Copyright owner in sound recordings can file suit for copyright infringement: DHC

The Delhi High Court recently clarified that an owner of the copyright work in the sound recordings can file suit alleging copyright infringement and claim damages even though the owner is not a copyright society.

After going through the relevant provisions of the Copyright Act, especially provisos to Section 33, the Court said, “The first Proviso to Section 33(1) of the Act, however clarifies and makes it clear that an owner of a copyright in his individual capacity will continue to have the right to grant licenses in respect of his own works i.e. works owned by the individual person, subject to and consistent with the obligation of such an owner as a member of the copyright society.”

“……if an individual owner gives such a right to the copyright society that the individual owner though the owner of the copyright, he will not license the copyright works owned by him except to the copyright society, only in such a case would the individual owner of the copyright work not have a right to grant further license, but if the owner of the copyright work has retained with himself the right to give license, although the license is also granted to the copyright society, then such an individual owner despite having granted license to the copyright society can further keep granting licenses with respect to the copyright works owned by the individual owner., the Court further elaborated.

The Court further explained that there exists an independent copyright in a sound recording independent of a literary work and/or musical work incorporated and embedded in a sound recording even though second proviso to Section 33(1) provides that with respect to a literary work, dramatic work, musical work or artistic work, as embedded in a cinematographic work or sound recording, the business of issuing or granting of license would vest only with a copyright society.

Defendants argued that only a copyright society, registered under the provision of Section 33 of the Act, is one which is entitled to grant licenses and collect license fee/royalty with respect to the copyright works which are the subject matter of the Act, and since the appellant/plaintiff is not a registered society, hence, it cannot claim license/royalty, and therefore, it also cannot sue for infringement of the copyrights and claim damages.

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