Emerging Challenges & Reforms in Copyright Societies for Cinematographic Films: A Comprehensive Analysis

Special focus on Cinefil Producers Performance Limited


Copyright protection plays a crucial role in preserving the creative works of individuals and fostering an environment that supports the growth of the creative industry. When it comes to cinematographic films, which combine various artistic elements to create captivating audio-visual experiences, a robust copyright framework is essential. This article will primarily focus on the significance of new copyright society, the issues related to them and also considering relevant case laws.



In India, copyright societies operate under the provisions of the Copyright Act of 1957. These societies serve as important entities responsible for granting licenses, collecting royalties, and taking legal action against copyright infringements on behalf of copyright owners. According to Section 33 [footnote 1] of the Copyright Act, copyright societies are recognized as registered collective administrative organizations operating within the framework of the law.


Section 33(1) of the copyright act states that


“No person or association of persons shall, after coming into force of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1994, commence or carry on the business of issuing or granting licences in respect of any work in which copyright subsists or in respect of any other rights conferred by this Act except under or in accordance with the registration granted under sub-section (3).” [footnote 2]

The registration of copyright societies is briefly talked about in Section 33, including the collective administration (section 33 A), conditions and regulations (section 33(3), registration period and renewal (section 33(3 A); and Cancellation and suspension (section 33(4) & (5)).




On April 18, 2023, CINEFIL PRODUCERS PERFORMANCE LIMITED (hereinafter “CPPL”) received registration as a copyright society for cinematographic film works. This milestone marks the first registration of a copyright society for non-music works since the Copyright Amendment Act of 2012. CPPL’s registration signifies the recognition of the unique copyright protection needs of the film industry.


As per the website of CPPL, the primary objective of CPPL is to monetize public performance rights of cinematographic film works, specifically in the realm of video content in places like hotels, restaurants, auditoriums, lounges etc. which are commonly referred to as “below the line” (BTL) avenues, where films are publicly exhibited.




Under Section 33 of the Copyright Act, the government is not allowed to register more than one copyright society for the same class of works. However, there is no strict limit on the number of societies that can be formed, leaving the discretion to the government. This has led to the existence of new challenges such as inconsistent licensing procedures, multiple royalty payments, competition and fragmentation, confusion for users, and limited transparency.


  1. Learning from Existing Copyright Societies and Case Studies:


Novex Communications v. DXC Technologies & Anr. (footnote 3)


In Novex Communications v. DXC Technologies & Anr., the Madras High Court emphasized the importance of copyright societies in the licensing process. The court held that only recognized copyright societies are authorized to issue licenses under the Copyright Act, 1957. This decision reaffirms the crucial role of copyright societies in protecting the rights of copyright owners and ensuring fair compensation.


Muthooth Finance Ltd vs The Indian Performing Rights (footnote 4)


The Madras High Court affirmed that for broadcasting a song from a Bollywood film, separate licenses are required from both the Phonographic Performance Ltd. (PPL) for sound recording works and the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) for literary and musical works. This case underscores the practical challenges of multiple societies and the burden placed on users.


Indian Performing Rights Society vs. Eastern India Motion Pictures Association & Others, AIR 1977 SC 1443  (footnote 5)


In this landmark case, the Supreme Court held that the author/composer of lyrics or a musical work, who incorporates or records it on the soundtrack of a cinematograph film, cannot restrain the owner of the film from publicly performing, projecting, or screening the accosted portion of the film for profit. Section 14(1)(c) of the Copyright Act permits the owner of the copyright of the cinematograph film to exercise these rights.


Eastern India Motion Pictures vs. The Indian Performing Right Society, AIR 1978 Cal 477 (footnote 6)


This case emphasizes that when a cinematograph film producer commissions a composer of music or a lyricist for valuable consideration, the producer becomes the first owner of the copyright in the music or lyrics, unless there is a contract stating otherwise between the composer and the film producer. It underscores the significance of contractual agreements in determining ownership rights in cinematographic works



Competition law governs the operations of copyright societies, considering them as enterprises and subjecting them to the regulations outlined in the Competition Act of 2002. Section 3 of the Act specifically prohibits agreements that hinder competition, encompassing both horizontal and vertical agreements.


Horizontal agreements, which involve collaborations or agreements between copyright societies themselves, undergo close scrutiny. These agreements are assumed to be anti-competitive and void if they impede competition. Examples of such agreements include those that fix prices, allocate markets, or restrict sources of production. The parties involved bear the responsibility of proving that these agreements comply with competition law.


Similarly, vertical agreements between copyright societies and other entities, such as licensing agreements are subject to examination under competition law. While these agreements are not automatically void, they may be considered anti-competitive if they negatively impact competition. Factors such as tie-in agreements, exclusive distribution arrangements, or refusal to deal are evaluated to ensure a fair and competitive market.


In summary, competition law plays a crucial role in regulating the activities of copyright societies. It prevents agreements that restrict competition and maintains a fair marketplace.




For a better mechanism for implementation of the copyright law, following steps are necessary to be undertaken:


  1. Awareness: Copyright societies should create mass awareness about licensing rights to prevent unauthorized public performances.


  1. Economic Diversity: A well-designed royalty scheme should consider the diverse array of users, including both large and small broadcasters. Royalty schemes should consider economic differences, ensuring non-profit organizations can deliver performances without burdensome royalty rates.


  1. Simplified Licensing: Replacing the requirement for multiple licenses with a single blanket license, granting broadcasters all song-related rights.


Implementing these reforms would create a more efficient and effective copyright system for all stakeholders.




In conclusion, the registration of CPPL as a copyright society for cinematographic film works is a significant milestone. However, the presence of multiple societies creates challenges in licensing procedures and competition. Implementing reforms, such as raising awareness, ensuring economic diversity, and simplifying licensing, can enhance copyright implementation. Adhering to competition law is vital to maintain fairness. These efforts will strengthen the copyright framework, protect rights, and support the growth of the creative industry in India.


by Purva Palsra



Footnote 1: Section 33 (1), Copyright Act, 1957


Section 33 in the Copyright Act, 1957
*[33. Registration of copyright society.—
(1) No person or association of persons shall, after coming into force of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1994 commence or, carry on the business of issuing or granting licences in respect of any work in which copyright subsists or in respect of any other rights conferred by this Act except under or in accordance with the registration granted under sub-section (3): Provided that an owner of copyright shall, in his individual capacity, continue to have the right to grant licences in respect of his own works consistent with his obligations as a member of the registered copyright society: Provided further that a performing rights society functioning in accordance with the provisions of section 33 on the date immediately before the coming into force of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1994 shall be deemed to be a copyright society for the purposes of this Chapter and every such society shall get itself registered within a period of one year from the date of commencement of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1994.
(2) Any association of persons who fulfils such conditions as may be prescribed may apply for permission to do the business specified in sub-section (1) to the Registrar of Copyrights who shall submit the application to the Central Government.
(3) The Central Government may, having regard to the interests of the authors and other owners of rights under this Act, the interest and convenience of the public and in particular of the groups of persons who are most likely to seek licences in respect of the applicants, register such association of persons as a copyright society subject to such conditions as may be prescribed: Provided that the Central Government shall not ordinarily register more than one copyright society to do business in respect of the same class of works.
(4) The Central Government may, if it is satisfied that a copyright society is being managed in a manner detrimental to the interests of the owners of rights concerned, cancel the registration of such society after such inquiry as may be prescribed.
(5) If the Central Government is of the opinion that in the interest of the owners of rights concerned, it is necessary so to do it may, by order suspend the registration of such society pending inquiry for such period not exceeding one year as may be specified in such order under sub-section (4) and that Government shall appoint an administrator to discharge the functions of the copyright society.]

Footnote 2: Section 33 (1), Copyright Act, 1957

Footage 3: Civil Suit Nos.407 and 413 of 2020 (Comm.Suits)

Footnote 4: OSA No.64 of 2009 and MP No.1 of 2009

Footnote 5:1977 AIR 1443, 1977 SCR (3) 206

Footnote 6: AIR 1978 Cal 477.

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