The High Court has rejected the constitutional challenge to the validity of the “1%” cap on licence fees payable by broadcasters to the record companies on very narrow and specific grounds.
Section 109 of the Copyright Act 1968 provides a compulsory licence for the broadcasting to the public of sound recordings. Section 152, however, caps the royalty payable to record companies by broadcasters at 1% of the gross earnings of the broadcaster.
No such limitation had applied to the “corresponding” copyright in sound recordings under the 1911 Act.
The 1911 Act was repealed when the 1968 Act came into force on 1 July 1969. Section 220 of the 1968 Act provided that sound recordings in which copyright subsisted immediately before 1 July 1969 qualified for copyright under the 1969 Act effectively as provided for under the 1968 Act.
The record companies argued that the imposition of the 1% cap was an acquisition of their property in sound recordings made before July 1969 otherwise than on just terms in contravention of s 51(xxxi) of the Constitution.
The High Court has unanimously rejected that claim.
French CJ, Gummow, Hayne and Bell J said the record companies’ argument was predicated on a wrong assumption. They no longer owned copyright under the 1911 Act which had been qualified. Rather that copyright had been terminated and replaced with a new and different copyright under the 1968 Act. So at  and :
 The assumption by the plaintiffs is that the copyright presently enjoyed in respect of the pre?1969 recordings, and which will expire in accordance with the extended term fixed by the operation of the Free Trade Act upon the 1968 Act, is that which arose under the 1911 Act and was carried forward by the 1968 Act, but with the impermissible imposition upon those copyrights of the “cap” in the compulsory licensing system introduced by the 1968 Act. The Commonwealth denies that assumption. The Commonwealth submission, which should be accepted, is that upon the proper construction of the 1968 Act: (a) copyrights subsisting in Australia on 1 May 1969 under the Imperial system were terminated; (b) thereafter, no copyright subsisted otherwise than by virtue of the 1968 Act; and (c) to that copyright in respect of sound recordings there attached immediately the compulsory licensing system including the “cap” upon the royalties payable thereunder.
 It should be emphasised that the plaintiffs do not assert that the 1968 Act is invalid by reason of its bringing to an end the operation in Australia of the Imperial system without the provision of just terms. To do so successfully would be to leave them with such rights in respect of the pre?1969 recordings as they had under the 1911 Act and the 1912 Act, and without any copyrights subsisting under the 1968 Act. Rather, the plaintiffs seek to attack the validity of the attachment to their rights under the 1968 Act of one aspect of the compulsory licensing system for sound recordings. For the reasons which follow, that attack must fail.
Heydon J to similar effect at :
In short, the 1968 Act did not preserve the second to sixth plaintiffs’ rights under the 1911 Act and the 1912 Act. It abolished those rights. It substituted for them distinct and fresh rights – some more advantageous to those plaintiffs, some less. Thus ss 109 and 152 did not cause any property to be acquired. Property may have been extinguished by other provisions, but the plaintiffs’ case was not concerned with them.
After considering the application of s 51(xxxi) of the Constitution to statutory intellectual property rights generally, Crennan and Kiefel JJ reached the same conclusion at , pointing out at  that the record companies could not accept s 220 of the Copyright Act as valid and at the same time contend that ss 109 and 152 were invalid.
 When ss 8, 31, 85, 89(1), 207 and 220(1) of the 1968 Act are read together, it is clear that the copyright of the relevant plaintiffs under the 1911 Act, which included the exclusive right to perform the record in public, is not continued under the 1968 Act; rather it is replaced. Whilst it is true that, as the plaintiffs submit, certain records in which copyright subsisted under the 1911 Act are brought within the scheme of the 1968 Act, that is achieved by the re enactment, in substance, of qualifying provisions in the 1911 Act in, and for the purposes of, the 1968 Act. The effect is that the plaintiffs’ entitlement to sue for infringements under s 101 of the 1968 Act in respect of sound recordings in which copyright subsists pursuant to s 89(1) is an entitlement to sue in respect of infringements of the copyright in sound recordings contained in s 85, which replaces the copyright in records under s 19(1) of the 1911 Act. Inasmuch as ss 109 and 152 operate to qualify a record manufacturer’s exclusive rights by providing an exception to infringement, it is the exclusive rights under s 85 which are affected, not the exclusive rights under the 1911 Act (which have been replaced).
 Whilst the plaintiffs mount no attack on the validity of provisions of the 1968 Act which effect the replacement of the relevant plaintiffs’ copyright under the 1911 Act with a copyright under the 1968 Act, their attack on the validity of ss 109 and 152, which depends on the continuing subsistence of copyright under s 19(1) of the 1911 Act, is untenable. If the plaintiffs were to attack the validity of the provisions of the 1968 Act which effect the replacement of copyright under s 19(1) of the 1911 Act with a differently constituted copyright under s 85 of the 1968 Act, they would risk being left not only with the awkwardly expressed copyright under s 19(1) of the 1911 Act in respect of records, but also with a copyright, the term of which was limited to 50, rather than 70, years.
Now the High Court have reminded themselves of all these matters, they will be primed for the tobacco companies challenge to the validity of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011, the hearings for which start in April.
Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Limited v Commonwealth of Australia  HCA 8
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