Copyright Board Has No Powers to Grant Interim Relief- Supreme Court
Putting an end to a much debated copyright issue of recent time, the Apex Court, on 3rd May, held that the Copyright Board does not have powers to issue interim orders while deciding a complaint filed for Compulsory license under Section 31 of the Copyrights Act. Allowing the appeal made by Super Cassettes against the decision of the Delhi High Court, the Supreme Court observed-
“It is no doubt true, that Tribunals discharging quasi-judicial functions and having the trappings of a Court, are generally considered to be vested with incidental and ancillary powers to discharge their functions…. such incidental powers could at best be said to exist in order to preserve the status-quo, but not to alter the same, as will no doubt happen, if an interim compulsory licence is granted (in this case). If the legislature had intended that the Copyright Board should have powers to grant mandatory injunction at the interim stage, it would have vested the Board with such authority”
To describe the material facts in brief Music Broadcasting Pvt. Ltd. (MBPL) was broadcasting the Sound Recordings owned by Super Cassettes under a mutually agreed license. After the Copyright Board granted a compulsory license against Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) in a separate order dated 25th August 2010, MBPL sent a notice to Super Cassettes to license the Sound Recordings at the rate fixed by copyright board against PPL. When this demand was turned down by Super Cassettes, MBPL approached Copyright Board for a similar order and urged Copyright Board to grant an interim compulsory License. Copyright Board rejected the plea citing that it did not have powers to grant any interim relief.
MBPL appealed against the Board’s order before the Delhi High Court, which subsequently reversed the order of the Copyright Board and instructed to grant an interim license with reasonable terms. Super Cassettes appealed against the said order of the Delhi High Court under a Special Leave Petition, which was accepted by the Supreme Court.
The Advocates for MBPL and other respondent companies argued that the Copyright Act was a complete code in itself and granted broad rights to the copyright Board that acted as a quasi-judicial authority. Therefore, it was argued that the Board had ancillary powers to grant interim reliefs. IT was argued on behalf of Super Cassettes that the Copyright Board, being a creature of a statute, had to be governed only by what was provided under the statute. Since, Section 31 of the Act did not expressly provide for any interim relief, the Board could not assume such power as an ancillary power. A number of Supreme Court decisions were cited that clearly said that various statutory bodies such as the Election Commission, the Consumer Forums, did not have power to grant interim relief.
The Supreme Court observed that Section 31 of the Copyright Act only provides for an ultimate relief by grant of license on a reasonable term, and not an interim relief.