Music Licensing Business By PPL & Novex is Valid Though They Are Not Copyright Societies

In copyright infringement cases filed by Phonographic Performance Limited (“PPL”) and Novex Communications Private Limited (“Novex”), two companies that maintain a repertoire of sound recordings for licensing, a preliminary issue regarding their right to claim relief was raised. The defendants in the cases argued that PPL and Novex cannot claim any relief in the suits filed by them because they are not permitted to carry out the business of licensing copyrighted works. As per the defendants, Section 33 of the Copyright Act clearly states that only copyright societies can carry out the business of licensing, and as PPL and Novex are not copyright societies, they cannot grant licenses. The defendants submitted that whatever business they were conducting was illegal, and no relief could be provided to illegal businesses.

Countering the arguments of the defendants, PPL and Novex argued that they are permitted to grant licenses as they are copyright owners under Section 30 of the Copyright Act. They submitted that their ownership springs from partial assignments of the right to communicate sound recordings to the public, and the ownership vested through assignments permits them to grant licenses. They also argued that Section 33 does not take away the right of copyright owners to carry out the business of licensing sound recordings and that copyright owners have the choice to license themselves or work through the agency of a copyright society.

After hearing the parties at length, the Bombay High Court stated that Section 33 does not prohibit copyright owners from carrying out the business of licensing sound recordings. While Section 33 requires authors of underlying works such as lyrics and musical compositions that form part of cinematographic works to license works only through copyright societies, this restriction, as per the Court, does not extend to sound recordings. The Court stated that assignees of partial rights in works are also copyright owners and partial assignment agreements vest copyright ownership in them. This copyright ownership gives them the right and authority to grant licenses under Section 30. On a parting note, the Court observed that the right to license works and seek relief also extends to exclusive licensees as well.



The case notes in this blog post have been written by IP attorneys at BananaIP Counsels based on their review and understanding of the Judgments. It may be noted that other IP attorneys and experts in the field may have different opinions about the cases, or arrive at different conclusions therefrom. It is advisable to read the Judgments before making any decisions based on the case notes.

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