Music copyright: HC restrains three bodies from issuing licences


In a blow to three copyright societies which claim to hold rights to issue licences to play music and songs of various artists in public, the Delhi High Court has restrained them from granting any such licence till April 24 next year.

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva, in an interim order, restrained the Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS), the Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) and Novex Communications Pvt Ltd from contravening section 33 of Copyright Act which mandates that only registered societies can grant licences in respect of copyrighted work.

The order assumes significance as these societies would not be able to collect revenues for live events and parties planned for the upcoming New Year celebrations at hotels, restaurants and other venues.

The court also issued notice to the Centre, the Copyright Office, the three societies and the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India seeking their replies to the plea of Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA) which has sought an enquiry against PPL, IPRS and Novex for allegedly violating section 33 of the Act.

EEMA, represented by advocate Abhishek Malhotra, argued before the court that the registration of PPL and IPRS had lapsed on June 31, 2013, and has not been renewed yet, while Novex was never registered as a copyright society.

The Centre and the Copyright Office, represented by standing counsel Sanjeev Narula, submitted that they have received complaints that PPL and IPRS were violating the Act and have already initiated an enquiry.

The counsel also said a notice has been put up on the website of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to inform the public that IPRS and PPL are no longer registered as copyright societies.

“Since the respondent 1 (Centre) and 2 (Copyright Office) have already initiated an inquiry and are taking action vis-a-vis the respondents 3 (PPL) and 4 (IPRS) and their stand is that neither of the three respondents, i.e 3, 4 and 5 (Novex) are registered in terms of section 33 of the Act, till the next date of hearing, respondents 3 to 5 are restrained from acting in contravention of section 33 of the Act..,” the court said and listed the matter for further hearing on April 24 next year.

The court also directed the Centre and the Copyright Office “to take action in accordance with law for any breach of provisions of section 33 by the respondents 3 to 5”.

EEMA has alleged in its plea that PPL, IPRS and Novex are continuing to function in violation of the Act by handing out licences for copyrighted works, of which they do not hold the copyright.

IPRS, PPL and Novex have in the past moved courts in Delhi and other cities and obtained orders restraining hotels, restaurants, event management firms and FM radio stations from playing movie songs or music without taking licence or paying royalty.

In September this year, Novex had obtained an order from Delhi High Court restraining several hotels-cum-bar lounges from playing Bollywood songs without first getting a licence from Novex.

In the same month, Bombay High Court had on a plea by IPRS ruled that Entertainment Network India Limited (ENIL) will have to pay royalty for broadcasting songs on its FM Radio station, Radio Mirchi, in the seven metro cities where they operate.

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