The Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010 has been listed as Item No. 3 on today's 'list of business' for the Rajya Sabha and will be taken up for a debate and voting once the Rajya Sabha concludes its debate on the budget i.e. Finance Bill, 2012 along with a bill for appropriation of funds. Also on the list before the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010 is a move to amend the rules pertaining to development fees for airports.
For those of you interested in catching the debate, you can watch it on Rajya Sabha TV or catch the webcast on the website over here.
This is the first time, this session, that the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010 has been listed for business before the Rajya Sabha and if the upper house can wind up the discussion on the budget there is a good chance that they will have the time to debate the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010. According to press reports in the last few days, the Cabinet has approved of the final amendments to the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010. This may mean that the move to limit statutory licencing, at rates fixed by the Copyright Board, for only radio stations and not television broadcasters, has been dropped. We had blogged about this amendment over here.
The last time this Bill was listed for business in the winter session of Parliament, the debate turned into quite the fiasco for the government because of accusations of 'conflict of interest' against Minister Sibal, who was and is responsible for piloting the bill through Parliament. Sibal's son is a leading lawyer for some music companies and one of the opposition M.P.s had demanded that Sibal make a full disclosure on the potential conflict of interest before the debate. We had blogged about it over here. In Mr. Sibal's defence, I don't think he should be required to disclose the interests of his independent son - that's just pushing it.
It also remains to be seen whether Sibal has also dropped the 'parallel imports' clause from the final version. The amendments to the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010 had dropped that clause despite the Parliamentary Standing Committee strongly recommending that parallel imports be permitted. It remains to be seen how Sibal will seek to defend dropping this particular clause before senior members from his own party, like Mr. Oscar Fernandes who headed the Standing Committee on the amendments. The book publishing lobby has been pressurizing the government to drop this amendment for quite some time and given that they've indulged Minister Sibal by publishing his book on SMS poetry, titled My World Within, I'm sure that they've managed to swing his heart the right way. You can buy the book over here. Although literary critics warn against reading Sibal's book, he seems to have found the admiration and adoration of Javed Akhtar, who has been the author of the revolutionary amendments for composers and lyricists. In pertinent part Akhtar describes Sibal's poetry in the following words "If poetry is only emotions and feelings, it affects our minds for a short while. If it is only intellect and wisdom it doesn't touch our hearts. Kapil Sibal's poetry is a synthesis of emotions and intellect. His poems are felt thoughts"
A sample of Sibal's poetry: Your friendship is / a gift that’s rare/ and that is why / I really care.
Will it get through the Rajya Sabha this session?
The greatest danger of the bill getting derailed however is the Minister himself. For some reason either real or imaginary, the opposition and sometimes his own party members are out to embarrass and obstruct all of Sibal's legislations in Parliament. Most infamously, one of his own party MPs sabotaged the Educational Tribunals Bill while Sibal was in the process of introducing it. Maybe its the death of realpolitik or the general lowering of parliamentary standards but rest assured that it is going to take a miracle to ensure smooth passage of any of Sibal's bills in Parliament. The way our Parliament works these days, it can get derailed at any moment. The latest to watch out for is the 'Kali-Ma' beer controversy which has the BJP up in arms. I think it has potential to make it to Parliament despite the brewery in question apologizing for the same. Last week the problem in Parliament was political cartoons in school textbooks. A few months ago the problem was the Gita being banned in Russia. Hopefully, now that the glamorous Rekha has been sworn in as a Member of the Rajya Sabha, her presence in the august house may just cajole our parliamentarians to be on their best behaviour. This is a thesis I hope to test over the next few days.