It’s been a few years since SpicyIP first started tracking IPRS and its illegal exploits. Today, we’re rather pleased to announce that the notorious extortionists-cum-serial scamsters have finally, FINALLY, been cornered, and justice to the hundreds of rights-holders defrauded out of their money is fast approaching.
On 11th September, the Supreme Court dismissed the Special Leave Petition in IPRS v. Union of India (covered here), filed by IPRS in the hope of getting the order passed against them by the Bombay HC – permitting the Government to undertake a long-due investigation into IPRS’ affairs – overturned.
IPRS has had a jolly good time so far, donning the role of a copyright society when convenient, and feigning amazement at the very possibility that it should be called one, shortly thereafter. We’ve had a number of posts on the blog tearing into IPRS’ abominable antics (most of them by one of our former bloggers, Prashant Reddy), ranging from hounding crores of rupees in royalties and failing to distribute the same amongst members (here and here), illegally transferring to PPL the rights to collect ringtone royalties (here and here) to suspicions of collusive litigation (here) and gross mismanagement of IPRS’ internal affairs (here, here and here) – all of which Prashant had earlier put together in a summary post to make for an easier read.
Most importantly, Prashant documented the Copyright Office’s tragic goof-ups whilst ensuring IPRS’ compliance with the registration process that were responsible for IPRS’ faulty registration as a copyright society back in 1996, and covered these blunders here, here and here.
Here’s a brief background – on 27 February 2014, the Government passed an order to institute an enquiry officer to look into IPRS’ alleged irregularities in accordance with the provisions in the Copyright Act, 1957 and Copyright Rules, 2013 pursuant to the issue of two show cause notices to the society based on multiple complaints filed by prominent music composers and lyricists. Justice Mukul Mudgal was consequently appointed as enquiry officer, who then appointed Justice Prabha Sridevan as consultant in the matter.
Perhaps it was fear that led IPRS to file a writ petition before the Bombay HC opposing the order – the secrets and lies that they’d been thriving on thus far looked like they were on their way to being called out. IPRS contended that Justice Mudgal, former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court was not eligible to be appointed as an enquiry officer because this violated the provisions of the Copyright Act which stated that only persons above the rank of Deputy Secretary to the Government of India could be appointed for the purpose of the enquiry. Justice Mudgal and Justice Sridevan both went on to resign from their respective posts consequently.
As Prashant eloquently put it, following the 2012 amendments to the Copyright Act, copyright societies were required to re-register themselves – while IPRS did apply, it withdrew the application on 2nd June 2014. IPRS contended that since it failed to re-register as a copyright society, the order was inapplicable as it was passed on the very presumption that IPRS still continued to remain a copyright society – this, despite the fact that IPRS had verified that it still was a copyright society on 23 April 2014 in a suit filed before the Delhi HC. The Bombay HC, accepting the respondent’s submission that the irregularities that IPRS was accused of had occurred during its term as a copyright society, stated that IPRS had not approached them with clean hands. The Court held that the Central Government was well within its jurisdiction to have prima facie deemed it necessary appoint an enquiry officer to look into IPRS’ alleged irregularities, and dismissed the suit on grounds of lack of merit.
With the SC’s dismissal of IPRS’ Special Leave Petition, IPRS has exhausted all its available legal options in its mad pursuit to shed the company and its shady affairs from being probed into. The time for the Government to truly take things into its own hands has finally arrived, and we’re eager to know the outcome. We’re expecting to see the Ministry of HRD appoint another Enquiry Officer soon, and bring some clarity on the entire question of the legitimacy of IPRS’ existence and its manner of functioning, at once.