As we had reported earlier this year, in February, the infamous dispute before the Barasat Civil Court was re-ignited by Asha Studio which filed a fresh lawsuit suing Javed Akhtar, the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) etc. As discussed in that earlier post, the case reached the Calcutta High Court, which had remanded the matter to the lower courts, with the observation that IPRS was required to adhere to the new royalty sharing requirements under the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012.
I am not yet sure as to what exactly happened in that case but Asha Audio subsequently filed a fresh lawsuit before the Calcutta High Court suing amongst others Om Prakash Sonik (who is possibly one of the directors of IPRS), IPRS, the Registrar of Copyrights, Sameer Pandey, Anand Srivastava and two other parties whose names are not mentioned in the order. According to the order of the Calcutta High Court, dated 1st July, 2013 (accessible over here), the present lawsuit was filed for “a decree for rendition of true and faithful accounts of undisputed royalty so also appointment of administrator to distribute the royalty and convene a general meeting to elect the governing council of the respondents no. 4 (IPRS)”. Asha Audio also filed an application targeting the Registrar of Copyrights. As noted in the Order “The petitioner also seeks an order restraining the respondent no.5 (Registrar of Copyrights) from insisting on certain information under Rule 47 of the Copyright Rules, 2013 at the time of re-registration.”
The background to this specific prayer is a notice served by the Registrar of Copyrights on IPRS asking for information on whether it has cleared all of its previous dues owed to its members, especially the lyricists and composers who have repeatedly complained to the Registrar that IPRS had stopped payments to them. The new law, post the amendments gives the Registrar the power to insist on disclosure of such information before registering IPRS as a copyright society under the new law. Asha Audio claims that disclosure of such information will somehow result in prejudice to it, thereby warranting an order restraining the Registrar from requesting such information.
This is not the first time that Asha Audio has popped out of nowhere to suddenly assert its rights. In the last decade Asha Audio has performed this role at least twice. In fact, Saregama and IPRS have carried out this very same drama in the past when the Registrar of Copyrights served a show cause notice on IPRS. Saregama sued IPRS and IPRS was more than happy to suffer the injunction prayed for by Saregama. I had blogged about those cases over here.
However this time around, the Calcutta High Court, while denying Asha Audio its prayer for interim relief, made this following observation, which is going to have a far-reaching impact “It will not be out of place to mention that from the submissions made by the petitioner and the respondent nos. 1 to 4 that each one of them wants the same order and, therefore, again prima facie, collusion cannot be ruled out.”
After a decade of litigation, those three lines are somewhat of an understatement. It remains to be seen how the Registrar of Copyright deals with the registration of IPRS and PPL under the new law.