Bombay HC strikes right note for music industry, but grey areas remain | Mint
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Business News/ News / India/  Bombay HC strikes right note for music industry, but grey areas remain
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Bombay HC strikes right note for music industry, but grey areas remain

A recent court decision could pave the way for royalties for playing music at weddings, restaurants and other public places

The Bombay High Court’s verdict is somewhat limited in its scope and some aspects are yet unresolved. (Hindustan Times)Premium
The Bombay High Court’s verdict is somewhat limited in its scope and some aspects are yet unresolved. (Hindustan Times)

The recent Bombay High Court judgement upholding the authority of Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) and Novex Communications Pvt Ltd to issue licences as copyright owners could pave the way for royalties for playing music at weddings, restaurants and other public places.

Implementation, though, is a challenge considering the sheer scale and geographical expanse of such events. Plus, the verdict is somewhat limited in its scope and some aspects are yet unresolved.

G.B. Aayeer, managing director and CEO of PPL said: “The judgement grants PPL and Novex the authority to issue licences independently as owners of copyright, enabling them to prevent infringement and seek remedies against unauthorized use of their copyrighted work. This ruling works against parties or entities that were using music illegally without obtaining licences from PPL and Novex, majority of whom belong to the hotels, pubs and bars sector."

The verdict brings clarity and legal validation to the operations of not only music licensing companies like PPL and Novex, but also other music copyright owners, Aayeer added.

However, responding to Mint’s queries, Samit Garg, president, EEMA (Event and Entertainment Management Association), the apex body for the event industry in India, said the situation is fluid as there are a lot of grey areas. “The ministry of commerce has already put a committee in place, led by (singer) Anup Jalota, to discuss the matter with all bodies involved and create plausible, coherent working dynamics that are acceptable to everyone. We are hopeful that this will get permanently resolved this year," Garg said.

Despite the judgement, the dust hasn’t quite settled down. Dinesh Pednekar, partner at law firm Economic Laws Practice, pointed out that the judgement has been rendered only on the preliminary objection on whether Novex and PPL can issue licences to third parties for exploitation of copyright without being registered as a ‘Copyright Society’ under the Copyright Act, 1957.

“It is limited to an issue on whether prior registration as a Copyright Society is required by copyright owners or assignees for issuing licences to third parties. On conclusion of the trial, if it is held that Novex and PPL are exclusive owners of their copyright, then it would follow that the defendants must be prevented from infringing copyright as well as be liable to payment of damages for the infringement of copyright," Pednekar explained.

Another expert, Durgesh Khanapurkar, partner at Desai & Diwanji, pointed out that the judgement does not bestow any powers on Novex or PPL that they didn’t earlier have. It merely addresses a trend where copyright infringers would raise a technical defence against infringement suits on the ground that licensing companies do not have the locus.

“The authors or composers of music may be spread out across the globe, so there are very real and practical problems associated with making such persons parties to the suit," Khanapurkar said. “Recognizing the independent rights of licensing companies to maintain suits against the infringers is a much-needed shot in the arm for the music industry, and ultimately helps protect the rights of music creators who derive benefit from the collection of revenue by licensing companies, through whichever arrangement or royalty structure they may respectively have entered into with such a company."

Music labels are happy with the judgement. A senior executive at a music label said there were powerful lobbies working in the event and hotel industry to be able to use songs for free.

“This is a welcome move to keep a check on music not being used illegally when rights can be taken for as little as 10,000-15,000 for events that cost up to 1-2 crore," the executive said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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Published: 13 Feb 2024, 06:30 AM IST
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