The Voice actor plays a very crucial role in Films and Advertisements in the Indian film industry. They engage the audience or customers with their talented voice acting and help in creating an authentic connection with the audience. Voices of voice artists are used and re-used to establish harmony with the visuals on screen. After the 2012 Amendment to The Copyright Act, 1957 (‘The Act’), many rights such as moral rights, equal share of royalty, etc. were provided to the Indian Performer. However, Indian voice actors still do not receive credit for their work and have to depend on the mercy of movie producers for royalties. In this article, we try to facilitate a legal discourse on the rights of the voice actor community.
Are Voice Actor Performers?
Performers are defined in section 2 (q) of the Copyright rules as: “performance”, in relation to the performer’s right, means any visual or acoustic presentation made live by one or more performers;
Section 2 (qq) defines a performer as “performer” includes an actor, singer, musician, dancer, acrobat, juggler, conjurer, snake charmer, a person delivering a lecture or any other person who makes a performance;
Someone who performs casually or incidentally in the normal course of the practice of the industry with respect to cinematograph films is an exception to this definition of a performer.
A voice actor can be considered a performer if they give a live visual or an acoustic presentation. In the case of Neha Bhasin v. Anand Raj Anand, it was held that live presentations in a studio also constitute a performance. The presence of an audience is not mandatory. Hence, an individual who does voice acting inside a studio is also a performer.
If a voice actor creates an original work, such as a character voice, narration, or singing performance, they may hold a copyright in that work. This means that they have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and perform the work, and can license or assign those rights to others for a fee or royalty.
In cases where a voice actor is hired by a company to perform a specific role, the copyright in the recording may belong to the company, unless there is an agreement stating otherwise. However, the voice actor may still have rights in their performance, such as the right to be credited as the performer and the right to prevent the recording from being altered or used in a way that is detrimental to their reputation
Voice Actors That Are Not Performers
In movies, certain junior voice actors may be required to make crowd noises. Because there is no skill required in making these crowd noises and they don’t have a distinctive characteristic, such performances will not be considered performances under Section 2(qq).
Rights Of Voice Actors Under Copyright Rules 1957
Section 38 of the Copyright Rules 1957 deals with the Performer’s rights. According to this, section a performer has a special right known as “performer’s right” in relation to their performance. This right shall subsist until 50 years from the beginning of the year in which the performance was made.
Under Section 38A, if the performance is incorporated in a cinematograph film by a written agreement, the producer cannot dent an equitable share in the commercial use of the performance. The commercial use of the performance includes reproduction, issue of copies or distribution, communication to the public including broadcasting and commercial rental of a cinematograph film.
The provisions on assignments, licenses and copyright society apply with necessary modifications and adaptations to the performer’s right, as stated in section 39A(1) of the Act.
Problems That Voice Actors face in India
While voice actors are legally recognised as performers under the Indian copyright law, they don’t enjoy the rights given to performers.
- Performer’s society- There is currently no joint Performer’s society that represents voice actors all over India. A single all-India Performer’s society for voice actors will help in streamlining the collection and distribution of funds, and can stop the unauthorised use of voice actors’ work. Such a society can also take up matters on behalf of its members in a court of law.
- Royalties – The share of royalties that voice actors receive for their work is not uniform. Hence, voice actor has to determine their worth on their own. This leads to voice actors getting significantly underpaid.
- Unauthorized Use – Unauthorized commercial use by producers also exploits a voice actor’s hard work.
- Recognition- There is no national award for voice actors and their contributions. Not only this sometimes voice actors are not even mentioned in the credits of their work.
The Indian entertainment and media industry is the 14th largest industry in the world. The Voice-over artists and voice actors have contributed majorly to the success of the industry. However, their contributions are not often recognised on par with other performers. It is now high time that voice-over artists are treated as performers under the copyright act and given the same rights that other performers enjoy.
2ND YEAR LLB
ILS LAW COLLEGE, PUNE