As discussed in an earlier post, it is mandatory for owners of establishments to obtain copyright licenses in order to play music on their premises. In this way the law seeks to regulate the issuance of such licenses through creation of Copyright Societies under Section 33 of the Act, thereby making it easier for people to get the required licenses. However, there is also a provision under Section 30 by which copyright owners can grant licenses on their own or through duly authorized agents. The Bombay High Court in the matter of Leopold Cafe & Stores v. Novex Communications Pvt. Ltd., recently discussed this issue relating to licenses of copyright and the authorities who can actually issue and grant such licenses.

The main issue was whether Novex could grant licenses on behalf of owners in respect of sound recordings and public performances.

Novex Communication claimed to be the agent for copyright owners, mainly Yashraj and Shemaroo, engaged for the purpose of collecting license fees and granting licenses as per Section 30 and stated that the prohibition under Section 33(1) did not apply to them because they were acting in the capacity of agents.

According to the facts stated by the Plaintiff, Novex indicated on their website that they were ‘carrying on the business of issuing or granting licenses’ and though they claimed to be agents of copyright owners, they were issuing licenses in their own name. The Plaintiff also submitted one of the sample licenses by the Defendant to show that they “granted” the license without clarifying that they were merely agents of the copyright owners.

Findings of the Court

The Court stated that the ‘carrying on of business’ is not prohibited by Section 33 but what is prohibited is issuing these licenses in their own name instead of the copyright owners’. Going by the legislative intent the Court pointed out that if there were to be a bar on an agency, then Section 30 would be entirely ineffective.

The Court also pointed out that in the case of Yashraj and Shemaroo who have a number of copyrighted works, it may be more efficient for them to appoint an agency through which they can issue valid licenses and collect fees instead of being registered with the Copyright Society.

The difference under the licenses is that, a Copyright Society can issue licenses in its own name, whereas an agent has to issue license under the name of the copyright holder and clearly state that he is the authorized agent. Therefore, when the principal is undisclosed and license is granted, Section 33 comes into play.


The Court in this case has only given life to an existing provision of law and clarified that copyright owners can grant licenses through their agents despite the existence of Copyright Societies. However, the agent is only authorized to grant licenses in the name of the copyright owner and not under his own name.

This article has been authored by Nikita, an IP Law practitioner.