Copyright Office: What’s happening?

I keep checking the Indian copyright office website every now and then hoping to see a ‘NEW’  flash on their home page.

The last ‘NEW’ flash on their website is of August 14, 2018 with an advertisement for appointment of technical member in IPAB. Looks like no amount of advertising seems to attract any qualified person to apply for that post. So, until that happens, keep waiting for all your compulsory and statutory licensing matters to come up.

The last interesting ‘NEW’ flash was of May 22, 2018 with a public notice regarding application received from Recorded Music Performance Limited (RMPL) for registration as a copyright society. In the said public notice the Copyright Office invited objections/ suggestions from general public/ stakeholders pertaining to the application received from RMPL for registration as a copyright society. To be honest, I was happy to see this public notice considering that the Copyright Office has started believing in consultative process before granting registration to copyright societies. But then I started looking for such public notices which the Copyright Office would have given on receiving applications from ISRA & IPRS. Couldn’t find any. Few weeks later I heard that PPL has applied for registration as a copyright society. No ‘New’ flash on that as well inviting objections/ suggestions from general public/ stakeholders. In a recent conference, some person from SIMCA informed the attendees of that conference that SIMCA had applied for registration as a copyright society but that application was rejected by the Copyright Office. Well, we have no way of knowing that from the Copyright Office website. But let’s not be all negative here folks, I did come across one more public notice for Screenwriters Rights Association of India (SRAI) similar to the one RMPL received. (Yay!! We are not being all discriminatory here against one entity alone).

So, the question is, what’s really happening?

  • ISRA’s registration certificate is of June 14, 2013. The Registration was granted for a period of 5 years which lapsed on June 14, 2018. As per Rule 47, ISRA would have applied for re-registration three months prior to its expiry of registration. So, has ISRA received its re-registration certificate or has it been rejected?
  • What happened to the PPL, RMPL, SRAI applications? Are they all still pending or has there been any development in the status?

Let’s have a look at Rule 49 to get some answers:

Rule 49- Conditions for registration of a copyright society

 (1)  When an application   for registration   is submitted to the Central Government through the Registrar of Copyrights, that Government may, within a period of sixty days from the date of its receipt by the Registrar of Copyrights either register the applicant as a copyright society or, if-

(i)  the applicant   has no professional   competence   to carry on    its business   or has no sufficient funds to manage its affairs; or

(ii)  there exists another copyright   society registered   under the Act for administering the same right or set of rights in the specific   categories   of works   and it is well functioning; or

(iii)  the Central Government   has reason to believe that the members   of the applicant are not bona fide copyright authors or other owners or they have not voluntarily signed the instrument setting up the applicant and the application   for registration; or

(iv) the application   is found to be incomplete in any respect,

 reject the application

Provided that no such application shall be rejected without giving an opportunity of being heard to the applicant…..”

I am not sure whether the Government is bound to give its decision within this 60 day period mentioned in Rule 49 or the use of the word ‘may’ gives the Government discretionary powers to indefinitely delay in giving its decision.

Regardless of the interpretation of Rule 49, there ought to be some mechanism in place where the public is aware of the status of the application of such copyright societies. For instance, if ISRA’s renewal has been rejected, wouldn’t it be in violation of the Act for them to collect royalties in the absence of such renewal certificate?  And what happens in the interim period between the application and acceptance/ rejection? Can the society collect royalties in such interim period despite absence of the renewal certificate?

  • Coming back to the issue of the Copyright Office giving public notices inviting objections only in respect of selective applications such as by RMPL and SRAI and not others. What’s the rationale behind such discriminatory treatment? Doesn’t it fall foul of Article 14 of the Constitution? Also, is there any specific provision under the Copyright Act and Rules for inviting such objections or the same is decided as per the mood swings of the Government?

Well if someone has answers to these questions please do let me know. It is amusing how little attention is given to such important issues