It is impossible to imagine a world without Music & Entertainment. However, for this industry to continue to churn out great talent, we need to respect, reward and assure a sustainable career for our immensely creative artistes by protecting their creative works legally.
Dhvani Krishnan, our next pathbreaker does just that as an IP (Intellectual Property) Lawyer at Times Music – The Times Group. We talk to Dhvani about her career and work as an an IP Lawyer in the Entertainment Industry.
Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal speaks to Dhvani Krishnan, IP Lawyer at Times Music about her unique career path in Music & Entertainment.
Dhvani, can you talk a little bit about your background?
I was born in New Delhi and raised in Mumbai. I have a twin sister who is a professional chef in Sydney. Though it is always assumed that twins have similar choices or choose similar paths, however, while growing up, our interests were always distinct from each other.
I was a very active student and participated in sports as well as did fairly well in my academics. As a kid, I only had three career choices in my mind – to be an astronaut, which changed to becoming a space scientist and finally, in my 8th standard, I knew that I wanted to become a lawyer.
What did you study?
My parents were very supportive and always encouraged me in whatever choices I made. I completed 10th in 2010 scoring 84%. Since I had already made up my mind to pursue law, I took up Humanities, much against many people’s wishes. In 2012, I joined Government Law College, Mumbai and began my journey towards becoming a lawyer.
My parents often used to joke about my tendency to dramatize everything ever since I was a child. I decided to channelize that aspect of mine and hence I took up a certificate course in acting from The Barry John Acting Studio, Mumbai.
How did you decide on Law, which is still considered an offbeat and unconventional career relative to Engineering and Medical?
I get asked many times as to why and how did I choose law as a profession since no one in my family is a lawyer! My answer is a rather unconventional one. I remember this one time when my mother showed me a magazine that featured women lawyers of India, that somehow influenced my decision. I have always loved interacting with people and speaking in public; and decided, what better way to put this to use?
As a first-generation lawyer, it was always difficult to make the right choices as I did not have a mentor within the family. However, I have had people in my law school who would always give me guidance whenever I needed it. And I will be eternally grateful for the advice and support I got back then.
Tell us about some of your internships in the Music industry
Until my 3rd year, I was interning in law firms. However, my internship at Sare Gama, a music label was my first step towards Media IP. As an intern, I was researching on various copyright infringement cases, reviewing agreements and reading more about copyright laws and music laws in India and globally.
Thereafter, I interned at Sony Pictures Network. My internship there was the turning point as that is when I was finally convinced of what I want to do. The seniors at the organization were extremely encouraging. I would be given the responsibility to make first drafts of the agreements based on the business understanding, they would send me for due diligence and also involved me in negotiation calls.
What was your career path after graduation in Law?
In the 3rd year of law school, I decided that I want a career in Intellectual Property Rights and within IPR, it was copyright laws/media IP that interested me the most. Hence, I started moulding myself towards gaining all the experience that I could, by way of internships. In the five years of studying law, I have interned in almost all top-tier law firms of India. It was during the internships that made me realize that litigation is not something that I want to take up once I graduate.
Sitting across the table and negotiating terms and conditions of a contract and thereafter reducing them in writing on a piece of paper that’s binding, fascinated me the most. Because I was so interested in copyright and media laws, my internship would always be in a media house or a firm that dealt with media laws.
After completing my legal studies, I applied in one of India’s leading music label, Times Music which is a division of Bennett, Coleman Co. Ltd, commonly known as Times of India, and joined their legal department. Today, I handle legal contracts and partake in negotiating the terms and conditions therein for my company.
Typically, a law graduate will look towards litigation or a corporate law firm as a career option. What most people fail to realize is the wealth of opportunities that open as an in-house lawyer. I can say this with personal experience that it is a place where you get the best of both worlds. I have, as a result of my choices, grown not just as an individual but also as a legal professional.
What are some of the challenges you face in your role and what are the skills needed?
Many organizations of late are hiring lawyers to be their in-house legal counsels and get involved in commercial decisions. The responsibility of any in-house lawyer is not limited to just drafting and negotiating legal clauses in the contracts, but also, inter alia, extends to a plethora of other skills like; business objectives, strategies, the ability to communicate the risks involved, etc. These are some of the challenges, but the same can be tackled with experience and presence of mind.
The most important part of being a successful in-house counsel is to understand the industry you are in, understand the business of your organization and know the laws associated with it. The marriage of them all is the key to succeed.
Tell us about your current role
As I gained experience being a lawyer in the organization I work with, I deal with national as well as cross-border contracts. Thus, enabling me to learn more about international laws and regulations and this has increased my professional capabilities.
To be an efficient transactional lawyer, you must have the knack to negotiate and that can be achieved if you know and understand the business deal. Once you have understood the business deal, you must be capable to translate that into a contract language. Hence, drafting plays an important role as a transactional lawyer. Needless to say, you must also know the laws that govern your area of practice.
A typical day at work would entail me drafting various agreements for music composers, singers, producers and also complex agreements with international music service providers and/or OTT platform organizations. With my job, I am not only able to keep abreast with the latest happenings within the media and business industry within India and internationally, I also get a chance to witness many matters/cases that are listed in courts.
How does your work benefit the society?
The legal profession is meant to make the society a safe and better place to live in. Having said that, my area of expertise, which is media IP ensures that the creative geniuses get their dues, both in terms of credit and commercials. With strict laws in place, gone are the days when the mighty/ more powerful industry giants could exploit the smaller and newer entrants. I would like to believe that I am contributing albeit in a small way in making the entertainment industry a wonderful place for creative people to be a part of.
Can you tell us about a memorable work that you have done which is very special?
In the media industry one will come across umpteen number of copyright infringement cases and as a lawyer you will have to be proactive to send infringement notices in order to protect the legal rights of the owners. One such case was when a leading production house copied a song of the music label I am working with. As the law mandates, the first step is to send the infringer a notice of its act. After many exchanges of notices, both the parties came across the table to settle the matter. After an hour-long discussion and negotiation, we proved our ownership and drew up a settlement letter along with the agreed settlement amount. This was one of the highlights for me as it was a challenging case which was deeply satisfying for me personally to have been instrumental in successfully negotiating it in our favour.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Take an informed decision, based on your interest and capabilities about the career you want to pursue. Have a larger goal to keep in mind always, but focus on and try to achieve smaller intermittent goals which push you towards your ultimate objective.
Work hard and appreciate everyone’s efforts, however small. Anything that comes easy will probably not stay for long. Value what you have and build on it for a better, stronger, secure and successful future
Your future plans?
To always upgrade myself in my chosen profession as that would enable me to be the best.