As per Section 33 of the Copyright Act, 1957 one of the fundamental requirements, while registering a Copyright Society, is to ensure that the Copyright Society does not require its members to assign their copyrights to the Society in order to obtain membership of the Society. In pertinent part the proviso to Section 33 states the following:
Provided that an owner of copyright shall, in his individual capacity, continue to have the right to grant licences in respect of his own works consistent with his obligations as a member of the registered copyright society.
Section 34, however does allow the Copyright Society to accept an exclusive licence to administer the rights. The difference between as ‘assignment’ & an ‘exclusive licence’ is that while an ‘exclusive licence’ is usually revocable, an ‘assignment’ is irrevocable and is usually the equivalent of a ‘sale’.
At the time IPRS was recognized as a Copyright Society, Article 4 of the original AoA, as drafted in 1969, (full text available over here) required all members to assign their performing rights to the Society, after they were granted membership. In 1991 the Special Resolution passed in the Annual General Meeting, renumbered Article 4 as Article 7 (full text of the resolution is available over here) but the wording remained the same.
Article 7 was never amended to do away with the requirement of an ‘assignment’ of Copyright at the time the Registrar of Copyrights recognized IPRS as a Copyright Society.
Which bring us to the question – should the Registrar of Copyrights, now cancel the Society’s registration?
(ii) Did IPRS require members to assign even ‘mechanical rights’ to it?
A look at the Registration Certification available on the IPRS website (available over here) indicates that IPRS was recognized as a copyright society for performing rights in only ‘musical works and any words or any action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music’.
Now this is where things turn hazy. The original Article 4 of the AoA required the assignment of only performing rights. The 1991 Resolution renumbered this to Article 7 without suggesting any changes to the wording per se. However the Amended AoA submitted to the RoC (full text available over here) has been tweaked to add in the words ‘mechanical rights’. Assuming that this version is the correct version, there are three very interesting questions:
(i) Why was IPRS recognized as a Copyright Society for only performing rights when it was known that the Society was administering even ‘mechanical rights’?
As usual, no answers over here but as Holmes would say, ‘The plot thickens my dear Watson’!