Broadcasting Licenses under Sec. 31D of Copyright Amendment Act, 2012

This post was first published on 4th September, 2014.

The Copyright Amendment Act, 2012 has incorporated a new section into Chapter VI of the Copyright Act, which authorizes the Copyright Board to grant licenses to communicate to the public by way of performance of a literary or musical work and sound recording, which has already been published after paying Royalty fixed by the Board. One question that is frequently raised with respect to this section is its relevance and applicability  to television broadcasters.

In order to understand the meaning and scope of this section for radio and television broadcasting organizations, it is important to look into its legislative history of . Section 31D when included as part of the Copyright Amendment Bill , 2010 was under the heading Statutory License for Radio Broadcasting of Literary and Musical works and Sound recordings. Therefore, legislative history indicates that this section was primarily designed for the purpose of granting statutory licenses for broadcasting of literary, musical works and sound recordings. However, probably succumbing to the pressure from television broadcasters, this heading was dropped and the Amendment Act, 2012 did not specifically limit the scope of the section to any specific mode of broadcasting.

Clause 1 of Section 31D states:

“Any broadcasting organization desirous of communicating to the public by way of a broadcast or by way of performance of a literary or musical work and sound recording which has already been published may do so subject to the provisions of this section.”

From the face of this clause it can be said that the statutory license is not applicable for broadcasting of any Cinematographic Films. Since licensing of Cinematographic Films is outside the purview of this section, the only moot question is whether this provision enables broadcasting organizations to obtain licenses for synchronization or not. Although many authors claim that synchronization licenses are part of this section a collective reading of Clauses 1 and 6 of this section would give a different impression.

Clause 6 states that:

No fresh alteration to any literary or musical work, which is not technically necessary for the purpose of broadcasting, other than shortening the work for convenience of broadcast, shall be made without the consent of the owners of rights.

Therefore, the only alteration of work that is permitted under this section without obtaining copyright owners’ consent is the technical alteration required for broadcasting the work. Synchronization is an act which enables the holder of such license to “sync” the work with some kind of media output like videos, television shows, advertisements, games, trailers etc. The act of synchronization will definitely include actions which would fall beyond the scope of permitted alterations under this section and therefore, cannot be part of the license granted under this Section.

Thus, even after the removal of the heading and other minor revision, the scope of statutory license under section 31D is limited to radio broadcasting and the scope of television broadcasting under this license is limited.