ADIT vs. Baan Global BV (ITAT Mumbai)

S. 9(1)(vi)/ Article 12: Consideration received for sale of computer software programme in CD Rom is not assessable as “royalty”. The retrospective amendment in Explanation 4 to section 9(1)(vi) to tax such receipts as royalty has no application to DTAA if the definition of the term “royalty” in the DTAA has remained unchanged      (Aug 4, 2016)

(i) From the plain reading of Article 23(4) of the India-Netherlands DTAA it can be inferred that, it refers to payments of any kind received as a consideration for the use of, or the right to use any ‘copyright’ of literary, artistic or scientific work including cinematograph films, any patent, trade mark, design or model, plan, secret formula or process, or for information concerning industrial, commercial or scientific experience. Thus, in order to tax the payment in question as “royalty”, it is sine qua non that the said payment must fall within the ambit and scope of Para 4 of Article 12. The main emphasis on the payment constituting ‘royalty’ in Para 4 are for a consideration for the ‘use of’ or the ‘right to use’ any copyright………. The key phrases “for the use” or “the right to use any copyright of”; “any patent…….; “or process”, “or for information………,”; “or scientific experience”, etc., are important parameter for treating a transaction in the nature of “royalty”. If the payment doesn’t fit within these parameters then it doesn’t fall within terms of “royalty” under Article 12(4). The computer software does not fall under most of the term used in the Article barring “use of process” or “use of or right to use of copyrights” Here first of all, the sale of software cannot be held to be covered under the word “use of process”, because the assessee has not allowed the end user to use the process by using the software, as the customer does not have any access to the source code. What is available for their use is software product as such and not the process embedded in it. Several processes may be involved in making computer software but what the customer uses is the software product as such and not the process, which are involved into it. What is required to be examined in the impugned case as to whether there is any use or right to use of copyright? The definition of copyright, though has not been explained or defined in the treaty, however, the various Courts have consistently opined that the definition of “copyright” as given in the ‘Copyright Act, 1957’ has to be taken into account for understanding the concept.

(ii) The definition of ‘copyright’ in section 14 is an exhaustive definition and it refers to bundle of rights. In respect of computer programming, which is relevant for the issue under consideration before us, the copyright mainly consists of rights as given in clause (b), that is, to do any of the act specified in clause (a) from (i) to (vii) as reproduced above. Thus, to fall within the realm and ambit of right to use copyright in the computer software programme, the aforesaid rights must be given and if the said rights are not given then, there is no copyright in the computer programme or software. As noted by the CIT(A), under the terms of the agreement between the assessee and INFOR India, the agreement specifically forbids them from decompiling, reverse engineering or disassembling the software. The agreement also provides that the end user shall use the software only for the operation and shall not sublicense or modify the software. None of the conditions mentioned in section 14 of the Copyright Act are applicable. If the conclusion of Ld, CIT(A) are based on these facts and agreement, then he has righty concluded that the consideration received by the assessee is for pure sale of “shrink wrapped software” off the shelf and hence, cannot be considered as a “royalty” within the meaning of Article 12(4) of the DTAA, as the same is consideration for sale of copyrighted product and not to use of any copyright.

(iii) One of the issue which was raised by the Ld. DR before us is that, the Explanation 4 to section 9(1)(vi) which has been with brought by Finance Act 2012 with retrospective effect in section 9(1)(vi), therefore, the meaning and definition of ‘royalty’ as given therein should be read into the DTAA. We are unable to appreciate this contention of the Ld. DR because the retrospective amendment brought into statute with effect from 01.06.1976 cannot be read into the DTAA, because the treaty has not been correspondingly amended in line with new enlarged definition of ‘royalty’. The alteration in the provisions of the Act cannot be per se read into the treaty unless there is a corresponding negotiation between the two sovereign nations to amend the specific provision of “royalty” in the same line. The limitation clause cannot be read into the treaty for applying the provisions of domestic law like in Article 7 in some of the treaties, where domestic laws are made applicable. Here in this case, the ‘royalty’ has been specifically defined in the treaty and amendment to the definition of such term under the Act would not have any bearing on the definition of such term in the context of DTAA. A treaty which has entered between the two sovereign nations, then one country cannot unilaterally alter its provision. Thus, we do not find any merit in the contention of the Ld. DR that the amended and enlarged definition should be read into the Treaty.


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