| 14 Jul 2024
Upload list of songs on website: Delhi HC orders music copyright bodies; refuses to vacate earlier order

MUMBAI: In what could turn out to be a long-term relief for Event and Entertainment Management Agency (EEMA), the Delhi High Court’s vacation bench, led by Justice Najmi Waziri, declined to vacate the injunction obtained by Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA) from the Court earlier this month against collection of licence fees by the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS), the Phonographic Performance Ltd. (PPL), Novex Communications and Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India.

The respondents in the case - PPL, IPRS, Novex and Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India – have been ordered to upload the list of songs the respective bodies represent either as assignees or agents before 31 December 2016.

What does the High Court’s latest order imply?

1. PPL/IPRS/Novex were asked to put up a detailed list on their websites before 31 December, listing all songs they own, including the names of the authors/ producers they have acquired them from along with the dates of validity of the contract till 31 March 2016.

2. Within four weeks from the date of the judgment (30/12/2016), the concerned respondents (the music licensing bodies) will have to put in place a search option on their respective websites so that the owner of copyright can be identified through the search engine.

3. For the interim period, venues/EEMA members will have to provide a list of songs that they intend to play to the respondents. However, the concerned body (IPRS/PPL/Novex) will have to provide the proof of possessing the legal documents confirming that it is the owner/assignee/authorised agent of the copyrighted work within seven days from the day EEMA seeks copies of claimed assignment deeds, if it does.

4. EEMA shall have the right to take recourse to legal remedies if it feels that the respondents have wrongly claimed the ownership or assignment or authority of the copyright work.

The latest order only allows these bodies to collect copyright licence fees under Section 30, wherein when called upon the bodies will have to prove their ownership.

Secretary Legal at EEMA, Ankur Kalra called the vacation bench’s order as a “huge relief” celebrating the fact that there would now be more transparency in dealing with the copyright issues. “All we wanted was transparency and the music licensing bodies to have legal documents to prove their ownership. The Court has ensured that the money will go to the right party and the author or the content creator gets paid in the end. If you are claiming to be an owner, then it is only fair to list down the songs that you own on your website. The rightful owners should receive their due and the rates being charged are logical and reasonable.”

Additionally, the Court instructed PPL/IPRS/Novex to set up an online payment gateway within one month of this hearing wherein we will be able to easily obtain permissions online.

In a statement issued later, EEMA described the order as ‘very positive’ in the direction of transparency and accountability that EEMA and the creative fraternity across the music industry has been fighting for.

One of the members of the creative fraternity who has been closely following the developments over the several years, the CEO at Indian Singers Rights Association, Sanjay Tandon considers the latest order does not call for celebrations. “It is not keeping in line with the intention of the law,” stated Tandon, who even called the previous injunction (dated 23 December, passed by Justice Sachdeva) as a setback to the copyright movement. Tandon fears the judgment will create a logistic nightmare and will further weaken collective administration of Copyright. Tandon fears this will lead to more litigation.

Former Managing Director at Universal Music Publishing in India and one of the key forces in the decade-long saga of the ongoing copyright movement, Achille Forler did not hold back to criticise the IPRS and PPL’s practices. Forler mentioned in an email to that, “Section 30 has a single sentence consisting of 63 words; and it uses the word “Work” in the singular, not the plural. Section 33 is extremely elaborate, extending to Section 36-A and having 1349 words. Obviously the legislators had two different kinds of licensing in mind when they adopted this Act: blanket licensing under section 33 makes it easy on both the licensor and the licensee. This is how it works worldwide. Foregoing section 33 for section 30 is as smart as leaving the umbrella of WTO to negotiate bilateral deals with every country in the world. I solemnly call on Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump to stop running the affairs of IPRS and PPL!"

Earlier on 23 December 2016, Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva had accepted that IPRS, PPL, and Novex were not registered copyright societies under section 33 of the Copyright Act and had therefore restrained them from collecting any licence fee from performers or performing societies. The next hearing on the matter will take place on 24 April 2017.