Copyright

Oh how the mighty fall ! – SC dismisses IPRS’ Special Leave Petition


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.

imagesIPRS 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.

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Kiran George

Kiran Mary George is a Third Year student at ILS Law College, Pune. Her first stint in the world of Intellectual Property law was an internship with a registered copyright society that granted her an insight into the world of copyright in music. Since then, her interest in IPR has taken strong hold, and she enjoys keeping close tabs on developments in the field. She is still discovering her interests, but so far takes a special liking to open access, copyright and trademarks.

2 comments.

  1. AvatarAnon

    IPRS has not only distorted and defied the law but has unfortunately betrayed and violated the statutory intention of what a Copyright society should be. IPRS has acted a sole proxy for music labels for quite a few years now abetting Music Labels by breaching IPRS’ contractual covenants with artistes but also has played an active role in diverting royalties (payable to its members) to private entities. IPRS’s own Chairman and a Director have been implicated in inducting fake members into IPRS which is substantiated by the fact that the Mumbai Police Crime Branch has lodged a charge sheet in a criminal case against the Chairman and a Director of IPRS on the finding that fake members were inducted into IPRS. IPRS now claims it is not a Copyright society in an effort to claim that this ‘non regulated’ status means that the Government can’t enquire into the acts of IPRS. Even today three years after the amendments were brought into force IPRS is virtually a dead society barely managing collections. What does this tell you about the music labels who control IPRS? Many of these music labels are subsidiaries of international entities who dutifully pay royalties abroad!!! How sad! IPRS and its directors and other individuals who control IPRS have not only acted illegally but have acted un ethically. Sadly the HRD ministry still hasn’t started its enquiry into IPRS.

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  2. AvatarOnkar Singh

    Central Government hereby appoints DR Y.P.C, Dangey, a retired Joint Secretary and Legal Advisor, Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government oflndia as an Inquiry Officer to inquire into the alleged irregularities in administration of IPRS. (a) Inquiry has been commenced w.e.f from 13 Oct 2015.
    http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/the_gazette_of_india.pdf

    link form MHRD: http://mhrd.gov.in/updates?field_departments_tid=All&tid=All&page=2

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