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Role Of Copyright Societies In The Music Industry – Copyright

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Copyright Law Series, Vol 3

In the last blog, we explored
the various means through which the copyright laws were exploited
by the music industry and talked about the various roles that
individuals play in the entire song making process. At the end of
the article we looked at the involvement of the Indian Performing
Rights Society. In this blog, we will discuss about the role of
Performing Rights Societies in India.

In India, there are 2 major organizations that deal with
Copyrights in the music Industry. One is obviously the Indian
Performing Rights Society (IPRS); which looks after Copyrights for
Individuals, and the other is Phonographic Performance Limited
(PPL) India which controls public performance rights for more than
317 music labels. So basically, IPRS collects royalties for use of
music and lyrics, PPL collects royalties for use of the sound


Although the IPRS was first formed in 1969, it had to be
re-registered in 2017 as a copyright society. This was due to the
2012 amendments, where the legislation stated that artists can only
assign their royalty rights to a copyright society. But before
these amendments were made there were a lot of problems with the
society. The music labels initially controlled the PPL. These
labels were also the owners of the music recordings. They managed
to oust the artists and individuals from the governing body of the
IPRS. Thus, the music labels gained the control of both the
copyright societies in the country and exploitation became the

Around 2004, new forms of usage of works just aggravated the
problems of the authors. Ringtones became very popular and the
authors demanded royalties for this use of their work. This meant
that they would receive some royalty every time a ringtone was
used. But the IPRS, which was controlled by the labels, said that
it had already assigned the right to grant rights for ringtones to
the PPL and thus couldn’t claim the royalties for the

The 2012 Amendments ushered in a new era for collection of
royalties and distribution of rights for collecting royalties. Its
most striking feature was the fact that the right to collect
royalties by individuals couldn’t be waived off when the work
is a part of a cinematographic film and sound recording. Article 4
of the amendments stated the following:

  1. It assures authors of equitable remuneration.

  2. The right to equitable remuneration cannot be waived by the

  3. The administration of the right may only be entrusted to a
    collecting society.

To read more about these royalties you can read the previous
blogs in this series
and here.

Another major change that was made during the amendments was in
the role of copyright societies. It made it compulsory for the
societies to release the tariff schemes so that the individual
receiving the royalties can have transparency in the process. It
also made it mandatory for the copyright societies to have equal
number of authors and owners on its governing body. It also gave a
1 year period for the existing copyright societies to re-register

Initially, the IPRS and PPL refused to accept the amendments,
the government in turn refused to register these organizations as
copyright societies, this led to tussle for the rights of various
authors and their works. As these were not registered as copyright
societies but still held rights for many works, they were allowed
to carry business as authorized agents of the authors. But the
government stood firm in its stance that only registered copyright
societies could issue licenses and demand royalties. This led to
IPRS finally being re-registered in the year 2017.

Even after all of this, some new issues have popped up with the
current framework. The amendment does not specify who is supposed
to pay the royalties. By simple logic, it could be interpreted that
the one exploiting the work must make the payment. But
contractually, this has been used by labels to state that they are
not responsible for the payment. The authors however are still
entitled to payment of royalties resulting in the contract being
declared void. In some cases, the labels state in the contract that
the party finally using the work should make the payment and not

In many contracts at the time, the payment of royalties was
supposed to be made to the assigned Copyright society and not the
author directly. As many of the societies were not registered or
had to be re-registered, many of these payments were not
distributed by the societies. This led to many royalties in the
transition period not being made at all. Effective execution of the
amendments was very essential and it was poorly managed by those
trying to stall the implementation of the reforms.

With the IPRS finally complying with all the requirements of the
government, the future of implementation of the new rules finally
seems to be safe. In its report, the IPRS has mentioned that it has
equal share of authors and owners and the society is headed by
Javed Akhtar who is an artist himself. The IPRS has a database of
around 10 million songs, including Indian and international
numbers, for which it collects royalties. The IPRS has been
actively working towards securing royalties for its members. It has
been entering agreements with big Telco’s and Tech giants to
secure the future usage of the work of the artists. It is clearly a
step in the right direction. But the problems with the language of
the legislation and tricky contracts still exist. How the IPRS
decides to move forward with its work will determine the future of
Copyrights in the Music Industry.

With this we come to an end of our series on Copyrights in the
Music Industry. If you have any other topics that you would like us
to write about, do let us know.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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