In today’s rapidly evolving digital age, protecting creative works and ensuring fair compensation for artists have become more critical than ever.

At the heart of this endeavor lies the notion of a copyright society.

But what exactly is a copyright society, and how does it impact the world of artistic expression?

This article will quench your thirst regarding these questions.

This informative article will provide you with a useful insight into the fundamental principles of copyright society, its role in safeguarding intellectual property rights, and how it facilitates the distribution of royalties to artists.

What is a Copyright Society?

A copyright society, also known as a collective management organisation (CMO), is an entity that operates on behalf of creators and copyright owners to manage and administer their rights.

It serves as a bridge between artists, composers, authors, and other creators, and those who wish to use their works for various purposes, such as reproduction, public performance, broadcasting, or online distribution.

Functions of Copyright Societies

Copyright societies carry out specific functions.

  1. Copyright societies have the authority to issue licenses for the reproduction, performance, or communication to the public of copyrighted works. These licenses serve as legal permissions, allowing individuals or organisations to utilise copyrighted material.
  2. It identifies instances of copyright infringement and begins legal action.

The operations of copyright societies stated above are governed by Sections 33 to 36A of the Copyright Act of 1956.

Evolution of Copyright Society

The concept of copyright societies has evolved over time.

Sections 33 to 36 of the statute, which originally dealt with performance rights societies, underwent revisions as a result of the Copyright (Amendment) Act of 1944.

These societies were responsible for granting licenses for the performance of copyrighted works in India, specifically in the fields of literature, drama, and music.

The phrase “performing rights societies” transformed into “copyright societies” when the Copyright (Amendment) Act was enacted in 1994.

This amendment expanded the scope of these societies, enabling them to handle various types of copyrighted works beyond just literature, drama, and music.

The role of copyright societies became broader, encompassing a wider range of creative works and granting licenses for their usage.

Why Copyright Societies were Created?

The development of copyright societies can be attributed to several reasons.

One of the key factors is the recognition that many creators, such as authors of creative works, may lack business acumen or the desire to handle financial matters related to their work.

Consequently, they often face the risk of exploitation.

For instance, an author who creates an original piece of literary work may desire to generate income by reproducing and selling copies of their work to the public.

However, the author must provide a publisher with a license in order for this to be accomplished.

Furthermore, preventing unauthorised use or infringement of the work can be challenging for the copyright owner.

Additionally, it can be overwhelming for rightful owners to keep track of all the various ways in which others may use their work.

To address these challenges, copyright owners decided to establish copyright societies.

These societies are authorised to license the works for public performance or communication, thereby enabling the owners to earn income from their creations.

In return for their services, the copyright societies receive payment.

Copyright Societies in India

The Copyright Act of 1957 regulates copyright societies in India.

These societies are formed by authors and other owners of copyrighted works.

To register a copyright society, a minimum of seven members is required.

Assigned to various classes of employment are several types of societies.

For example, there exist copyright societies that are exclusively focused on literary works.

The registration validity period for the abovementioned society is almost five years.

It can be revived from time to time at the end of each five-year term through a formal request.

However, the decision regarding the request is based on the analysis of specific reports conducted by the central government.

In 2012, an amendment was made to the Copyright Act.

Copyright societies that were already registered before the amendment had to register under the new law within one year of the Copyright (Amendment) Act of 2012 going into effect.

Registered Copyright Societies in India

Currently, there are three active copyright societies registered in India under section 33.

These societies play a crucial role in tracking, monitoring, and enforcing the rights of their members’ copyrighted works.

They provide a centralised mechanism for managing and licensing the usage of these works, ensuring that the creators receive fair compensation in the form of royalties or monetary benefits.

Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO)

The Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO) is a copyright society that was established in 2000 under Section 33 of the Copyright Act of 1957.

It focuses on safeguarding the rights of authors and publishers of literary works. IRRO holds affiliations with international organisations like IFRRO, operating on a global scale.

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The exclusive authority for starting and operating the copyright business of “reprographic rights in the field of literary works” in India belongs to IRRO.

They received this through the Indian government’s Ministry of Human Resource Development.

As the sole licensing authority, IRRO issues licenses to users seeking to utilise copyrighted works owned by its members.

Additionally, it collects and distributes royalties on behalf of the rights holders. IRRO is committed to the protection of the copyrights of authors, visual artists, and publishers.

Its mission is to establish a robust network that supports the economic and moral rights of creators and publishers.

Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS)

IPRS was founded on August 23rd, 1969.

It serves as a collective management organisation representing music owners, including composers, lyricists (authors), and music publishers.

As the authorised body, IPRS holds the exclusive responsibility of granting licenses for the usage of musical works within India.

By granting licenses and obtaining payments from Users on behalf of IPRS members—musical authors, composers, and publishers—its goal is to formally sanction the use of copyrighted musical works.

The collected royalties are divided among the fellows of IPRS once administrative costs have been deducted

Phonographic Performance Limited India (PPL India)

PPL India is a performance rights organisation that specialises in licensing the sound recordings of its members for public communication, including public performances and broadcasts.

Established in 1941, PPL India has a significant presence in the music industry.

PPL India holds ownership and control over the public performance rights of more than 400 music labels, which collectively represent an extensive library of over 4.5 million international and domestic sound recordings.

With a vast repertoire of music, PPL India plays a pivotal role in the licensing and management of sound recordings, ensuring that appropriate permissions and royalties are obtained for public use.

PPL India proudly represents some of the largest record labels globally and in India. Notable members include Aditya Music, Lahari Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Speed Records, T-Series, Universal Music, and Warner Music.

As India’s largest and most highly esteemed public performance rights organisation, both in terms of membership and revenue.

Registration Rules of Copyright Society

The registration of these societies is outlined in Section 33 of the Indian Act of 1957.

According to this section, it is prohibited for any individual or organisation to issue or grant licenses for copyrighted works, as outlined in Section 13 of the Act.

Nevertheless, an exception is made for associations, groups, or individuals who have previously registered under Section 33 of the Act.

Additionally, the section explains that the copyright owner maintains the power to issue licenses for their work and fulfill any responsibilities as a member of a registered copyright society.

In line with Section 33, only registered copyright societies may issue or grant licenses relating to literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works included in cinematograph films or sound recordings.

Previously, the authority to grant licenses was held by performing rights societies, as specified in Sections 33 to 36 of the Act.

The existing performing rights societies will be acknowledged as copyright societies with the establishment of copyright societies if they have registered under the amended Section 33 of the Act.

An application must be submitted to the Registrar of Copyright for the registration of copyright society.

The Central Government will receive this application from the registrar of the copyright office.

The Central Government will carefully review the application, taking various factors into consideration, before granting the registration.

These conditions include:

  1. The interests of authors and other rights owners under the Indian Act.
  2. Consideration of the interests and convenience of the public.
  3. The interests of the group of people looking to apply for licenses in relation to relevant rights.
  4. The applicant’s capacity and professional competence.

The central government avoids registering multiple copyright societies for the same class of work.

If the central government determines that the said society is being operated in a manner that is harmful to the interests of authors and other rights owners, it has the authority to revoke the society’s registration.

During an ongoing investigation, it is within the government’s power to suspend a society’s registration for up to 1 year.

Provisions For Tariff Scheme

Tariff schemes aid in obtaining any type of financial gain with regard to any copyright or other right that is managed by it.

For all stakeholders involved, including license holders, this plan offers a transparent mechanism.

These provisions can be found in Section 33A of the Indian Act.

According to the provisions of this section, every copyright society has the ability to publish its Tariff Scheme in accordance with the requirements outlined in the Copyright Rules of 2013.

If an aggrieved person is dissatisfied with the scheme, they have the right to appeal to the appellate board.

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The board will then conduct an investigation and, if necessary, issue orders to remove any unreasonable elements of the scheme.

However, until the outcome of the appeal is determined, the individual who feels wronged must continue to make payments to the copyright society.

During the investigation, the board also has the power to set interim tariffs and guide the parties involved accordingly.

Provisions for the Powers of Copyright Society

Section 34 of the Act discusses the authority of the society mentioned before.

It is stated in the section that:

  1. A copyright society might accept exclusive authorisation of any copyrighted work from the author and other owners of such rights. By accepting such exclusive authority, they issue licenses or collect the license fees or both.
  2. An author or any other owner of rights might withdraw search authorisation, without injuring any rights of the copyright society under any contract.

The Copyright Society may, at its discretion, enter into an agreement with any foreign society or organisation administering rights comparable to rights conferred by this Act.

The purpose of this arrangement would be to entrust to such a society in any foreign country the rights administered by the aforementioned Copyright Society in India and vice versa.

Such a society should not treat works from India differently from works from other countries when it comes to licensing terms or how money is collected.

Additional copyright society authority is outlined in this section. These are the powers:

  1. A license can be issued in accordance with Section 30 by any copyright society.
  2. These kinds of societies have the ability to collect copyright license fees.
  3. They can share the fees with the authors or other owners if they have enough money to cover their expenses.
  4. Additionally, in accordance with Section 35, they are allowed to carry out any other functions.

Provisions Pertaining to the Control of Copyright Societies

According to Section 35, authors and other rights holders have the power to collectively manage copyright society. Society administers the rights of these creative authors and rights holders.

However, this regulation does not apply to foreign societies.

The following are the methods that are being used to exercise control on the copyright societies:

  1. The method of collecting and distributing fees imposed by the copyright society is subject to the author and other rights holder approval before it may be implemented.
  2. In addition to this, they are required to get permission from the authors and any other owners before using any of the money that was collected as fees.
  3. In addition to this, they are obligated to supply authors and other owners of rights with complete and comprehensive information regarding the management of all activities on a regular basis.

The Section further specifies that all author and other right holder fees should be divided up based on how much their works were really used.

Copyright societies must have a governing body. It is made up of members who are elected by the society.

In conclusion, all members of copyright societies should be treated equally and should not be subject to discrimination under any circumstances.

Provisions About the Submission of Returns and Reports

Under Section 36, it is obligatory for each copyright society to furnish reports or returns to the Registrar.

Additionally, the Central Government has the ability to nominate any officer it sees fit, who would then be tasked with receiving and analysing all of the copyright society’s reports.

Provisions Pertaining to Performing Rights Society’s Obligations and Rights

Nothing in Chapter VII of the Copyright Act, 1957 will alter the rights and obligations of performing rights societies that existed on or before the day before the commencement of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012.

This is stated explicitly in Section 36A.

Confusion Among Certain Provisions

When individuals read Section 18 in conjunction with Sections 30 and 33, they could get confused about what the law actually says because of the potential for ambiguity.

The owner or author of a work has the authority to grant copyright to any individual of their preference. This is in line with Section 18.

Although it is not a copyright society as defined by Section 33, the Delhi High Court ruled in the 2010 case Event and Entertainment Management Association vs. Union of India and others that Novex Communication Pvt. Ltd. is still allowed to operate under Sections 18 and 30.

However, the Bombay High Court prohibited Novex Communication Pvt. Ltd. and limited its business to granting licenses in the case of Leopold Cafe and Stores vs. Novex Communication Pvt. Ltd. (2014). People were confused by these contradictory assessments. This apparent incompatibility between the Sections had not been resolved.

Amendment in 2012

There have been five revisions to the Copyright Act, the most recent being in 2012.

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The change is significant due to its impact on conformity with international standards set by the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).

In terms of copyright societies, this modification is equally crucial.

Such a society formerly ignored authors’ rights.

This resulted in a number of disputes among authors, rights holders, and copyright groups.

The term “author” was not present in the original provisions, but was added with this change.

The distribution of fees/royalties in copyright societies will not show favoritism towards any particular group, as authors are now included in society.

Each governing board of these societies will consist of an equal number of authors and owners for administration.

Provisions for payment of remuneration by the said society have been removed, whereas Tariff scheme compensation provisions have been added.


Copyright societies play a crucial role in the realm of copyright law.

As a recognised legal body, they are responsible for granting licences in respect of the exclusive rights of owners of copyright work.

These societies ensure the protection of copyright through the issuance of licenses and the enforcement of legal proceedings when infringement of copyright occurs.

Over time, copyright societies have become an integral part of the business with respect to copyrighted works.

They possess the powers necessary to administer licenses, collect and distribute remuneration, and regulate the use of copyrighted material.

Owners of rights must rely on these societies as a representative body to safeguard their creative works.

By registering with a copyright society, creative authors and creators can receive appropriate remuneration for the use of their copyrighted content, ensuring fair compensation over a period of time.

The onset of copyright societies has brought about a transparent and regulated framework, enabling the smooth functioning of licensing and the protection of copyright.

Through their efforts, copyright societies contribute to the growth and development of the creative industry, fostering an environment where creators can receive their rightful recognition and rewards.


What are copyright societies?

Copyright societies are organised bodies responsible for licensing and administering the rights of individual rights holders.

It ensures the protection of intellectual property, the enforcement of rights, and the effective on-time payment of royalties to creators of artistic creations.

What is collective licensing?

Collective licensing is the mechanism used by copyright societies to grant licenses for the use of copyrighted works on behalf of individual copyright owners.

It allows for a streamlined process where users can obtain necessary permissions from society rather than seeking individual permissions from each copyright holder.

Can copyright societies address infringement of copyright?

Yes, copyright societies have the power to address instances of copyright violation. They can initiate legal proceedings and take appropriate actions to protect the rights of actual copyright owners.

What is Copyright Collective Management?

Copyright Collective Management refers to the management and administration of copyrights by collective administration societies or copyright collection societies.

These societies handle the licensing, distribution, and collection of royalties on behalf of copyright owners.

What types of laws govern copyright societies?

Copyright societies are governed by copyright protection laws, which vary in different jurisdictions.

These laws outline the rights and responsibilities of copyright societies and provide a legal framework for their operations.

Are copyright societies limited to a specific period?

The existence of copyright societies is not limited to a specific period.

They function continuously to manage and protect the rights of copyright owners and facilitate licensing activities over time.

How do copyright societies benefit human intellect and monetary gain?

Copyright societies play a crucial role in protecting and monetising human intellect.

By administering licenses and collecting royalties, they ensure that creators receive fair compensation for their creative works, encouraging further innovation and rewarding intellectual efforts.

Can an individual owner directly connect with a copyright society?

Yes, an individual owners of copyrighted works can connect with a copyright society to avail themselves of licensing services and benefit from collective administration and protection of their rights.

Can an association of persons become a collective society?

Yes, an association of persons can establish and operate as a collective society, representing the collective interests of copyright owners and managing licensing activities on their behalf.

In the eyes of the law, copyright societies hold significant authority and responsibility in safeguarding the rights of creators, facilitating licensing, and managing copyright-related issues.

Who can issue licenses in respect of protected work?

In relation to any protected work, a copyright society may issue or grant a license of copyright.