In an unusual ongoing case of Phonographic Performance Ltd. v. Esteem Services, a copyright infringement suit was filed by the Plaintiff, Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), before the Delhi High Court, against the Defendant, Esteem Services, on an apprehension that the defendant intended to play sound recordings under the plaintiff’s copyright without obtaining the necessary license. The plaintiff sought an ex parte interim injunction order to prevent the potential infringement.
The plaintiff filed a suit of infringement of copyright on the apprehension that the defendant intends to play sound recordings that form a part of the collection of the plaintiff, in which the plaintiff holds the copyright without obtaining a license from the plaintiff. The alleged infringement was anticipated during a program scheduled for October 27, 2023, at the restaurant “Lutyens” in New Delhi. The plaintiff contended that the Defendant, Esteem Services, may exploit the copyrighted recordings at any time before the specified event.
The defendant contended that there are various associations, such as DJ Light & Sound Association Chandigarh, 3193, Sector-19D, Chandigarh, who are misinforming the public that licences need not be taken from the copyright holders of such recordings on the ground that they are not registered copyright societies. Against this submission, the Court underscored that this specific contention stood considered and rejected by the Court vide an order dated December 17, 2021, in CS (COMM) 671/2021 Phonographic Performance Limited v. Canvas Communication, in which the Court had categorically held that obtaining of a licence from the owner of copyright in recordings which are proposed to be played is mandatory, irrespective of whether the owner is, or is not a copyright society.
The Court, vide its order dated October 10, 2023, commented that no association has any authority or right to misinform the public and exhort them not to conform with Court orders. The Court showed its disapproval of the propaganda by such DJ Associations, which misleads persons who want to play such recordings into believing that no license needs to be taken from the copyright owner in the recordings. The Court had accordingly directed that DJ Light & Sound Association Chandigarh, 3193, Sector-19D, Chandigarh, be additionally impleaded in the matter as Defendant 2. The plaintiff was also permitted to amend the plaint to incorporate specific allegations against the said association.
On November 11, 2023, the Court noted that despite the directions passed by the Court on October 11, 2023, against Defendant No. 2, instead of taking remedial steps to correct their mistakes, Defendant No. 2 organised a candle march on October 26, 2023, protesting against the plaintiff and continued to mislead the public into believing that no license is required to be acquired from the plaintiff before playing copyrighted recordings in public.
Consequently, the Court vide its order dated November 11, 2023, injuncted Defendant no. 2, DJ Light & Sound Association, from propagating the message that no license needs to be taken from Plaintiff, Phonographic Performance Limited, before playing any recordings in which Phonographic Performance Limited holds copyright.
The Court concluded by stating that if Defendant No. 2 does not stop propagating wrongful messages to the public, strict action will be taken against them.
The final view is yet to be taken by the Court in the future hearing(s) in this case.
The above case, before the Delhi High Court involving Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) and Esteem Services, highlights the critical issue of copyright infringement within the realm of music licensing. The plaintiff sought legal recourse to prevent potential copyright violation, emphasising the necessity of obtaining proper licenses for playing copyrighted recordings. The Court completely rejected the argument that since the plaintiff is not a registered Copyright Society, no license was required to be secured from the same.
The Court’s strong disapproval of DJ Light & Sound Association Chandigarh’s action of spreading misinformation and implicating it as a Defendant in this case shows the judiciary’s unwavering commitment to going the extra mile to safeguard the rights of IP holders. This case not only safeguards the interests of copyright owners like PPL but also establishes a vital precedent for respecting intellectual property rights within music licensing.
Authors: Manisha Singh and Shubhankar Sushil Sharma
First published by Lexology Here