Provisions of Copyright Act applies to Internet Broadcasting

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Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), India has issued an Official Memorandum on 05/09/2016 by which it has clarified that the provisions of Section 31D of the Copyright Act, 1957 are not only restricted to Radio and Television broadcasting Organisations, but cover Internet Broadcasting Organisations also.

Section 31D of the Act offers statutory licensing (SL) to broadcasting services, allowing them the right to offer a literary or musical work and sound recording by way of a broadcast or by way of performance to their consumers at rates determined by the Copyright Board. This provision was brought into the Act to restrain broadcasters from abusive practices who demanded unreasonable and unjustifiable royalties before granting permissions. Though the wording of the clause was quite clear in the Act, Internet Broadcasting companies had tried to create an impression that the section didn’t apply to them. With this clarification, DIPP has clarified that section applies to all broadcasters including Internet Broadcasting.

Section 31D of the Copyright Act, 1957 talks of “Any Broadcasting Organisation desirous of communicating to the public….” And Section 2(ff) of the Act defines “Communication to the public” as “making any work or performance available for being seen or heard or otherwise enjoyed by the public directly or by any means of display or diffusion other than by issuing physical copies of it, whether simultaneously or at places and times chosen individually, regardless of whether any member of the public actually sees, hears or otherwise enjoys the work or performance so made available”. The explanation to section 2(ff) states that “Communication through satellite or cable or any other means of simultaneous communication to more than one household or place of residence including residential rooms of any hotel or hostel shall be deemed to be communication to the public”.

In view of the above DIPP clarifies, the words “any broadcasting organization desirous of communicating to the public…” may not be restrictively interpreted to be covering only radio and TV broadcasting as definition of ‘broadcast’ read with ‘communication to the public’, appears to be including all kind of broadcast including internet broadcasting. Thus, the provisions of Section 31D are not restricted to radio and television broadcasting organizations only, but cover internet broadcasting organizations also.

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