India: Copyright Societies & Their Roles

By: DHRUV PANDYA, Intern at Excelon IP

The following blog discusses Copyright Societies and their functions, meaning, registration in India, active copyright societies in India as well as collection & distribution of monetary value (as commission & royalty) by copyright societies. 

Copyright societies are formed collectively by a group of authors and other owners of such copyrighted works. Copyright society manages and works to protect the authors or owners against copyright infringement because it is difficult for authors as well as owners of the copyright to keep track of all those people who use their copyrighted work. A member of the society is entitled to organizational facilities such as the Copyright Society keeps a better vigil of the use or monetization of a member’s copyrighted work throughout the country and to collect royalties from those who use the registered work. India being a member of international conventions, the copyright societies in India can collect royalties for the use of Indian works in other member countries through reciprocal agreements made with similar societies in those countries. Hence, it is beneficial for copyright owners to become a member of such a copyright society to ensure that their copyrighted work is properly protected and to obtain the maximum advantage from their creations.

Copyright societies in India and its Registration:

As per section 33 of the Copyright Act, 1957, it states that a copyright society is a registered collective administration society and such society is established by the authors and copyright owners for protection of their work. There should be at least seven members to form a copyright society and register it. A copyright society may issue or grant licenses in relation to any work in which copyright exists, as well as any other right granted by the Copyright Act.

It also states that the copyright society duly registered under the act can only conduct the business of issuing/granting licenses to the copyrighted work i.e. literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works incorporated in cinematograph films or sound recordings. This collective licensing is necessary for managing performance rights. And they should file an application with the Registrar of Copyrights on Form VIII.

The application should consist of:

  • A true copy of the application that establishes or incorporates the Applicant.
  • All members of the Governing Body of the Application have given their consent to serve as members of the Governing Body of the Application.
  • A declaration setting down the Applicant’s aims, the entities through which it will operate, and accounting and auditing arrangements; and 
  • An undertaking that the instrument is constituted or incorporated requires it to comply with the provisions of the Act and these Rules.

The term period granted for registered copyright is for five years and can be renewed before the end of the term of five years by a request through the prescribed form and the central government will renew the registration after on the basis of the report from the Registrar of the Copyrights about the functions and duties performed by the copyright society as stated under section 36 of the Copyright Act, 1957. 

The copyright society’s registration renewal is subject to the copyright society’s continued collective control being shared with the authors of works in their capacity as owners of copyright or the right to receive a royalty. Every copyright society that was already registered prior to the enactment of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012, must be registered within one year of the enactment of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012. 

Functions of Copyright Societies:

  1. A copyright society may issue licenses and collect payments in line with its tariff schemes for only those works for which the authors have given their permission to manage in writing and as long as their membership exists.
  2. The distribution of fee collected is subject to a deduction of not more than 15% of the total amount collected to cover the copyright society’s administrative costs.

Currently active Copyright Societies in India:

A copyright society is created to track and monitor copyrighted works of its members and enforce the author’s rights in case of any violations. 

It is difficult to keep a check on every individual or entity using a registered work. The process is tedious and time-consuming. A copyright society ensures security, enforcement of rights and the successful and timely receipt of royalties to the authors of the creative works. A copyright society provides optimum economic benefits to the original creators in the form of royalties or monetary benefits.

Copyright societies are registered in India under section 33, and there are three currently active copyright societies in India which are as follows;

  1. Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO): Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation is a copyright society founded in 2000 under Section 33 of the Copyright Act of 1957. It protects the rights of authors and publishers of literary works and is affiliated with international organizations such as IFRRO on a global scale. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, has granted IRRO the exclusive right to begin and carry on the copyright business of “reprographic rights in the field of literary works” in India. It is the sole licensing authority for issuing licenses to users of its members’ copyrighted works, collecting and distributing royalties on behalf of rights holders. IRRO’s mission is to work towards ensuring that the copyrights of authors, visual artists, and publishers are protected and to build a strong network that supports the economic and moral rights of creators and publishers.
  2. Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS): The IPRS was established on 23rd August 1969. It is a representative body of music owners, namely composers, lyricists (or authors), and music publishers, and it is also the sole authorized body to issue licenses for the use of musical works in India. Its mission is to legitimize the use of copyrighted musical works by issuing licenses and collecting royalties from Users for and on behalf of IPRS members, who are Authors, Composers, and Publishers of Music. After deducting IPRS’s administrative costs, the royalties collected are distributed to members.
  3. Phonographic Performance Limited India (PPL India): Phonographic Performance Limited India, is a performance rights organization that licenses its member’s sound recordings for communication to the public in the areas of public performance and broadcast. It was founded in 1941. PPL owns and/or controls the Public Performance rights of over 400 music labels, representing over 4.5 million international and domestic sound recordings. PPL India accounts for the lion’s share of total sound recordings in both international and domestic music. PPL India represents some of the world’s and India’s largest record labels, including Aditya Music, Lahari Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Speed Records, T-Series, Universal Music, and Warner Music, and is India’s largest and most respected public performance rights organization, both in terms of membership and revenue.

Collection and distribution of monetary value (as commission & royalty) by copyright societies:

As per rule 14(j) of The Copyright Rules, 1958, it gives information about the tariff schemes which states that, when the copyright society is entitled to commence its copyright business, it shall frame a tariff scheme to set out the nature and quantum of fees or royalties which it proposes to collect in respect of such copyright or other rights administered by it. Hence, the collection of the monetary value (Royalties) is explained in rule 14(j).

As per rule 14(k) of the Copyright Rules, 1958, it gives information about the distribution scheme which states that, a copyright society shall frame a “Distribution Scheme”, discussing the procedure for distribution of royalties specified in the Tariff Scheme among members whose names are entered in the Register of Authors and Owners maintained under clause I of rule 59 for approval by the General Body of the society, no later than three months after a copyright society has become entitled to begin its copyright business.

The distribution must be proportional to the copyright society’s royalty income obtained from the grant of licenses for rights or sets of rights in the specific categories of works for which it is administering each author and other right owners. In the distribution of royalties by the copyright society, there will be no discrimination between any registered copyright owners. During the distribution of royalties, the copyright society must inform all members of the basis on which such royalties are distributed. 

The Distribution Scheme will strive to guarantee that all royalty pay-outs are fair, accurate, and cost effective, with no undisclosed or hidden cross-subsidies. The society shall establish parameters for determining the share of distribution of its members in a transparent manner and explain the specifics of the same in a manner that is easily understood by its members. Royalties must be distributed based on actual use or credible statistical data that accurately reflect the commercial use of licensed rights. The Distribution Scheme will ensure that royalties are delivered to all members at least once every quarter.The copyright society shall not make any payment to its members in the form of a minimum guarantee against their share of royalties payable. The royalties collected under section 18(1) on the basis of the Tariff Scheme for licensing the rights in literary or musical works included in a cinematograph film or sound recording shall be shared equally between the authors of literary or musical works and the owners of rights in a cinematograph film or sound recording.

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