This article is written by Mayank Labh, a student of NALSAR, Hyderabad.

When you get in a restaurant, you often listen to the music being played in a background. Sometimes, there are beautiful classical songs of Beatles, The Doors and sometimes you have to bear the songs of Rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh(Argh!). But the music is always there and it seems like there is a connection between restaurant lovers and music lovers. Be that as it may, the point is have you ever wondered that restaurant owners need a licence to play such music otherwise they would be liable to pay hefty damages? Many people think that if they buy a Music CD then they have unfettered rights to play it at any place. However, it is not so simple. It gives them only the right to listen to it in private and not in public. So, how to get licence to play such music in public? Which is the entity responsible for such issuance of licence?

Copyright Society

A sound recording generally comprises various rights. It is necessary to obtain the licences from each and every right owner in the sound recording. This would, among other thing, include the producer of the sound recording, the lyricist who wrote the lyrics, and the musician who composed the music. Now, for a customer, it would be a very cumbersome task to procure the licence from each and every one. So, to facilitate such licences to the consumer there is a concept of Copyright Society.

The idea of copyright society is that the owners join a national society which because of its organisational facilities and strengths gives licences to the customers and keep better vigil over the uses of the works of owners. The advantage of such copyright is two-fold:

  1. i) It helps customers to get the licence of every field at one place without much difficulty.
  2. ii) It helps the owners of the respective work that their work is in better vigilance.

A Copyright Society has to get registered under Section 33(3) of Copyright Act, India to perform its duties. It is for the period of 10 years and after it has to be renewed. The registration allows and entitles the society to issue licence to the users of its member’s recordings under Section 30 of Copyright Act and to charge and collect licence fees from the users of sound recordings. According to the judgement of division bench of Delhi High court, such copyright society does not only have the power to administer license and collect but also to prosecute someone who is infringing the copyright of its members.

There is a number of Copyright Societies.  But to play a sound-recorded music in a restaurant or café, you need to register with PPL(Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) for it exclusively controls public performance rights in respect of music which is sound-recorded as the music is. For example, if you are playing the songs of Ranjhana from a CD then you should take the licence from PPL. On the other hand, if only musical scores and lyrics are used, like in live concerts, then you have to take the licence of IPRS(Indian Performing Rights Society).


If you don’t do that you are committing a cognizable and non-bailable offence with huge penalties which can extend up to 3 years and 2 lakhs respectively under Section 51 and Section 63 of Copyright Act.

How to get the licence

What you need to do is you have to make a application in a prescribed format to PPL or IPRS as the case may be.

You have to pay a fee which is published in their tariff scheme which they have to publish according to Copyright Act of India. If you have any problem with the tariff scheme you are welcome to complain against such scheme to the Corporate Board and if the Board  find any problem it will take suitable steps.



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