Matrubhumi Printing and Publishing Ltd v. IPRS

This post was first published on June 21, 2011.

FAO. No. 82 of 2009, Kerala High Court, decided by Justice M.N. Krishnan
The Petitioner no 1, Matrubhumi Printing and Publishing Ltd who operates a licensed Radio Station “Club FM 94.3” in parts of Kerala has a license from the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) to broadcast sound recordings. Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS), the defendant, a society of composers, lyricists etc which grants licenses with respect to musical and literary works threatened to initiate action against Matrubhumi as a license to broadcast was not sought from them. Thereby an interim injunction is sought to restrain IPRS from proceeding in that regard and IPRS is seeking injunction for restraining further broadcasts. Malayalam Manorama Co. Ltd, Petitioner No. 2, who also broadcasts sound recordings for FM radio stations, had similar issues with IPRS.
The trial court injuncted Matrubhumi & Malayalam Manorama (by seperate judgments) from broadcasting sound recordings in their FM Radio stations and hence the aggrieved appealed.
Whether a cinematograph film from which a sound recording is taken and broadcasted in FM Radio amounts to any breach of copyright of the composer or lyricists?
Sec 13(4) of Copyright Act, 1957 states that copyright in a cinematograph film or sound recording does not affect the separate copyright of the work. Section 14(1)(c) (ii) states in the case of a cinematograph film to cause the film, in so far as it consists of visual images, to be seen in public and in so far as it consists of sounds, to be heard in public.
The Supreme court in IPR Society v. EIMP Association(AIR 1977 SC 1443) held that the owner of the film or the producer of the film becomes the author& is absolutely entitled to copyright of the sound recording embodied in a cinematograph film and therefore there remains no right with the composer or the lyricist unless a contract to contrary is in place.
Neither the composers/lyricists etc nor IPRS can restrain Matrubhumi or Malayalam Manorama from broadcasting a sound recording embodied in a film because neither can claim copyright on a sound recording once it has been sold to the producer or owner of the film, unless otherwise provided in a contract.
The owner/producer of a cinematograph film becomes the first author entitled to absolute right of a sound recording embodied in the film when (a) the copyright has been bought from the lyricist, composer etc and (b) there exists no contract to the contrary. Once the author of a lyric/musical work sells his copyright and authorizes the producer to incorporate his sound recording in the film, then upon completion of the film the producer acquires copyright in the work by virtue of Sec 14(1)(C ) of the Act. This copyright vests in him an exclusive right to perform the work in public.

The need for a proper legislation protecting the musicians, composers, lyricists etc was felt and emphasized by  the Court. The court also looked into subsequent amendments but didnt find any material changes that has the effect of altering the right .With Respect to the assignment of copyright, the Court was of the opinion  that it must relate to the right in subsistence. No right exists with the composer once his sound recording has been sold to the producer and therefore no assignment  can take place between the composer/lyricist and the IPRS.
Therefore setting aside of injunction against Matrubhumi & Malayalam Manorama  seems justified as the court identified the author of a sound recording in a cinematograph film to be the producer or owner of film and not the composer/lyricist. Thus Matrubhumi and Malayalam Manorama have not infringed the copyright of the composer/lyricist by broadcasts in their FM stations.
Authored by: Ms. Nisha Kurian
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