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Section 31 -The Copyright Act, 1957

The Copyright Act, 1957



31. Compulsory licence in works with held from public –


(1) If at any time during the term of copyright in any Indian work which has been published or performed in public, a complaint is made to the Copyright Board that the owner of copyright in the work—


(a) has refused to re-publish or allow the re-publication of the work or has refused to allow the performance in public of the work, and by reason of such refusal the work is withheld from the public; or


(b) has refused to allow communication to the public by 1[broadcast], of such work or in the case of a 2[sound recording] the work recorded in such 2[sound recording], on terms which the complainant considers reasonable,


the Copyright Board, after giving to the owner of the copyright in the work a reasonable opportunity of being heard and after holding such inquiry as it may deem necessary, may, if it is satisfied that the grounds for such refusal are not reasonable, direct the Registrar of Copyrights to grant to the complainant a licence to re-publish the work, perform the work in public or communicate the work to the public by 1[broadcast], as the case may be, subject to payment to the owner of the copyright of such compensation and subject to such other terms and conditions as the Copyright Board may determine; and thereupon the Registrar of Copyrights shall grant the licence to the complainant in accordance with the directions of Copyright Board, on payment of such fee as may be prescribed.


Explanation.—In this sub-section, the expression “Indian work” includes—


(i) an artistic work, the author of which is a citizen of India; and


(ii) a cinematograph film or a 2[sound recording] made or manufactured in India.


(2) Where two or more persons have made a complaint under sub-section (1), the licence shall be granted to the complainant who in the opinion of the Copyright Board would best serve the interests of the general public.




Question of grant of compulsory licence would arise only when the artistic work has been with held from public. Compulsory licence need not be issued to all who apply and are ready to pay fee; Super Cassette Industries Ltd. v. Entertainment Network (India) Ltd., AIR 2004 Del 326.


Once a Copyright is taken in public domain then it becomes commercial right and refusal to grant licence has to be on reasonable grounds. While making orders, the Board has to maintain a delicate balance between private rights of the copyright owner vis-a-vis public interest; Super Cassette Industries Ltd. v. Entertainment Network (India) Ltd., AIR 2004 Del 326.



1. Subs. by Act 23 of 1983, sec. 2, for “radio-diffusion” (w.e.f. 9-8-1984).


2. Subs. by Act 38 of 1994, sec. 2, for “record” (w.e.f. 10-5-1995).



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