Only the person seeking a copyright licence can refer a dispute to the Copyright Tribunal. When a collecting society and the person who is trying to obtain a copyright licence from them cannot agree on the terms of the licence, the matter can be referred to the Tribunal for a decision. A collecting society is a type of licensing body which grants rights on behalf of multiple rights holders in a single (‘blanket’) licence for a single payment. The collecting society charges a fee for the licence, from which it deducts an administrative charge before distributing the remainder as royalties.
However, when the Tribunal has already made a decision in a particular area, both the collecting society and the licensee may apply to the Tribunal to change that decision. This is usually on the grounds that circumstances have changed materially since the Tribunal’s initial decision.
Any party to a Tribunal hearing may appeal against its decision, but only on points of law.
Once a licence dispute has been referred to the Copyright Tribunal, the Tribunal may:
- hold a formal hearing at which parties can state their cases verbally or
- make a decision based on written evidence provided by the parties (usually for claims of less than $50,000)
If a formal hearing is held, every party in the dispute is entitled to:
- attend the hearing
- address the Tribunal
- give evidence and call witnesses
Normally, the parties will be represented by legal advisors and counsel at hearings. However, legal representation is not a requirement. The Tribunal may permit other representation or, in most cases, parties may present their own cases. Tribunal hearings are generally open to the public, and a transcript of the proceedings is usually taken.
You can find further details of the Copyright Tribunal’s procedures in the Copyright Tribunal Rules 2014.
Scrutiny of evidence and transcripts
Once a final decision has been issued at the end of a hearing, any evidence brought forward by the parties (other than that agreed as confidential) and transcripts of the proceedings, are open to public scrutiny. Anyone who would like to view documents from previous cases should contact the Secretary to make an appointment. However, please note that these documents are often complex and substantial and would require some time to understand fully.