Last year, in a letter dated 20th May, Phonographic Performers’ Limited (PPL) withdrew its application for registration as a copyright society under The Copyright Act, 1957.
The text of the letter, addressed to The Registrar of Copyrights, stated inter alia that PPL at the time of its inception in 1941 was registered as a ‘private company’ under the Companies Act.
The letter also stated that PPL had submitted an application for registration as a copyright society in accordance with sections 33 & 33A of the Copyright Act, 2012 on 9th May, 2013; PPL further averred that it has not yet been granted registration as a ‘copyright society’ and it expressed its intention to withdraw the application for registration.
In respect of its earlier registration, PPL claimed that the registration had expired and was inoperative (vide the 2012 Amendment Act) and deemed to have been surrendered.
This letter is another instance of PPL thwarting attempts to be governed by the Copyright Act, 1957 and it is not the first time that a ‘copyright society’ has tried to escape the rigours of copyright law.
In October last year, we had reported on a similar letter by the Indian Performing Right Society Limited (IPRS) wherein IPRS had declared that it is not a ‘copyright society’ and therefore not accountable under the Copyright Act.
Professor Basheer in the incisive post had explored the ramifications of such a declaration by the copyright societies. He observed, “The bottom line is that IPRS and PPL are now no longer subject to the rigours of the copyright act; a rigour that anyway proved to be one in theory only as they managed to evade scrutiny through lethal legal strategies including using a highly compromised Barasat court time and again to effectuate their legal machinations.”
He also added that one of the remedies available in such cases was to investigate PPL & IPRS under the Companies Act for oppression, mismanagement etc.
Most recently, IPRS had unsuccessfully challenged an enquiry by the Department of Higher Education, Copyright Office into IPRS’ alleged dishonest practices. IPRS in its petition had submitted that it had ceased to be a ‘copyright society’ and therefore the Central Government had no power to investigate IPRS. The Bombay High Court in dismissing IPRS’ petition had observed that the allegations for which the inquiry had been instituted were committed when IPRS was still a ‘copyright society’.
It appears that PPL too is towing the same line as IPRS in trying to deregister itself as a copyright society.
PPL and IPRS may maintain that they are not ‘copyright societies’ and hence not amenable to the Copyright Act, however, in so claiming the PPL & IPRS may well be digging their own graves. According to section 33 of the Copyright Act, only a registered copyright society or a duly authorized agent may carry on the business of issuing or granting licenses. Justice Gautam Patel in Leopold Café Stores v. Novex Communications Pvt. Ltd. had observed that “in order to qualify an agent, it is necessary for the agent to disclose that it is acting for and on behalf of the copyright owner in all the relevant documents.” Further, the licenses can then be issued by PPL & IPRS only in the name of the copyright holder, and not in their own name.
In such a scenario, IPRS & PPL would also be precluded from initiating legal proceedings in case of unauthorized use of sound recordings etc. because the agents of copyright holders cannot institute legal suits under section 55 of the Copyright Act (see Prashant’s post here.)
On a related note, we would urge our readers to look at SpicyIP’s recent post reporting PPL’s defamation notice to Telangana Chamber of Events Industry (TCEI).
H/T: We would like to thank Advocate Anand Kalvankar for bringing this vital news to our notice.