Saregama India Ltd., one of the oldest music labels in India and part of the RPG conglomerate, has been on a litigation spree in the last 3 months suing everybody from its business partners to its customers to an anonymous website, presumably songs.pk. Image from here.
In the first suit filed in December, 2011 Saregama sued Phonographic Performance Ltd. (PPL), and Select Media Ltd for copyright infringement leading from a breach of a contract to licence its copyrights. While PPL is a copyright society for ‘sound recordings’, Select Media Ltd. Is a company which has been authorized by PPL to act as a ‘single-window’ licensing counter for television broadcasters. Prior to Select Media entering the scene, television broadcasters were required to approach IPRS and PPL for separate licences to play sound-recordings and the also the underlying works i.e. the music and lyrics. However since this was proving to be inconvenient, IPRS had authorized PPL to authorize Select Media to give content-users a single licence for content owned by both copyright societies. The subject of the present suit is the interpretation of the licensing agreement between Select Media and PPL. Saregama has alleged that Select Media has not been complying with the terms of the licensing agreement between Select Media & PPL. Saregama has alleged that Select Media has been withholding information pertaining to licensing agreements and also significant amounts of royalties that have been due to PPL. The core of the dispute however appears to be whether Select Media has the right to issue world-wide broadcasting rights for only India based broadcasters or whether it can issue such rights for broadcasters with a base anywhere in the world. The Calcutta High Court has ordered Select Media to prepare and submit all the necessary information pertaining to sub-licenses and royalties owed to Saregama.
The above case goes to prove the absolute ineptitude of composers and lyricists who have been completely unable to assert their rights against IPRS in a situation similar to Saregama’s lawsuit.
In the second suit filed in February, 2012 Saregama has sued Eros International Media Ltd., a leading distributor of Bollywood movies along with another party whose identity is not quite clear. The subject of the dispute is the song ‘Dum Maaro Dum’ from the hit seventies movie ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’. Around 11 seconds of this song was incorporated in last year’s hit movie – ‘Rockstar’ and apparently since this was not done with the permission of Saregama, it has now decided to sue the distributors for the same. Apparently negotiations for a licence for the 11 seconds had started in November, 2011 but with no success. Although the movie was released last year, the immediate trigger for the present suit was the proposed broadcast of the movie on television and also its release on DVD, CD etc. The Calcutta High Court granted Saregama an interim-injunction and has order Eros to delete the 11 seconds while broadcasting on T.V. or releasing the movie on DVD. Eros can however broadcast the rest of the movie without any deletions.
In the third suit filed on 2nd March, 2012 before the Calcutta High Court Saregama has sued Dishnet and a host of other ISPs, with a prayer that the latter be ordered to block a particular website hosting sound recordings belonging to Saregama without taking a requisite licence for broadcast of the same. The Calcutta High Court has ordered these ISPs to block the website in question and although the order does not elaborate on the details of the website, I’m guessing the website in question is songs.pk. A couple of weeks ago the Calcutta High Court had passed a similar order specifically against songs.pk in a suit filed by PPL etc. We had covered this case over here. Surprisingly songs.pk is still accessible from India! I guess its time for a contempt petition against some of the ISPs.
All three orders were passed by Justice I.P. Mukherji of the Calcutta High Court. I have to say that compared to the Delhi High Court, the ‘first day’ interim orders of the Calcutta High Court and even the Madras High Court appear to be more balanced and well-reasoned. The language is usually precise and care is taken to protect the legitimate interests of the defendants. The Delhi High Court, whose orders are usually extremely lopsided, could learn a lesson or two from its counterparts in the Calcutta and Madras High Courts.