Copyright society is a society registered under Section 33 of the Copyright Act, 1957, for the collective administration and protection of copyright. A copyright society may issue license to protect any right that arises from the Copyright Act, 1957.
A single-judge bench of Justice Yogesh Khanna of the High Court of Delhi, on 09.03.2022, while deciding a writ petition in the case of Phonographic Performance Limited v. Union of India & ors., held that the principle of natural justice would also apply to the cases of re-registration of copyright societies.
In this case, the Petitioner was a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 and also the largest registered copyright society for sound recordings. In 2012, an amendment was introduced in the Copyright Act according to which it was made mandatory for the registered copyright societies to get themselves re-registered within a year of the commencement of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 under Section 33 (3A). Subsequently, the Copyright Rules, 2013 were introduced on 14.03.2013, according to which the copyright society seeking re-registration had to file an application within 2 months of coming into force of the Rules. Accordingly, the Petitioner filed an application of re-registration on 09.05.2013, which is within a year of the Act coming into force and within 2 months of the said Rules coming into force.
The Respondent no.1, being the Government Authority, did not decide on the Petitioner’s application for about a year, therefore the Petitioner in order to prevent loss to the business, filed for withdrawal of the application for re-registration on 20.05.2014 to a view to file for fresh registration at appropriate stage, and carried on its business as a non-society. Respondent no.1 rejected the Petitioner’s application for withdrawal by an Order dated 20.11.2014, on the ground that the Petitioner’s application for re-registration is still under consideration. By an Order dated 25.05.2021, the Respondent no.1 rejected the Petitioner’s application for re-registration. Against this order, a writ petition was filed in the Delhi High Court. It was contended on behalf of the Respondent no.1 that there was no promise to the Petitioner to grant the re-registration and thus no prejudice has been done to the Petitioner by not giving them the opportunity of being heard.
The High Court of Delhi considered the relevant sections of Copyright Act, 1957 and the letters exchanged between the Petitioner and the Respondent no. 1, where the Petitioner disclosed the positive steps taken by them to make the Petitioner fully compliant to all necessary changes required by Respondent no.1. As per letter dated 31.12.2018, the Government asked the Petitioner to submit an Action Taken Report on issues which were indicated in the compliance letter. The Petitioner made the changes and intimated the Government via its letter dated 21.01.2019. The Court noted that such correspondences shows that the Government kept the application of re-registration of the Petitioner alive all this time, pursuant to which, the Petitioner took steps for its re-registration as a Copyright Society.
The Court observed that this was enough to make the Petitioner expect the Government’s intention to re-register it. The Respondent no.1 should have given an opportunity to be heard to the Petitioner before rejecting its application for re-registration. The Court held that the principle of natural justice is not only applicable to registration applications but also to re-register applications. The Court held that the Respondent no.1 passed the Order dated 25.05.2021, without applying its mind. Additionally, no opportunity was given to the Petitioner to be heard and the Order was made after 9 years of filing the application. The applications by the Petitioner were well within time prescribed. The High Court of Delhi, therefore, ordered the Respondent No.1 to re-consider the application of re-registration filed by the Petitioner on merits within reasonable time.
The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services
Sushila Ram Varma
Chief Consultant and Editor
The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services