Copyright

Delhi HC Brings More Christmas Cheer: Restrains IPRS et al. from Issuing Licences in Violation of S.33


Seems to be the message from the Delhi HC

In the latest development involving “copyright societies” under the Copyright Act (“Act”), a Single Judge of the Delhi HC has restrained three entities- Indian Performing Rights Society (“IPRS”), Phonographic Performance Limited (“PPL”) and Novex Communications from issuing or granting licenses in breach of S.33 of Act. The interim order passed by Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva, came in a Writ Petition (“Petition”) filed by M/s Event and Entertainment Management Association (“Petitioner”) and has directed IPRS, PPL and Novex to refrain from any actions violative of S.33 till the next date of hearing, i.e, 24.04.2017. S.33 of the Act, which deals with the registration of copyright societies, lays down that only registered copyright societies shall have the right to issue licences in respect of copyrighted works. Copyright societies are essentially entities, which administer the issuing of licences in respect of copyrighted works on behalf of the copyright owners.

As per the Petitioner, represented through Advs.Abhishek Malhotra and Kumar Sudeep of TMT Law Practices, Respondents 3-5 (PPL, IPRS and Novex respectively) were carrying on the business of granting licences in contravention of S.33 of the Act. While the registration of Respondents 3 and 4 had expired on 31.06.2013 itself, the fifth Respondent was never registered as a copyright society for the purposes of S.33, according to the Petitioner. Union of India (“Union”) and Copyright Office were arraigned as first and second Respondents respectively and the Petitioner has sought a writ of mandamus directing the Union to conduct an enquiry into the affairs of Respondents 3-5. In response to this, Union has submitted that an enquiry against Respondents 3 and 4 is already underway and a notification has been put on the website of Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy (DIPP) informing the public that Respondents 3 and 4 are no longer registered as copyright societies.

Although Union has come on record stating that an investigation is underway, readers may do well to recall that the inquiry report in the investigation against IPRS is long overdue. The inquiry, which was initially headed by the former judge, Justice Mukul Mudgal, was later on taken over by the YC Dangey, a retired Joint Secretary from the law ministry. One of the terms of the reference for the inquiry officer was to examine if an investigation against PPL was required as well. The inquiry itself was the outcome of a sordid saga involving IPRS, which included charges of wrongful withholding of royalties to artists and money laundering, among others.

Interestingly enough, the CEO of IPRS has reacted to the verdict by stating that the order applies only to societies functioning under S.33 of the Act and it will have no application to his organisation as they function under the ambit of S.30. This again, is one among the many classic strategies attempted by these societies to wriggle out of the scrutiny of the Act (for a discussion on this, see here).

One can only hope that with the Delhi High Court getting involved in the matter, there could be more pressure on the Union to bring out the inquiry report at the earliest and decisive action will be taken against these societies once and for all, relieving the aggrieved parties of the pain of approaching the courts each time. Till then, the injunction passed by the Single Judge should put a leash on the high handedness of these conniving organisations.

It should also be added that given the standard operating procedure of these entities, with enhanced attempts made to extract money from event organisers during the New Year season, the timing of the order could not have been more timely. Delhi HC turned out to be the secret Santa for those dreading the payment to the Grinch trying to steal their Christmas!

Image from here

14 comments.

  1. AvatarAnonymous

    Please also see the suit-CS (Comm.) 793/2016 filed by the Fashion Design Council of India against PPL seeking injunction against groundless threat of legal proceedings under section 60 of the Copyright Act. The court not only restrained PPL from issuing such threats but PPL in that suit agreed that it was not a copyright society under Section 33 of the Copyright Act and rather was issuing “public performance” license under Section 30 of the Act, in the capacity of the owner of copyright. It was agreed by PPL in the Court that PPL will issue license only in respect of those music in which it held copyright by showing the Deeds of Assignment signed by the record label companies in favour of PPL.
    That’s the strategy PPL is using to avoid the regulated route under Section 33 of the Act

    Reply
  2. AvatarMohit Goel

    This issue should have been best left to be decided in a civil suit than a writ! In my respectful view, the order restricts IPRS, PPL and Novex from representing themselves as societies while issuing or granting licences. Kindly note that IPRS and Novex have in their recent litigations not claimed themselves to be societies at all. In all these litigations these entities have stated that they are assignees and thus owners of the works. Therefore, under section 30 they have the right to issue and grant licences. This leg of their argument still needs to be addressed in a civil suit, wherein a challenge to the validity of the assignment deeds has to be made. This needs to be tied up with the argument of section 33 and the objectives of amendments to the Act in 2012.

    From the perspective of this writ, these entities in all likelihood will make statements in court that they are not claiming to be societies at all. Even otherwise, maintainability of the writ is questionable. seeking relief against the Union is one thing, but to extend it to private bodies, and especially companies is absolutely another.

    Reply
  3. AvatarUnknown

    I don’t agree with the above comment. The order states that Respondent No 3 to 5 will not act in contravention to Section 33 of the Copyright Act. Section 33 states, in clear terms, that no person or association will carry on the business of issuing or granting of licenses unless it is a registered copyright society. How the Respondents represent themselves does not matter. What matters is the act of carrying on the business. They may take Section 30 argument. However one needs to remember what cannot be done directly, cannot be done indirectly. Section 30 argument won’t help them much.
    Either way this writ petition is an important step. I believe there are couple of cases pending on the original side and these objections have been taken but it’s taking time for the courts to decide on this matter. These associations were taking advantage of that and had started filing suits every month. This writ was very much needed. They were being a nuisance and were knowingly working against the law.

    Reply
  4. AvatarSanjay kumar

    This is a real defeat for EEMA and now they have to pay license before event based on the Assignment details as prevailing with IPRS .. Their injunction against IPRS is nullified and no relief is granted for not paying to IPRS and stage events…..
    Today da Delhi H.C. court heard only this matter and robbing rights of hundreds of copyright owners and making mockery with judiciary is not accepted….said da H.C. it’s a real big victory for the thousands of author, composers and the publishers owners of the music that their music won’t be played without obtaining an IPRS licence.

    Reply
  5. AvatarMohit Goel

    My friend (anonymous writer from yesterday), an ad-interim order of a writ court restraining the Respondent No. 3 to 5 to not act in contravention of Section 33 of the Act, cannot dis-entitle these Respondents from exercising their “purported” rights under Section 30 of the Act. Especially when the Order records at page 2 that the Respondents “do not hold the copyright”. Section 30 will become a tool for escaping these proceedings, whereas it cant in a civil suit in the long term!
    The Writ may come across as an important step, but the effectiveness of the same in such matters has been tested many times. How the Respondents represent themselves is important for the purpose of a Writ and may not be important for the purpose of a Civil Suit. Especially when a pleading would have been made in the Writ Petition (based on assumption after reading the order) that these bodies are representing themselves as “societies” and are not owners of copyright. Therefore, in my respectful view, Section 30 will assist them till the time the assignment deeds are not assailed and are not held void and until that time a Writ court may find it hard to deny these bodies rights under Section 30.
    While I maintain this, I do agree that these bodies are in the business of issuing and granting licences and are therefore susceptible to violation of Section 33. Despite my comments above, I sincerely wish the Petitioner the best in these proceedings since these bodies are a genuine nuisance to the society.

    Reply
  6. AvatarMohit Goel

    My friend (anonymous writer from yesterday), an ad-interim order of a writ court restraining the Respondent No. 3 to 5 to not act in contravention of Section 33 of the Act, cannot dis-entitle these Respondents from exercising their “purported” rights under Section 30 of the Act. Especially when the Order records at page 2 that the Respondents “do not hold the copyright”. Section 30 will become a tool for escaping these proceedings, whereas it cant in a civil suit in the long term!
    The Writ may come across as an important step, but the effectiveness of the same in such matters has been tested many times. How the Respondents represent themselves is important for the purpose of a Writ and may not be important for the purpose of a Civil Suit. Especially when a pleading would have been made in the Writ Petition (based on assumption after reading the order) that these bodies are representing themselves as “societies” and are not owners of copyright. Therefore, in my respectful view, Section 30 will assist them till the time the assignment deeds are not assailed and are not held void and until that time a Writ court may find it hard to deny these bodies rights under Section 30.
    While I maintain this, I do agree that these bodies are in the business of issuing and granting licences and are therefore susceptible to violation of Section 33. Despite my comments above, I sincerely wish the Petitioner the best in these proceedings since these bodies are a genuine nuisance to the society.

    Reply
  7. AvatarMohit Goel

    My friend (anonymous writer from yesterday), an ad-interim order of a writ court restraining the Respondent No. 3 to 5 to not act in contravention of Section 33 of the Act, cannot dis-entitle these Respondents from exercising their “purported” rights under Section 30 of the Act. Especially when the Order records at page 2 that the Respondents “do not hold the copyright”. Section 30 will become a tool for escaping these proceedings, whereas it cant in a civil suit in the long term!
    The Writ may come across as an important step, but the effectiveness of the same in such matters has been tested many times. How the Respondents represent themselves is important for the purpose of a Writ and may not be important for the purpose of a Civil Suit. Especially when a pleading would have been made in the Writ Petition (based on assumption after reading the order) that these bodies are representing themselves as “societies” and are not owners of copyright. Therefore, in my respectful view, Section 30 will assist them till the time the assignment deeds are not assailed and are not held void and until that time a Writ court may find it hard to deny these bodies rights under Section 30.
    While I maintain this, I do agree that these bodies are in the business of issuing and granting licences and are therefore susceptible to violation of Section 33.
    Despite my comments above, I also sincerely wish the Petitioner the best in these proceedings since these bodies are a genuine nuisance to the society.

    Reply
  8. AvatarNeha

    Hi Balu can u upload the Hc order with me. So does it mean for any Dj party we will just need Ppl and not norex and iprs licensee. We are having an office party in Feb and the hotel is asking 1 lakh for these licenses. Pls share the order of possible.

    Reply
  9. AvatarHarsh Joshi

    Dear Balu Nair,

    Do i need to take a license from IPRS for playing music on a sound system at my wedding sangeet which will be organised in a club and is strictly a private event?

    Please help!!

    Reply

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