| 16 Jun 2024
Major win for ISRA, Delhi HC rules in favour of singers

MUMBAI: Indian Singers Rights Association’s (ISRA) four-year long struggle to protect its members’ (singers) royalties has finally found a legal happy ending. The Delhi High Court, on 12 August, passed a judgment in favour of the non-profit body concerning singers’ royalties which potentially acknowledged the ISRA’s right to collect royalties on behalf of the singers.

The permanent injunction granted to the copyright society for singers against restaurants and bars potentially disallows the venues and other kinds to exploit singers’ content. The amendment, to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, was passed in 2012 and the amendment allows ISRA to claim the royalties from 21 June 2012.

The Judgement by Justice S. Muralidhar on 12th August, 2016 is as follows :-
16. The Court is satisfied that the Plaintiff has been able to prove the infringement by the Defendant of the R3 of the members of the Plaintiff Society in the performances as recorded in the CDs prepared by the Plaintiff?s Investigator. The playing of songs by the Defendant in its restaurant without payment of royalty to the Plaintiff is a violation of the R3 of the performers who are members of the Plaintiff. The
exploitation of the performances of the members of the Plaintiff by the Defendant by playing the said performances in its bar and restaurant without obtaining the Performer’s Rights Clearance Certificate thus constitutes an infringement of the R3 of the members of the Plaintiff Society.
17. In that view of the matter, the suit is decreed and a decree of permanent injunction is issued restraining the Defendant, its officers, servants, agents and representatives and all others acting for and on its behalf from communicating to the public the Plaintiffs repertoire
comprising of Performer's performances of all its members and that of the members of its sister societies which it is authorized to administer in India, without paying royalties to and obtaining a clearance from the Plaintiff Society or doing any other act infringing the Plaintiffs Performer's rights through any medium including but not limited to radio stations, TV and usage by mobile companies and violating the Right to Receive Royalties (the R3) and their Performer's Rights.
18. A decree is issued requiring the Defendant to render to the Plaintiff the accounts of all the monies earned by it from the performance of the repertoire comprising the performances of the Performers who are members of the Plaintiff.
19. In the absence of any substantive evidence in that regard in the present proceedings, the prayer of the Plaintiff requiring the Defendant to pay damages is declined. However, the right of the Plaintiff to institute separate proceedings in future in that regard against the Defendant, after rendition of accounts by the Defendant in terms of para 18 above, in accordance with law is reserved.
20. The suit is decreed in the above terms with costs of Rs.20,000/-which will be paid by the Defendant to the Plaintiff within four weeks. Decree sheet be drawn up accordingly. The application is disposed of.

Speaking to, ISRA managing director Sanjay Tandon said, “ISRA never wanted to knock on the doors of the court. We have always requested bars and restaurants to respect the musicians by paying for their content. But then some venues started neglecting the singers’ rights and played songs of ISRA members who are singers within their premises through a DJ and refused to respect the Singer’s Right to Receive Royalty (R3 Right) and pay ISRA their royalty as per the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957. Thus, ISRA was forced to take this step.”

Tandon emphasised on the importance of streamlining and educating the venues about Section 38A and Section 39 which protects the author or creator of content from exploiting. However, Tandon says that the job is not entirely done. “Despite the judgment, some people will not be honest and continue to disrespect the artist. It’s similar to how some citizens manage to not pay the income tax despite it being mandatory.”

“We will have a field staff that will educate the bars and restaurants about the necessity of paying ISRA the royalties to its members.. Our process is transparent and clear. We send introduction to all bars and restaurants and if they follow what is required of them, then everyone wins. If not, then we will drag them to court.”

Tandon added that ISRA’s intention is not to punish but merely let singers earn their royalties. “There is a tariff for 22 different kinds of users – from restaurants to televisions and mobile phones. The penalty differs from a fine of Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 5 lakh,” he informed.

Tandon applauded the government and court’s swift reaction to ISRA’s plea and the ultimate judgment. “We had filed the case in March 2015, and the result came out in August 2016. Not just Indian, this is impressive even by international standards.”

The latest judgment provides more strength to ISRA and creates a transparent and worthy environment for singers. ISRA demonstrated the power of the amendment by procuring injunction from the Delhi High Court against all franchises of the IPL 2016 Season, post which all the franchises paid the royalties of singers and exploited the performances of the singers during matches.