In a blow to three Indian music copyright collection societies, the Delhi High Court has restrained them from granting any such licence till April 24th 2017. 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 provides that only registered societies can grant licences in respect of copyrighted work(s).
In the order issued on the 23rd December the court ruled:
“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 listed the matter for a further hearing on April 24th.
In July 2015 The Delhi Organisers and Artists Society and the Mumbai based Organisers and Artists Welfare Trust said that the IPRS and PPL had been de-registered after the amendment to the Copyright Act in 2012 when it was laid down that any organisation had to re-apply for registration, which would be valid for five years. They also complained that IPRS had failed to make royalty payments to artistes.
The Event and Entertainment Management Association of India (EEMA) had filed a enquiry with the court, and EEMA said that iy had been working towards regularising and streamlining the music licensing regulatory framework for many years now. It has been engaged in a "long, slow but constant legal battle against the exploitation by the so called ‘Registered Copyright Societies’ who charge a ‘royalty’ for music played out at events." EEMA argued before the court that PPL and IPRS's registrations had lapsed in June 2013, and these had not been renewed, whilst Novex has never been registered as a copyright society.
Ankur Kalra, Secretary (Legal), EEMA, said, “The music licensing lobby (PPL / IPRS / Novex) has been engaged in illegal issuance of licences for over two years now and flouts all laws by openly threatening venues to stop events unless the licence is procured. Venues in turn pressurise event managers to do the same who despite knowing that it is wrong are forced to procure these licences to safeguard their events. The music licensing ‘societies’ today are private limited companies operating purely for profit and very little or no money actually reaches the artists. It has become an organised syndicate and when we highlighted the same to the court we got an injunction almost immediately. We will take this battle forward and ensure that all event managers, venues and police departments are educated on this matter.”
Abhishek Malhotra, Legal Counsel, EEMA, said, “The music industry has been going through a flux. While the law clearly provides that issue and grant of licences can be done only through a registered copyright society, these three entities have been effectively carrying on this business in violation of the clear legal provisions. This order as well as the government of India’s endorsement of the issues facing the users of music is a welcome development.”
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”. The Centre and the Copyright Office submitted that they have received complaints that PPL and IPRS were violating the Act and had already initiated an enquiry.