This post is by Seemantani Sharma. Ms. Sharma is a broad in-house international intellectual property, media and regulatory lawyer at the Asia – Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) , the world’s largest broadcasting union.

In India “aesthetic sports” or “routine oriented sports” such as artistic swimming (formerly known as synchronized swimming), gymnastics, figure skating and acrobatics has been largely ignored by the sports authorities due to its unpopularity amongst the Indian sports enthusiasts. The unpopularity of these sports is not surprising considering that India is a cricket frenzy nation so much so that former Indian Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju derisively but accurately describes it as the opium of Indian masses. It is also for this reason that India recurrently performs poorly in sports such as gymnastics at the Olympics. Further, in sports such as figure skating and artistic swimming, it is largely unrepresented at major international sporting events such as the Winter Olympics and the FINA Synchronized Swimming World Series.

My work-in-progress paper attempts to inform the Indian sports authorities, policy makers, the sports industry and academics about the untapped potential of aesthetic sports such as figure skating, synchronized swimming and figure skating given its soft power potential. It specifically argues that the Indian “aesthetic sports” industry which exists outside the mainstream competitive sports industry such as cricket, hockey and football is a potential “soft power” which can leverage India’s otherwise dwindling standing in the international sporting arena. This is attainable provided these sports incorporate some elements from the Indian performing arts within them. Further, just like other creative works, such sports should be accorded copyright protection provided they fulfill the strictures of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. This will potentially make such sports a full time profession and incentivize the Indian youth to take up sports such as gymnastics, figure skating and artistic swimming on a regular basis. It is clarified that by taking the specific case study of aesthetic sports, my intention is not to disregard the importance of other neglected but equally important sports such as hockey, kabaddi, tennis, etc. The case of aesthetic sports has been taken due to its soft power potential, the benefits of which should be availed by India.

At a broader level, my work-in-progress paper attempts to make at least three contributions. Firstly, it informs the Indian sports authorities, policy makers, the sports industry and academics about the untapped potential of sports such as figure skating, synchronized swimming and figure skating. Secondly, it adds to a small but expanding body of literature on the importance of copyright law for developing commercial creative industries. Thirdly, and most importantly, it serves as a starting point for undertaking more industry focused research. For example, researchers can undertake an empirical study on the Indian gymnastic industry and specifically on the living standards of the Indian gymnasts. Based on field research, they can propose the viability of copyright law in improving the living standards of these gymnasts.

 

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