Copyright

Déjà vu for Akhtar – nightmare before Barasat Courts plays out once again – with a different ending?


The infamous dispute between music labels and authors/composers before the Civil Judge at Barasat, which we had blogged about over here and here, has reignited once again. 
I do not have access to most of the information in this case but from I understand, Javed Akhtar filed a complaint on 9th of August, 2012 with the Registrar of Copyrights regarding the state of affairs at IPRS. Thereafter the Registrar of Copyrights issued a show-cause notice to IPRS and I’m speculating that he must have directed IPRS to adhere to the newly enacted mandatory royalty sharing provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957. 
Thereafter, Aasha Audio, a music label based out of Bengal, appears to have filed a declaratory suit before the Civil Judge at Barasat, naming Akhtar and probably IPRS as 2 amongst 8 defendants. Aasha Audio was also the first litigant in the series of litigation in 2004 involving IPRS and Akhtar. I’m not sure of the remedies Aasha Audio has asked for in its lawsuit. It is most likely that Aasha Audio is challenging the show-cause notice issued to IPRS. It appears that the present Civil Judge at Barasat, unlike her predecessor was in no mood to indulge the music labels and refuse to grant Aasha Audio an interim injunction through an order dated 10th September, 2012. 
The matter was subsequently appealed to the District Judge. 
In an order dated 26th September, 2012 the District Judge indulged Asha Audio with a limited ad-interim injunction subject to an undertaking that royalty payments would be made to the authors. The exact target of the injunction is not really explained in the order. This order can be accessed over here
Javed Akhtar then filed a revision petition against this order before the Calcutta High Court, which in an order on the 9th of January, 2013. Sometime before the revision petition was filed, the Registrar of Copyrights was made party to the dispute because he had issued a show-cause notice. The Calcutta High Court in an order dated 9th January, 2013 declined to interfere with the District Judge’s order but it did order the District Judge to hear Akhtar and the other defendants before extending the interim injunction any further and also confirmed the requirement for royalty payments to be made on the basis of the amended Copyright Act. This order can be accessed over here
According to sources familiar with the matter, on the 14th of January, 2013 the District Judge heard both sides and reportedly extended the initial interim injunction till 13th February, 2013. Apparently the District Judge was concerned that irreparable injury would be caused to the plaintiff who had filed the suit if the order was not extended. I do not have a true copy of this order. 
Most of the above dispute is playing out in the same manner as the earlier litigation at Barasat. 
Will it end differently?
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Prashant Reddy

T. Prashant Reddy graduated from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, with a B.A.LLB (Hons.) degree in 2008. He later graduated with a LLM degree (Law, Science & Technology) from the Stanford Law School in 2013. Prashant has worked with law firms in Delhi and in academia in India and Singapore. He is also co-author of the book Create, Copy, Disrupt: India's Intellectual Property Dilemmas (OUP).

10 comments.

  1. Madhukar

    Barasat has quietly developed as the arbiter of the way collective management of artists’ rights is carried out in the country. Who would have thought this obscure suburb of Kolkata would lead the way as the interpreter of artistic maladies! Full credit goes to the intrepid Music Companies who have not been bogged down by the glitter and shine of metropolitan courts with their smart alecky lawyers and highly articulate public-minded judges who tend to view all legitimate business through the archaic prism of public interest. In doing so they have also managed to build substantial capacity on copyright litigation in a moffussil court which would otherwise be dealing with rather mundane tenant disputes. I am certain Bareilly, Begusarai, Barmer, etc. would also be on the radar for this type of capacity building.

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  2. anushree rauta

    It is however surprising that the High Court passed an order for payment of royalties as per the Copyright Amendment Act, 2012. The Rules have not yet been notified. Therefore it is doubtful whether these copyright societies have re-registered themselves as required under Section 33 of the Amendment. It is therefore questionable whether the copyright societies are entitled to collect royalties at all in this interim phase till the Rules are notified.

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  3. Anonymous

    Barasat is the prayag where the Indian music industry meets the underbelly of the judicial system to produce some truly extraordinary miracles like getting 172 extensions in 3 similar cases involving the same Plaintiff and the same Defendant, that led to the takeover of the IPRS in January 2008. This feat merits greater publicity and, why not, a shot at a Guinness World Record…

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  4. Achille Forler

    Their licenses have not been suspended by the Amendments, they are still valid: so why should they be prevented from collecting royalties? However, their royalties distribution ratio must now be as per the amended Act: they cannot continue to discriminate between ‘authors’ and ‘owners’. So the High Court decision looks right to me.

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  5. Shamnad Basheer

    Prashant: In the light of these dubious copyright fights and Madhukars’ telling comment to your post, I vote that Barasat be declared the copyright capital of India. And that the Copyright Board (and perhaps even the Copyright Office) be relocated there.

    We could then move on to other ventures such as a full fledged IP law school in this fast booming copyright capital….appropriately titled “The School of IPR’S”?

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  6. anushree rauta

    Achille Foller: the tariff scheme and the distribution scheme would be given in the amended copyright rules. As per the newly inserted proviso to Section 33 “the business of issuing or granting license in respect of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works incorporated in a cinematograph films or sound recordings shall be carried out only through a copyright society duly registered under this Act”. The definition of copyright society under Section (ffd) “copyright society” means a society registered under sub-section (3) of section 33.
    Therefore till the time IPRS re-registers itself under the Copyright Amendment Act, 2012 it cannot collect royalties as per the amended Act.

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  7. Anonymous

    Anushree Rauta: Where does it says-“the tariff scheme and the distribution scheme would be given in the amended copyright rules”. It only says- “..as may be prescribed” it means GOI may make a rule and not that it has to make a rule. Also you are forgetting that socities already have Tariff Scheme-14J under The Copyright Rules-1958 as is prescribed in the Act.

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  8. anushree rauta

    The definition of “prescribed” under Section 2 (u) “prescribed” means prescribed by rules made under this Act r/w Section 78 of the Copyright Amendment Act, 2012 and the draft Copyright Rules, 2012 yet to be notified.

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  9. Anonymous

    for @Anonymous at 12.27.

    The term “may be prescribed” means that the Government has to amend the rules. Sometimes in law, “may” means “shall”.

    Kind regards,

    Guru Nataraj

    Reply

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