Something rotten in the Copyright Office?

Over the last year we have been filing multiple applications under the Right to Information Act, 2005 with several Central Government Ministries. Some of the Central Government ministries like the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and National Biological Authority have been exceptional in their responses and have kept with the letter and spirit of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The Copyright Office however is a completely different story. Our latest RTI Application asking for information on the International Copyright Order, 1999 and the Copyright Societies dispatched on the 28th of February, 2011 has still not been replied to. In the application I clearly explained to the Public Information Officer that he was required to send us a cost estimate on the photocopying charges and dispatch the information on receipt of the amount, all within 30 days. Till date we have not received a single reply from the Copyright Office, despite the India Post website confirming that the letter was delivered to them on the 3rd of March, 2011 itself. The RTI Act requires the Copyright Office to reply within 30 days.

In normal circumstances I would not have used this as damning evidence but let me relate some of our previous experiences with the Copyright Office.

I had filed the very first RTI Application requesting for information on the Copyright Societies in July, 2010. The PIO V.K.Saxena replied with the ridiculous answer that the information was available on the website. Eventually after appeals and a lot of emails we finally got the information six months later in January, 2011! Why this delay? Who was the Copyright Office trying to protect? Why did they make this so difficult for us?

Now even after I got the information on IPRS and PPL, I shockingly discovered that somebody within the Copyright Office had removed the 6 most incriminating pages from the file that was sent to me. If you click over here you’ll see IPRS’s annual report for the year 2006-07. The covering letter from Rakesh Nigam CEO of IPRS to Mr. Raghavendra, Registrar of Copyright mentions as its first enclosure, the Minutes of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the year in which IPRS carried out the illegal amendments to the Articles of IPRS. The Minutes however were missing from the copy sent to us. It is however confirmed that the Copyright Office had received copies of the minutes because if you look at the upper right hand corner you can see the copyright office internal file numbering and 6 pages are missing as per this numbering. After an email to the Registrar pointing this out to the PIO Mr. V.K.Saxena, we were sent the six incriminating pages, which we then blogged about over here. These six pages do not bear the Copyright Office internal file numbering. I don’t know where Saxena got these from.

I would have thought that V.K.Saxena would have learnt something about the RTI Act in the last 6 months but once again the moment we ask for information pertaining to the Copyright Societies, we hit a wall of silence.

The Copyright Office should realize that in this season of PILs, scams and allegations of corruption it will very, very, very easy to get a High Court or even the Supreme Court to investigate the happenings in the Copyright Office especially since the Copyright Office has not even bothered to investigate the obvious scandal at IPRS despite the revelation of hard evidence on this blog. I for one do not have the patience to file any more appeals to the Registrar of Copyright. There will however be consequences for Mr. Saxena’s actions or rather the lack of them.

Prashant Reddy

T. Prashant Reddy graduated from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, with a B.A.LLB (Hons.) degree in 2008. He later graduated with a LLM degree (Law, Science & Technology) from the Stanford Law School in 2013. Prashant has worked with law firms in Delhi and in academia in India and Singapore. He is also co-author of the book Create, Copy, Disrupt: India's Intellectual Property Dilemmas (OUP).


  1. Anonymous

    The case filed in distant Barasat against IPRS by Saregama – a company that has been a member of the IPRS Board for years – was a collusive case. At the subsequent AGM, legitimate owners, who had been recognized earlier by IPRS as owners, were kept out and the all existing Indian copyrights were annexed by them through their self-serving interpretation of the law. Note that they always refer to the 1977 SC judgement, never to the existing Act!

    Artists did make a representation to the Ministry thereafter, but the Registrar of Copyrights chose to remain inactive and press, instead, for an Amendment to the Copyright Act. The JPC pulled him up on this one (see 21.5 of the Report).

    In hindsight, it might turn out to be an effective strategy because the record labels have always aimed for endless litigation: “Go to court” artists were told, “and we’ll see you in 15 years!”.

    Keep digging, Prashant, you will find gold. But keep in mind that they don’t mind IPRS being attacked because PPL is their “kot”: look deeper into the workings of PPL and you will bring their house of cards down.

  2. Mohan Vidhani

    I am happy to read your blog when you say that at least you have been receiving the replies to your RTI applications.

    I had filed an RTI application about 3-4 years ago with the Copyright office. I am yet to receive any communication at all.


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