The last week of 2019 saw some action from the Government’s end on an otherwise neglected sector.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry through Department for promotion of Industry and Internal Trade vide its notice dated December 24, 2019 called for a meeting in Delhi on December 27, 2019.
The invitees to the meeting were the following:
1. Recorded Music Performance Limited (RMPL)
2. Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL)
3. Screenwriters Rights Association of India (SRAI)
4. Cinefil Producers Performance Pvt. Ltd
5. Indian Reprographic Rights Organization (IRRO)
6. Indian Singers’ Rights Association (ISRA)
7. Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS)
8. Registrar, Copyrights Office, Delhi
While details of the meeting are not known, as can be seen from the invite, the meeting was only for those entities who have filed applications for registration as a copyright society and for the existing copyright societies i.e. IPRS and ISRA. The meeting was called to discuss the draft Copyright Amendment Rules, 2019.
Interestingly, on December 26, 2019, the Government sent a meeting notice for another meeting to discuss issues related to single and multiple copyright societies.
The meeting was chaired by the Principal Secretary of DPIIT, while the joint secretary and director of DPIIT along with the Registrar of Copyright were also present. As per information received, some of the associations such as MCAI and AROI stressed for the need for a single society for each class of work, while few others differed on the view and were in favour of multiple societies for the same class of work. Most of the end users demanded on the need for a single window license for ease of doing business. They pointed out that unilateral tariffs by different collection societies in different classes of works not being in conjunction with each other has made it commercially unviable for them to transact business. Attendees included representatives from Novex, IAMAI, IMI, Gaana, Wynk, etc.
As reported here, with the copyright entities, like Novex Communications, taking legal action against hotels, pubs and restaurants for playing music without taking their permission, the Government called this meeting between the societies and the music users.
Hotels have been demanding for a single window licensing. Last month saw actions been taken by Novex, PPL and IPRS against several hotel chains wherein courts granted injunction against playing of music without obtaining required licenses from these entities. As per reports, the hotel associations and pubs, after failing to get relief from the court, sought the Ministry’s help. Due to injunctions, they are not able to play several hit numbers.
For playing recorded music, a user (hotels/ platforms) is required to obtain multiple licenses:
Sound recording license from owner of sound recording– this could include PPL which represents a majority of labels like T Series, Sony Music, Times Music, Universal, etc. or Novex Communications which either as an assignee or agency of certain music labels like Zee, YRF, Tips, Eros, etc. procures licenses or the user needs to go to the label directly to obtain a sound recording license.
Underlying works– as royalties are payable for commercial utilization of works, license is also demanded by IPRS. There is some debate on the requirement of this license due to judgements like IPRS vs Aditya Pandey.
Performers – In addition to above, ISRA also demands a license in relation to performers rights. Again, some debate and pending litigations on provisions relating to performers royalty rights which is yet to be resolved.
While single window licensing would be an ideal scenario for users who are currently required to go through multiple entities to be able to play music in their hotels/ events or platforms, the current legislative framework does not enable its provision. There would be competition law issues as well if a private entity is made the sole dominant authority for issuing licenses. However, if the Government is convinced on the requirement, it may find a way out to have a government body become this single window which in turn would divide the payments to the respective owners of rights.
Pre- 2012 amendment, there was an entity named Select Media Holdings Pvt. Ltd which would issue licenses on behalf of IPRS and PPL both. However, there were huge transparency issues and other major issues resulting in royalties not being paid to authors.
It would be interesting to see how these discussions progress.