Film producer has exclusive copyright on works of lyricist or musician: SC

The Supreme Court of India clarified that once the author of a lyric or a musical work parts with a portion of his copyright by authorizing a film producer to make a cinematograph film in respect of his work and thereby to have his work incorporated or recorded on the sound track of a cinematograph film, the latter acquires on completion of the cinematograph film an exclusive copyright without securing any further permission of the author (composer) of the lyric or musical work for the performance of the work in public.

Referring to some of its earlier rulings, the Court said, “Though a conflict may at first sight seem to exist between Section 13(4) and Section 14(1)(a)(iii) on the one hand and Section 14(1)(c)(ii) on the other, a close scrutiny and a harmonious and rational instead of a mechanical construction of the said provisions cannot but lead to the irresistible conclusion that once the author of a lyric or a musical work parts with a portion of his copyright by authorizing a film producer to make a cinematograph film in respect of his work and thereby to have his work incorporated or recorded on the sound track of a cinematograph film, the latter acquires by virtue of Section 14(1)(c) of the Act on completion of the cinematograph film a copyright which gives him the exclusive right inter alia of performing the work in public i.e. to cause the film insofar as it consists of visual images to be seen in public and insofar as it consists of the acoustic portion including a lyric or a musical work to be heard in public without securing any further permission of the author (composer) of the lyric or musical work for the performance of the work in public. …………………….”

The Court, however, mentioned that with effect from June 2012 21.06.2012, in view of sub-section (10) of Section 19 of the Copyright Act, the assignment of the copyright in the work to make sound recording which does not form part of any cinematograph film, shall not affect the right of the author of the work to claim an equal share of royalties or/and consideration payable for utilization of such work in any form.

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