Phonographic Performance Limited v. Spring Club- copyright societies’ protection of members’ copyrights

pplRecently, the Delhi Court issued an order in the matter  of Phonographic Performance Limited v. Spring Clubdismissing the Defendant’s application for rejection of plaint under O. VII R.11, CPC. The suit has been instituted claiming infringement of copyright under the Copyright Act, 1957. The Defendant has applied for rejection of plaint on the ground that the suit is barred by law and that the plaint does not disclose a cause of action against the defendants.The Court noted that it was a settled proposition of law that while deciding an application under O. VII R.11, CPC, it is sufficient to inspect the plaint to determine whether the suit is barred by law and whether the plaint discloses a cause of action. In this case, the Defendants argued that the suit was barred by law as the plaintiff was neither residing nor carrying out his business within the local limits of the Delhi High Court. However, the Court held that as the plaintiff was a copyright society registered under S. 33(3), Copyright Act with a branch office in Delhi and as substantial part of the cause of action had arisen in Delhi, the suit was not barred by law for want of jurisdiction.

On the issue of cause of action, the plaintiff contended that as a registered copyright society, it was permitted to carry on business in sound recordings. This registration allows and entitles the plaintiff to administer its member’s recordings and to charge and collect license fees from the users of the sound recordings. The royalties collected are then distributed to the owners of the copyright in sound recordings. The plaintiff contended that the defendants, which are commercial establishments engaged in the hospitality business who are going to host shows in their premises and making commercial gain by selling tickets to these shows, were going to use the copyrighted sound recordings of the members of the plaintiff at these shows. Consequently, the plaintiff had sent letters to the defendant calling upon them to obtain the requisite license from the plaintiff as it was a statutory requirement that needed to be fulfilled. The plaintiff contended that the Defendants did not take the license or respond to the plaintiff’s letters but persisted in the organisation of these shows where the music of the plaintiff would be played.

The Defendants, on the other hand, raised a plea that the plaintiff is registered only for the purpose of administering licenses and recovery of fees and not for prosecuting claims for infringement.

The Court noted that while determining whether a plaint discloses a cause of action, the Court will presume that all the averments made in the plaint are true.  The Court is not expected to make a detailed inquiry. All the Court is expected to do is whether the allegations throw up a cause of action. If the plaint discloses a cause of action, then the plaint will not be rejected regardless of how weak the action is or how likely it is to fail. The Court also noted the decision of its Division Bench in Phonographic Performance Limited v. Lizard Loungewhere it held that a registered copyright society’s  object is not restricted to administering licenses and recovering fees but also includes prosecuting claims for infringement. Thus, the Delhi High Court  in the instant case held that the object of a registered copyright society was to overcome the difficulty of individual owners to enforce their copyrights.

Therefore, the Court held that the plaint in this case clearly discloses a cause of action and that the plaintiff can prosecute claims on behalf of its members. Therefore, the Court dismissed the Defendants’ application for rejection of plaint.

L. Gopika Murthy

Gopika is a fourth year student at National Law School of India University, Bangalore. She was formerly the Chief Editor of the Indian Journal of Law and Technology. Her first exposure to Intellectual property law and SpicyIP was through the University Moot Rounds at NLSIU, Bangalore in her first year. She has been regularly following the developments in the field of IPR since then and she hopes to contribute to the reporting of such developments. Her areas of interest in IP include copyrights, open access, fair dealing and trademarks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.