Supreme Court re-affirms – No royalty for lyricists and music composers
Undoubtedly, lyricists (the authors of literary works) and music composers of a song (musical work) are the true and first owners as far as copyright is concerned. However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court is of a different view and in International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) vs. Aditya Pandey & Ors. it re-affirmed the Delhi High Court’s judgment that a third party, such event organizers/management, playing a song in a public event, is required to pay royalty only to the music recording company and not to the lyricists and music composers of the particular song.
The Appellants, Indian Performing Rights Society Limited (IPRS) contented that lyrists and music composers are the true owners of a song, and that the licence given to sound recording company does not affect their rights to claim royalty for the song. Therefore, any third party communicating/broadcasting a song to the public would be required to pay royalties to the lyricists and the music composers of that song.
Although their arguments seem genuine considering the fact that the song is the original work of the lyricists and music composers, but this would literally mean that the event organizers/management who wish to play a song in any event would have to get permission to do so and pay the royalty to the licensee sound recording company as well as the lyricists and music composers of that particular song. And thus ultimately the organizer would end up paying double royalty.
However, the Respondents (Event Organizers) contented that once the lyricists and the music composer part with a portion of their copyright, by authorizing sound recording company in respect of their work, a right exists with the latter (the sound recording company) to exhibit the work (the song) to the public. And hence, for broadcasting/communicating a song to the public, the event organizers are only required to pay royalty to the music companies, who are the ultimate licensee and have the right to publish the song.
The primary bone of contention in the case, as framed by the Court was that, “where lyric written by ‘X’ (lyricist) and music composed by ‘Y’ (musician) are used to make sound recording by ‘Z’ (Sound Recording Company), whether ‘A’ (Event Management Company/Event Organizer) is required to seek licence from ‘X’ and ‘Y’ for subsequently playing the song in public even after ‘A’ had paid for the broadcasting of the song to ‘Z’ (Sound Recording Company)?”
The Supreme Court approved the view taken by the Delhi High Court and held that by virtue of the amendment of the Copyright Act, 1957, in the year 2012, the producer of sound recording (the recording company) has an independent copyright of his work and therefore the recording company would also be categorized as the “author” of the copyright subsisting in a song.
And hence, the royalty for communicating/broadcasting a song to the public by a third party (event organizers) ought to be paid to the recording companies alone, and not to the lyricists and music composers of the song.
However, the Court also clarified the difference between assignment and license of copyrighted work, and held that with effect from implementation of the 2012 amendment, in view of sub-section (10) of Section 19, the assignment of the copyright in the work to make sound recording which does not form part of any cinematograph film, shall not affect the right of the author of the work to claim an equal share of royalties and consideration payable for utilization of such work in any form by the third parties, i.e. the event organizers/management.
The judgment, which put an end to the 10-year long dispute has been received with mixed reactions, as on one hand it is a setback for lyricist and music composers who are now partially deprived of their exclusive right to collect royalty in cases of communication of sound recordings to the public. However, on the other hand, the judgment comes across a major relief for all event organizers/management as they would not be paying dual royalties for the same song.