Should the Registrar of Copyrights be investigating even PPL?

One of the recurring themes of the last 5 posts on the IPRS controversy is the degree to which PPL seems to have taken over the functions of IPRS. Most pertinently the IPRS management has admitted to signing atleast one MoU with PPL authorizing the latter to commission an agent to issue ‘single window’ licences to T.V. channels. Secondly PPL’s own Annual Reports have claimed that it has been collecting ringtone royalties on behalf of IPRS.

The question is whether PPL can administer the rights of works belonging to the IPRS repertoire?

As per the registration certification granted to PPL (available over here), by the Copyright Office recognizing it as a Copyright Society, PPL can carry on its copyright business only with regards to ‘sound recordings’. The Registration Certificate also makes it clear that this registration may be cancelled if in case the Copyright Society is not complying with the terms of the Copyright Act or the Copyright Rules or if the information provided by the Copyright Society is misleading or false.

As per the registration certificate of IPRS (available over here), it is authorized to administer the copyright business in “musical works and any words or any other action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music”.

The areas of operation of both IPRS and PPL have therefore been clearly demarcated. Given the fact that Section 33 allows for owners of copyright to only licence and not assign their copyrights to IPRS, it is questionable as to whether IPRS had the right to further licence away the rights of its owners to PPL. My guess would be that IPRS would not have had any right to further licence its works to PPL.

However even presuming that IPRS did have a right to licence away such rights, the pertinent question to ask is whether PPL could legally administer such rights. Given that PPL was a government recognized monopoly it had a special burden to ensure that it operated within the specific boundaries of the terms of its registration. Government recognized monopolies are a rarity, especially in today’s free market economy and any such monopolies have to be extraordinarily careful that they do not breach the law. As discussed above, the terms of PPL’s registration required it to administer only ‘sound recordings’. Therefore for PPL to administer even IPRS rights pertaining to the underlying works could be construed as a violation of the terms of its registration.

Prashant Reddy

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).

One comment.

  1. AvatarAnonymous

    While the situation in IPRS is dreadful, it should not distract from the reality that PPL is the “kot” from where the marauding music companies operate with impunity. As the Joint parliamentary Committee has pointed out, the Registrar of Copyrights (include his bosses) has failed to exercise the powers vested in him by the Act to stop these scofflaws.


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