By Nitika Sinha and Hashmeeta Sehgal
Brief facts of the case:
- The plaintiff, Indian Performing Rights Society (hereinafter referred as IPRS), is a company incorporated in the year 1969 to protect and enforce the rights of authors, composers, and publishers in literary and musical works. The defendant, Rajasthan Patrika Private Limited, is a company incorporated in 1974 engaged in operating FM Radio Broadcast Channels.
- IPRS was granted a certificate of registration in 1996 under the Copyright Act, 1957 (hereinafter referred as ‘the Act’) authorizing it to conduct copyright business in literary and musical works. ‘Music Broadcast Private Limited’ which is engaged in the business of operating FM Radio Broadcast Channels, including the channel ‘Radio City FM’. and ‘Rajasthan Patrika Private Limited’ (hereinafter referred as ’the Defendants’), entered into license agreements with IPRS in 2001 and 2006, respectively, for the utilization of IPRS’s repertoire in their FM radio broadcasts. Thereafter, various legal proceedings took place between plaintiffs and the defendants regarding the rights of authors of original works in sound recordings when they are communicated to the public.
- On July 25, 2011, in the case, Music Broadcast Pvt. Ltd. Vs. IPRS [Suit No.2401 of 2006], wherein the defendant – Music Broadcast Limited was the plaintiff, a learned Single Judge held that ‘the authors of the original works or the underlying literary and musical works embodied in sound recordings had no right to interfere with the rights of owners of such sound recordings to communicate the same to the public, including by broadcast through their radio stations.’ Thereafter, IPRS filed appeal before the Division Bench, wherein operation of the judgement was stayed but the decree was not stayed.
- The Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012 led to noteworthy amendments in the Act which were referred by the Supreme Court in the case International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (ICSAC) Vs. Aditya Pandey, [(2017) 11 SCC 37].
- The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) passed an order in 2020 determining royalty rates for sound recordings, literary and musical works. The defendants appealed under Section 31D of the Copyright Act 1957, against the separate royalty rates for literary and musical works.
- The plaintiff, on September 15, 2020 became aware about multiple applications filed by various radio broadcasters before the IPAB under Section 31D of the Act in which an intervention application was filed by the plaintiff on September 17, 2023, claiming to be an interested party.
- Subsequently, keeping in purview the provisions of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012, the IPAB passed an order fixing rates of royalties for sound recordings as well as for literary and musical works on December 31, 2020. The defendants filed appeals against the said order, stating no separate royalty was payable for utilization of such works in sound recordings and that IPAB could not have determined separate rates of royalty to be paid by the radio broadcasters for literary and musical works.
- Pursuant to the dissolution of the IPAB in the year 2021, Intellectual Property Division (IPD) of the Delhi High Court was introduced wherein the defendants filed application under Section 31D of the Act seeking revision of the statutory license rates and also sought an order of status-quo. A learned Single Judge of the IPD Bench of the Delhi High Court passed an interim order and stated that if the defendants did not comply with the order passed by the IPAB, IPRS would be within its rights to avail its legal remedies.
- Meanwhile, IPRS obtained data from ‘AirCheck’ showing that the defendants’ radio stations played songs allegedly belonging to IPRS’s repertoire in September 2021. Thereafter, IPRS filed suits against the defendants in 2022, seeking interim reliefs.
Submissions on behalf of the Plaintiff:
The Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Plaintiff made the following submissions before the Hon’ble Court:-
- The amendments brought in the Act in 2012 were aimed at protecting the rights of authors of original literary and musical works (underlying works) and have reversed the previous interpretation of the law by the Supreme Court and various High Courts.
- That even under the Act before it was amended, exclusive rights in the underlying works were protected, but the Supreme Court’s interpretation in a previous judgment (IPRS Vs. Eastern Indian Motion Pictures Association) erroneously went against the rights of the authors of those works.
- That the proviso added to Section 17, the third and fourth provisos added to Section 18 and sub-Sections (9) and (10) added in Section 19 of the Copyright Act, by way of amendment, circumscribe the exclusive copyright in cinematograph films and sound recordings. These amendments have changed the basis of the Supreme Court’s previous judgment and subsequent rulings.
- That the amendments clarified that the authors of the original works have the right to collect royalties when their works are used in sound recording works communicated to the public.
- That the report of the Standing Committee of Parliament demonstrates the need for amendments to protect the rights of the authors of the original works. The Standing Committee considered the effect of the previous interpretation of the Copyright Act on these authors and recommended changes to safeguard their rights.
Submissions on behalf of the Defendant:
(Music Broadcast Private Limited and Rajasthan Patrika Private Limited)
The Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Defendants made the following submissions before the Hon’ble Court:-
- That the amendments made to the Act in 2012 are clear and have not granted any additional rights to authors of original works.
- That Sections 13 and 14 of the Copyright Act, which define the meaning of copyright and the works in which it subsists, have remained unchanged even after the amendments. Further, in the case IPRS vs. Eastern Indian Motion Pictures Association, the Supreme Court recognized the position of law in the year 1977 which still applies.
- That the provisos added to Sections 17 and 18, and sub-sections (9) and (10) of Section 19 of the Copyright Act only clarifies the existing position of law, including the exclusive right of the Defendants to communicate sound recordings to the public under Section 14(e)(iii) and that the amendments have not granted substantive rights to authors of original works.
- That the plaintiff’s emphasis on the words “subject to the provisions of this Act” in Sections 13 and 14 of the Act is misplaced because those words have always been present and relate to substantive provisions of the Act, particularly Section 52, which specifies acts not treated as copyright infringement.
- The Defendants also referred to the previous judgments, especially the case of IPRS Vs. Entertainment Network (India) Limited wherein findings were made against the Plaintiff and was held that there was no change in the law.
- That the balance of convenience favors them, as the plaintiff waited a long time to initiate the present proceedings while the Defendants continued their business of communicating sound recordings to the public.
After hearing the submissions of both the parties, the Hon’ble court observed the following:
- The Statement of Objects and Reasons and the Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee can be used to interpret the provisions of the amended Copyright Act, but ultimately, the plain reading of the Act itself is crucial in determining whether there has been a change in the position of the law.
- The absence of amendments in Sections 13 and 14 of the Act does not automatically mean that the amendments have fallen short of their intended objective. Even a proviso can give rise to a substantive right, depending on its nature and its interplay with other provisions of the statute.
- The amendments brought about in the Copyright Act in 2012 have indeed changed the position of the law in favor of the authors of underlying literary and musical works. Although Sections 13 and 14 have not been amended, when read in conjunction with the amended Sections 17, 18, and 19, there is a clear change in the law that grants authors additional rights.
- The exclusive rights of the Defendants to communicate sound recordings to the public, as stated in Section 14(e)(iii) of the Copyright Act, are subject to the provisions of the Act. Therefore, the defendants’ rights are bounded by the right of authors to collect royalties, as provided by the amended provisions of the Copyright Act.
- Provisos added to Sections 17 and 18, as well as the sub-sections added to Section 19 nullify the effect of certain provisions against the plaintiff and grant significant rights to authors of literary and musical works.
- The plaintiff has made a substantial case that the amendments have changed the position of the law, aligning with the objective of protecting and guaranteeing the rights of authors. The Court affirms that authors have a right to collect royalties when their works are utilized, including through the communication of sound recordings to the public.
- The amendments have recognized the entitlement of authors to collect royalties for sound recordings communicated through radio stations, which often include film music. It also acknowledges that authors have the right to collect royalties for sound recordings that do not form part of any cinematograph film.
Decision of the Court
After observing the above submissions, the Hon’ble Court issued an order in favor of the Plaintiff. The Court granted interim reliefs, ordering the Defendants to refrain from infringing on the copyright of the Plaintiffs’ literary and musical works without paying royalties, and to announce the names of the authors and performers with each broadcast. The reliefs would be effective upon the Plaintiff’s communication of royalty demands, with a six-week payment deadline for the Defendants.