To Whom Radio Stations Must Pay Music Royalty?

Radio stations around the globe are using songs for their broadcasts and are willing to pay reasonable royalties in this regard. But the crucial question is when radio stations play copyrighted songs in India, to whom they are liable to pay royalties?

Is it the music company, the music composers and lyricists, Indian Performing Right Society Limited (IPRS) or Phonographic Performances Limited? This question recently came for determination before the Bombay High Court.

The Bombay High Court upheld the right of the music companies over a song recording. The order by Justice S J Vazifdar is a welcome relief for the radio stations, hotels and discotheques, etc of India that are playing copyrighted songs. Music composers and lyricists were demanding a separate royalty every time their music was played by these entities.

The Bombay High Court also ruled that IPRS is not entitled to claim or demand royalty or licence fees from a private FM channel for the recorded song and music it plays on its radio station. This means that the FM stations would now have to only deal with Phonographic Performances Limited for obtaining a licence to play the music.

The judge, however, clarified that the owners of the copyright-composers and lyricists-do not lose all their rights when they allow it to be recorded. “It does not prevent the owners of the copyright in the underlying musical and literary works from making any other sound recording embodying the same underlying work,” said Justice Vazifdar.

The HC has stayed the judgment till October 31, 2011 and an appeal against the decision is very likely.