Understanding The Concept Of ‘Royalties’ And ‘Copyright Society In The Indian Film Industry

Introduction

‘Copyright’ is the right of the creator of the work to claim all rights against the unauthorised use of their work.. It gives the exclusive right to the author to claim all the rights over his work and excludes anyone from using the benefit of the work without the approval of the author. The Indian Copyright Act, of 1957 grants Copyright protection to five types of work. It includes literary works, artistic works, musical works, sound recordings, and dramatic works. These provisions are made to protect the rights of the author and their copyright protected work from any infringement.

The Act has been designed in a way to prevent piracy and plagiarism of already existing work. The sole objective is to protect the creator’s intellectual property from unlawful reproduction of the work. The act prohibits the commercial exploitation of the creator’s original work. Hence, copyright societies exist to safeguard the rights of authors, singers and performers. These societies collect royalties on behalf of the original author.

What do we mean by the term ‘royalties’

In common parlance, royalty is a consideration amount paid to the author for the exploitation of work by any person or entity. The payment of the copyrightable work is not easy, the complication stems from the fact that the person by the virtue of the nature of their work never parts ways from the work even if it is assigned to someone else for exploitation. Hence, the owner and the author of the work, both are entitled to receive royalties every time the work is used. It is incapable of being waived by the author.

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Copyright of film industry

The relevant provisions under the Indian Copyright Act,1957

As per the practice before 2012, the authors of underlying works [musical and literary works] used to assign their rights to the producers and huge music labels against big or small pay-outs. . This meant that even if the song did well, the authors would not get any benefit or money for that success. The following changes in the Act ensured that authors of the works got royalties from its exploitation-

  • Two new provisos were added in Section 18 which ensured that the royalties are being paid to the author even after they have been assigned by them.
  • Subsection 3 of Section 19 clearly states that the agreement shall mention the amount of royalty payable to the author.
  • Subsection 9 of Section 19 talks about if the author has assigned his right to make a cinematograph film based on his work, he is entitled to claim royalties and consideration along with the assignee for the utilisation of the work. Subsection 10 of the same Section gives the same rights to the author for a sound recording.
  • Section 38 (A) (2) of the Act talks about the rights of the performers. It states that a performer is entitled to royalties if their work is made for commercial use.

Copyright Society and its registration

 Copyright societies are required to be registered under Section 33 of the Act. The Act states that copyright societies are collective administrative societies formed by the authors and the copyright owners to protect their original work. To get it registered there should be a minimum of seven members. The copyright society can issue licences in literary, dramatic works and musical recordings to the interest buyers, in return for payments. The Copyright Society looks out for the Authors in several ways including helping them to commence legal proceedings in case of any violation or infringement of the work.

The societies have to get registered by the Central Government and shall comply with the provisions of the Act. The Society does not have the right to grant a sub-license or transfer the right of collecting royalties to any other person. The registration is valid for up to 5 years subject to its renewal 3 months before its expiry date. Government has complete discretion in not re-registering the society if the objectives are not fulfilled.

Registered copyright societies in India

Presently, there are four societies which are registered. All societies are formed for different copyrightable works. Following is the list of the societies

  1. Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO) – The organisation was registered in 2014. The main objective is to look out for the author’s copyrighted work and reward them when their work is being used by someone else. This society protects the work of publishers and the authors of literary works. It is also affiliated with an international organisation.
  2. Indian Singers Right Association (ISRA)- This was registered in 2013 with the main aim of granting the rights of singers and performers. The singers and performers receive royalties for performing at a live show or concert.
  3. Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS) – This ensured the protection of musical works. It collects royalties from the music users on behalf of the registered IPRS members such as composers, lyricists and producers.
  4. Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) – It licenses copyrighted sound recordings for performances and broadcasting.

Landmark Judgements

  1. 1. IPRS vs. Debashis Patnaik

In this case, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court held that the defendants had infringed the copyrighted work of the appellants by communicating the musical compositions of IPRS to the people in the defendant’s hotel without the prior formal permission of IPRS. The decision was in the favour of the appellant who was awarded compensatory as well as punitive damages.

  1. IPRS vs. FM Radio

In this case, the defendants broadcasted the song on their radio channel without procuring a license from the respective copyright society. The IPRS brought the issue that the defendants should either obtain a license or should stop broadcasting the copyrighted work. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court granted an injunction and restricted FM Radio from using the copyrighted work without the license.

  1. ISRA vs. Bar and Restaurant

The defendant, Night fever club and lounge were using the song of the ISRA without obtaining a license. Plaintiff (ISRA) not only sought an injunction but also compensation. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court not only restricted the defendants from the plaintiff’s member’s song but also ordered them to render the account of all monies earned by playing those songs.

Conclusion

Conclusively, the concept of royalties and copyright society together not only benefits the owners by reducing their burden but also the users and benefactors of the copyrighted work. The method of collective administration of rights has proven to be a great success and helped in securing the economic stabilisation of the authors of the copyrighted work.

The role of copyright society is also to act as a middleman between the work’s owner and the licensee, making it feasible for the owners of the work to know where and who is exploiting their copyrighted work. In India, greater flexibility in the copyright laws may provide better status for the owner of the work.

Author: Mehar Kaur, a student at the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to chhavi@khuranaandkhurana.com or at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.

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