages.
The Director General of the National Intellectual Property Office of
Sri Lanka has the power to hold an inquiry with regard to infringement
and give a decision binding the parties. Any party aggrieved by the
decision of the Director General may make an appeal to the Court.
It is evident that under the New Legislation exploitation of original
singers and musicians is prohibited, for a period of 15 years.
Performers should get together and join a collective society in order to
safeguard their rights.
- Rajendra Jayasundara Bandara