|Mr. Ameet Dutta|
Around two weeks ago, on the 30th of May, 2012 I witnessed an incredible sight at the auditorium on the ISKCON premises at Juhu, Mumbai. An auditorium filled with the leading lights of the musical community from Bollywood, led by Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Vishal Bhaaradwaj, Anandji, Shreya Ghosal, Shan, Prasoon Joshi etc. were on their feet to deliver a thundering, heartfelt ovation for a copyright lawyer who had advised Javed Akhtar through the entire process of lobbying for the revolutionary amendments to India’s copyright law, which were passed unanimously by both houses of Parliament. The lawyer’s name was Ameet Datta.
Just moments before the ovation, Akhtar in his inimitable style explained to the packed auditorium how he had engaged Ameet to advise him on the lobbying for the amendments and how Ameet had insisted on working pro bono for Akhtar. While praising Ameet’s work on the amendments to the skies, Akhtar informed the audience (‘lost in translation’ disclaimer applies) – “Despite working pro bono, Ameet worked for me like I owned him.”
The reason I described the thundering ovation as simply incredible was because I’ve never in my life seen a lawyer, especially a copyright lawyer, being a ‘rockstar’ on a stage that was already host to the genius of people like Gulzar and Akhtar. In this country, IP lawyers are usually in the news for the wrong reasons be it pharmaceutical patents or the blocking of websites after ‘John Doe’ orders. Therefore to witness an event where artists, who are the keepers of a nation’s conscience, give a standing ovation to a copyright lawyer is simply quite stunning.
While any lawyer would have agreed to advise Akthar & Co. pro bono especially in such a high-profile case, I must explain the stakes for Ameet. For most of the last decade, Ameet has been representing IPRS & PPL both of which are controlled by the music companies which have a lot to lose because of the new amendments. That they continued to retain him as a counsel before the Delhi High Court and the Copyright Board, despite knowing of his work with Akthar speaks volumes of his stature in the world of Indian copyright law. It remains to be seen whether the music companies retain him as a counsel post the notification of the amendments but rest assured that financially speaking, Ameet would have been much better off representing only the music companies who have pockets which are way deeper than any music composer in India. The fact that he chose to risk losing out on some extremely lucrative clients in the process, speaks greatly of his dedication to the cause of justice and good music.
|Image from here.|
Irrespective of the money and the fame, I’m sure these amendments have earned Ameet enough good karma to last him and his family for several generations. Hopefully, some of it should filter down to the larger community of IP lawyers. (We need the good karma, especially after this website-blocking episode!)
Before I end, I would like to share the following words which were inscribed on a plaque gifted by singers, lyricists & composers to Ameet Datta. These words say it all.
(A short video of the event is also accessible over here.)
Shri Ameet Datta
We, the Composers, Authors and Performers shall forever be indebted to you for the invaluable contribution made by you towards securing the much deprived justice and rights denied to us for generations by selflessly spearheading the amendments to the Copyright Act.
You will go down in the annals of music as a messiah of creators & artistes in India.
We thank you sincerely.
Music Composers' Association of India
Singers' Association of India
Film Writers' Association of India