Kinat Sisodia graduated from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur. He started practicing law since 2008 right after graduating from law school. After spending years with Shemaroo Entertainment and Radio Mirchi, Kinat has recently shifted to Star India in capacity of Manager – Legal for its channels Life Ok, Star Jalsha and Jalsha Movies.
In this interview, we have asked Kinat about what it takes to be a media and entertainment lawyer.
In India there is quite a lot of resistance towards legal education even now. What motivated you to choose law as a career?
My family as most other families laid emphasis on education with freedom for each member to pursue their own educational interests. My father studied pharmacy, which was an out of league choice of education at his time and my elder brother went on a complete tangent to opt for hotel management later. In a similar way, my calling for law came with the opening of National Law University in my hometown Jodhpur. I researched on the changed scenarios for law as a growing choice for a profession and then followed my family tradition of pursuing my own education path.
After graduating from HNLU you joined Universal Legal. How did the appointment take place?
I was introduced to Universal Legal by my mentor Mr Venkatesh Prabhu, with whom I had the honour of undertaking an internship during my final year of college. Under his able guidance and advise I interviewed with Universal Legal’s offices at Delhi and was shortlisted to join, but due to recession, the hiring got frozen. I was later given an option to join their Chennai offices, which I happily availed and joined the firm in February 2009.
You left a lucrative law firm job and had joined Shemaroo Entertainment as an in-house counsel. What prompted this switchover? What were your areas of practice in Shemaroo?
My move from Chennai was majorly based on sentimental grounds of being away for too long from home, folks and friends. I never planned to make a switch from a law firm to an in-house role, but the chance to be part of glamour and Bollywood was part of the initial appeal for me along with the option of staying close to family and friends.
After joining Shemaroo, I realized the workload as an in-house counsel demanded almost similar timelines like a law firm. The major practice areas there were contractual drafting and to devote a time and focus on understanding copyright aspects for such drafting.
After working with Shemaroo for almost a year you joined Radio Mirchi. How did you get inducted into a FM Radio company?
Media industry lacks lawyers and therefore with my one year of media experience I started getting couple of job offers. Amongst those offers, I got intrigued by an offer to experience and be part of the events business as part of Radio Mirchi. This gave me a chance to be part of organizing large scale events, viz. Mirchi Music Awards and Spell Bee school competitions to name a few and handling various intellectual property aspects in relation to organizing events.
What were your primary responsibilities as Senior Manager – Legal @ Radio Mirchi?
I started my stint at Radio Mirchi as part of their events business. Then I also worked for the core FM Radio business for routine compliances, music licenses while negotiating and drafting several different commercial deals. I was also majorly involved in advising and representing the company’s concerns before various forums and courts in relation to changes in the legal system with the introduction of the Indian Copyright Act, 2012.
With experience in establishing the legal implications for the FM Radio business, I, alongwith my senior, were also asked to help a sister company for building the FM radio model on the evolving internet radio broadcast business.
Recently you have shifted to Star India in capacity of Manager – Legal for its channels Life Ok, Star Jalsha and Jalsha Movies. What prompted you to make this choice and what made this shift possible?
That’s a standard interview question I have faced at several times in my career so far. I believe my journey in the media industry started from dealing copyright content (by way of (acquiring/ creating/ licensing) at Shemaroo; later as part of my work at Radio Mirchi I was helping in exploitation of copyright content on the FM Radio and internet platforms on an audio only mode. The logical next move for me therefore was to move towards a platform for exploitation of copyright content on an audio-visual basis and hence television.
This belief was fuelled in the right direction when I was approached to move from top of the FM Radio players to be part of India’s top television network for its relatively new channels Life OK and Bengali channels Star Jalsha and Jalsha Movies.
How different is the experience of working with a television conglomerate as compared to a FM Radio Company?
It’s actually a very short time to make any comparisons since I am barely 3-4 months old at STAR. The significant difference I feel for now while working for television is to be involved in larger projects which have a larger impact on the audience. Also, the functioning and processes for a television conglomerate are many folds since the broadcast happen simultaneously in the entire country as opposed to FM radio where each city has its separate localized broadcast.
You have experience of working with a law firm and biggies of entertainment industry. How do you distinguish your role and responsibility as an associate in a law firm and as that of an in-house counsel?
Working in-house for almost 4 plus years, I have realised that being in-house, lawyers are required to understand the exact requirements of the company not only from immediate legal point but also from a long time business perspective. This becomes a little different for lawyers in law firms since they cater to requirements of multiple clients across different industries on a regular basis. Further, growth for an in-house lawyer is not only on basis of legal knowledge but on an overall understanding of company’s business to support the company’s visions.
Do you think courts in India are equipped to handle entertainment and media law cases? Are existing laws sufficient enough to protect media contents in the era of emerging digital technologies like the Mobile, Internet, Broadband, IPTV and DTH among others?
The High Courts of the country are witnessing unique intellectual property cases these days and are dealing them in a commendable way. However, a nation-wide understanding on similar approach remains desirable to effectively mitigate the new intellectual property issues that keep arising.
In relation to your second query, the major concerns for all digital platforms are monitored and effectively dealt by a special designated tribunal in India, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). TRAI not only provides regulatory framework for all digital platforms, but also takes inputs of the stakeholders from such digital platforms to effectively protect the concerns for each platform.
Many young lawyers at corporate firms complain about the work being too exhausting, and that maintaining a work-life balance is just not possible. Could you share any advice on this?
I feel it can all be handled well if you are able to segregate your work time and family time. It may be little difficult to practice this in early stages of career, but it is very important not to carry any work stress once you leave your workplace. In fact, I am pretty sure all of us have handled time crunch in our college lives as part of project deadlines or exams. None of those things bothered us much then because we didn’t carry the stress back, and the same approach needs to be adapted to work life.
What are your long term objectives? Where do you see yourself by the end of five years?
Honestly, I didn’t plan my career path to move in any particular way, but here I am after 5 years in the media and entertainment industry. Nevertheless to answer your question, I would like to make a point that I have been involved in giving suggestions before the passing of the Indian Copyright Act, 2012 in the beginning of my media career. With the way the Indian Copyright Act, 2012 is now being interpreted, I foresee a lot of excitement and challenge to keep me engaged in the media and entertainment sector for the next 5 years hopefully.
Lastly, what would be your message to an Indian student pursuing a law degree?
Law is an amazing field and has a plethora of opportunities for everyone; just maintain your focus for what opportunity YOU want to aim for and not just because the majority is doing it. Hard work and dedication will take you where you will be content in the long run.