Citation: AIR 1977 SC 1443, (1977) 2 SCC 820,  3 SCR 206
This is a dispute that broke out in a matter involving rights over Indian literary and music works for which the copyright subsides in India. Parties to the dispute were the Indian performing right society and the cinematograph exhibitors association of India.
IPRS incorporated on 23/08/1969 in the state of Maharashtra governed by copyright Act 1957 has the authority for issuing licenses for performance in public of all existing future Indian literary and musical works for which the copyright subsides in India and is a company limited by guarantee for the purpose of granting license for all present and future Indian musical works to be performed in public.
IPRS claimed that it is entitled to a royalty in case the literary work used in cinematograph films is broadcasted on radio stations as they claimed themselves to be assignees of the literary works and laid down a tariff for the same.
The association of cinematograph exhibitors opposed to the same saying that IPRS has absolutely no rights over these works and that the production house was the real owner of copyrights over the literary work in question since the composer loses his rights under the contract of service between production houses especially when there is a consideration involved.
An appeal was preferred as the objectors were dissatisfied with the high court decision which allowed claim made by the cinematographers association and further laid down that assignment of future work has no effect.
1. Whether an existing or a future right of music composer /lyricist is capable of assignment
2. Whether the producer of the film can be the copyright owner by means of engaging the composer.
1. Yes. Copyright relating to existing and future work can be assigned. The assignment would take effect only when the work comes into existence.
2. Yes. The cinematograph film producer becomes the first owner of the copyright in case he commissions a composer of music, a lyricist, for reward or for a consideration to compose music to be incorporated in the cinematograph film as the composer is employed under a contract of service.
The Rule of Law:
Issue no: 1
Section 30 of the copyright act 1957 states that assignment of work is possible by means of issuing a license duly signed by the composer or his assignee; and
In case of a license relating to future work; the assignment shall take effect after the work comes into existence.
Issue no: 2
Section 17(c) of the copyrights act 1957 lays down that the proprietor becomes the absolute owner in cases of the contract of service for valuable consideration unless there is an agreement contrary to it.
Issue no: 1
A composer can assign rights over future work. The assignment takes effect once the composition comes into existence. Section 30 of the copyright act 1957 lays down that assignment of work is possible by means of issuing a license in favor of the prospective owner of the copyright. The rights can be transferred by means of a document duly signed by the owner or the assignee. Present and future works of a composer can be assigned; however, the assignment comes into effect only after the work in question comes into existence.
Once an agreement is entered into between the production house and the composer for incorporating the composer’s composition; the composer loses his rights over the composition and the production house becomes the owner of the copyright. The agreement can be a present as well as a future one. In either case, IPRS cannot claim royalty as it has absolutely no rights over it. However, it is different in case of lack of any agreement.
Issue no: 2
The court held that the composer loses his right over the composition automatically when he enters into an agreement with a cinematograph producer to compose songs to be incorporated in the film for consideration. Section 17(c) of the copyright act lays down that the producer shall be the owner of the composition in case of consideration and that the composition automatically becomes a part of the cinematograph film and the composer loses his rights over it completely and works falling under such category cannot be assigned further. IPRS cannot claim royalty as the production house has the right over the composition the moment it comes into existence. Here there is a contract of service between the composer and production house. In this case, the producer of the cinematograph film becomes the absolute owner and the authority cannot be questioned.