We recently received information that Muthoot Broadcasting Pvt. Ltd., which owns the English music radio station – ‘Chennai Live’ 104.8, had moved the Copyright Board back in April of this year, questioning the right of PPL to collect royalties, for the public performance of U.S. sound recordings.
‘Chennai Live’ is being represented by Advocate Prathiba Singh who was one of the main attorneys for the radio stations in the mega-compulsory licencing dispute which was decided by the Copyright Board in August, 2010.
Chennai Live’s, compulsory licencing application is available for download over here. Apart from challenging PPL’s right to collect royalties for U.S. sound recordings, the radio station is also requesting the Copyright Board to issue a compulsory licence on the terms of its August, 2010 judgment mandating a mere 2% royalty. If the 2% royalty judgment of the Copyright Board is implemented with retrospective effect, PPL will have to actually refund ‘Chennai Live’ a sum of Rs. 28 lakhs for the excess royalty charged over the last few years.
Coming back to the main issue of the challenge against the U.S. sound recordings, I would like to redirect our readers to this post, by Nikhil Krishnamurthy, back in 2008, in which he very lucidly explains how PPL does not have any right to collect royalties for U.S. sound recordings. The basic issue is very simple. The U.S. does not recognize a public performance right for sound recordings and according to Section 40 of the Copyright Act, 1957 the Indian Government can provide only reciprocal rights to foreign sounds recordings. This basically means that unless the U.S. recognizes a public performance right for Indian sound recordings in the U.S., the Indian Government cannot provide a similar right to U.S. sound recordings in India. Image from here.
The more important question over here is whether PPL is even authorized by the owners of foreign sound recordings to collect royalties on their behalf. PPL or the Phonographic Performance Ltd. is a copyright society with only Indian companies as its members. Under the law, PPL can collect royalties on behalf of foreign music companies, only if it is specifically authorized for this purpose by the foreign music companies. However it is unknown as to whether PPL is authorized to collect such royalties. A look at PPL’s Annual Reports reveals that PPL is hardly remitting any money to foreign music companies. So why then is PPL collecting royalties for these foreigners?
If ‘Chennai Live’ succeeds before the Copyright Board, it will clear the way for other English music radio stations to mount similar challenges against PPL. Since most English music is owned by American companies, it is likely that English music radio stations in India will not have to pay a dime for most of the music that they broadcast.
The biggest impediment to the success of the petition is the fact that the Copyright Board is adjourned due to a lack of quorum.