Copyright Laws through Copyright Societies


In this world where every minute some new movie or book is released into this domain of Intellectual Property, this vast amount of content has to be protected. The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) has reported the huge number of 2.2 million book titles being released every year in the entire world out of which around 90,000 came alone from India. In the section related to movies and videography around 12,290 films were released between the 1st January 2021 to 31st December 2021. But the biggest of them all is the music industry, specifically speaking the music app Spotify gets more than 60,000 uploads of new songs every day comparing that to the other platforms for streaming music we can clearly understand the ginormous industry and all these contents of Intellectual Property are protected with the help of a branch of Intellectual Property rights called the Copyright Laws specifically speaking the Films and books come under the different purview in accordance to copyright societies. The Copyright Society can be considered a legal framework that protects the intellectual property created by artists and writers. They Do so by safeguarding the interest of the owner of the intellectual property, assuring them by commercially managing their rights for issuance of licenses and permissions for its use across the world. Thus we can say it takes a society to manage and protect copyright.

A specific copyright society is solely focused on the field in which it requires to do business. The registered societies in India are as follow

  1. SCRIPT (Society for copyright regulations of Indian producers of films and television)
    This society is specifically created for cinematography and television films.

  2. PPL (The Phonographic Performance Limited)
    This society was created for sound recordings

  3. IPRS (The Indian Performing Rights Society)
    This society was created for musical works

  4. IRRO (Indian Reproducing Rights Organization)
    This society was created for authors and publishers.

The main functions that copyright societies do are collecting fees, distributing the collected fee to the owners of the respective intellectual property, and lastly issuing licenses. One important point is that the copyright societies cannot charge a fee of more than 15% of the total amount collected.

Section 33(1) of the Copyright Act, 1956 states that no one is permitted to carry out business related to the issuance or granting of a license about any work in which copyright subsists or in respect of any rights under the purview of the Copyright Act, 1956 except under a registration. But irrespective of a copyright society the owner of the copyright himself always will have the capacity to grant a license to his work about his obligations as a member of the Copyright society.

But if found that the Copyright societies are causing harm rather than protecting the rights of owners under Section 33(4) of the Copyright Act, 1956 after an inquiry has been set the government can cancel the registration of the Copyright society.

Powers of Copyright Societies by section 34(2) are that they can accept the rights of authorization exclusively from the owner to issue a license or collect fees or both. And the owner can withdraw any given authorization without prejudice to the rights of the Copyright societies regarding any contract which they may have entered. Such are the rights given to the author.

Some Interesting Case laws

In Radio Today Broadcasting Ltd. Vs. Indian Performing Rights Society it was argued whether a radio station must pay a royalty or license fee to the Intellectual property rights for the songs which the radio station broadcasted. The High Court of Calcutta stated that the owners of such intellectual property rights had assigned the rights to the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) and thus they were entitled to claim the royalty from the radio station as the Radio Today Broadcasting Ltd did broadcast the songs commercially and thus exploited the works of the owners of the songs without possessing any license or paying any royalty, so the application by the radio station was dismissed.

In the case of The Indian Performance Rights Vs. Kolkata Knight Riders the IPR filed for a copyright violation against KKR for playing fourteen famous songs at Eden Gardens Kolkata without the prior permission of the respective owners of the songs. And thus they were reprimanded for the said violation.

In the case of Eastern India Motions Pictures Vs Indian Performance Rights Society where the music composer was given a commission for the production of music or lyrics for playing a valuable part in a film that would after production be incorporated into the film. The film producer becomes the first owner of the copyright therein. It was thus held that the appeal would be allowed.

In the case of Leopold Café Stores v. Novex Communications Pvt. Ltd. After considering the conflicts between sections 30 and 33 of the Copyright Act 1957, the court held that To qualify an agent the said agent must disclose that it is acting for and on behalf of the owner of the copyright about all the relevant documents. This would infer that IPRS and PPl to whom the license was granted would be in the name of the copyright holder and not itself. And the government-appointed retired Joint secretary to look into the inconsistency of IPRS and PPL.

In the case of Chitra Singh Vs IPRS, IPRS was restrained from granting licenses specifically the works of Jagjit Singh, and also restricted from recovering the license fee from any third party in regards to respective works by the Delhi High Court. Ignoring the order they continued to collect the license fee. The ambiguity in Novex’s communication judgment was cleared regarding the standing of an unregistered society. As the court held that IPRS is incompetent in issuing a license and collecting license fees as it is not a registered society under the Copyright Act.

The Big Blunder of PPL and IPRS

Phonographic Performance Limited and Indian Performing Rights Society were caught in a major legal storm in regards to their legitimacy when the Copyright Act was amended to add Section 3A on 21st June 2012, the provisions stating that all the copyright societies have to be registered before the amendment of the copyright act came into force and thus the societies have to be registered under this section within one year from the date of the commencement of the amendment of the copyright act.

One month before the expiration of the period granted to PPL and IPRS, both societies applied for re-registration after which they for some reason withdrew their registrations and thus under Section 33 of the Copyright Act, 1957 both were designated as disqualified in regards to being a copyright society. ‘Some reason’ mentioned above was that both the societies withdrew the registration solely because of the amendment of 2012 which replaced the terms “owners of right” with “authors and other owners of the rights” which is under the purview of Section 33(4) and 33(5) meant that the Central Government now could interfere with the workings of a copyright society and thus gaining more control over its functioning. The amendment of 2012 to the copyright act, 1957 stated that there will be equal rights in regards to the distribution of royalty meaning there will be no more discrimination in the said matter.

After this blunder by PPL and IPRS, both these are acting as Private Limited Companies registered under the Companies Act.


The copyright societies have to collect royalties and prevent infringement of the said copyright and in case of infringement take appropriate steps for future infringement and proper action against the infringer in the current case. These societies also have to create relations with foreign entities thus foreign countries, thus helping the owner of the copyright gain quintessential foreign contacts which will be helpful for future references.

Although a major drawback is due to the friction between Section 30 and 18(2) of the copyright act which was amended in 2012 and new provisions were added. If these 2 specific sections are looked after the overall objective of the Act can come one step closer to being achieved. And it won’t just be beneficial for the copyright owners in monetary terms but from the perspective of foreign contacts, it can be beneficial for the Indian Economy as well.

To Sum it up, in this modern age the existence of intellectual property rights is ubiquitous may it be the shiny new field of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) or reels on various video sharing platforms with its explosive domain as of 2022 to the age-old Books, songs, and films. All these intellectual property rights depend on copyright societies for being protected and managed. Thus Copyright societies are indispensable and thus help all artists to gain better monetary compensation for their efforts.