Wedding Season: Bliss or Blues for IP Holders?

Wedding Season: Bliss or Blues for IP Holders?India is a never-ending tale of wedding seasons accompanied by innumerable copyright conflicts. The Delhi High Court’s order in Canvas Communication vs. Phonographic Performance Limited has once again resumed the debate on the exemption clause under section 52(1)(za) of the Copyright Act, 1957.

The plaintiff filed an application under Order XXXIX Rule 1 and 2 as part of the suit, seeking a declaration that the defendant’s sound recordings, as part of its wedding-related events, do not amount to infringement of the defendant’s copyright.

The plaintiff is an event management company run by its sole proprietor, Mr. Neeraj Kumar, who is in the business of organising wedding events. The plaintiff stated about one of the weddings, organised in the month of February 2024, accompanied by three functions, which include: (i) The Pre-Wedding Sangeet, (ii) The Marriage Solemnization Ceremony, and (iii) The Post-Wedding Cocktail Party. The plaintiff applied for a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the defendant, allowing it to play various popular songs, which are repertoire of the defendant, in the said ceremonies, to which the defendant refused. In lieu of this, the plaintiff approached the Court, requesting a decree of declaration for the use of the sound recordings.

The plaintiff relied on the public notice dated July 24th, 2023, by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), which clearly stated that the word ‘religious ceremony’ mentioned in the relevant provision includes a “marriage procession and other social festivities associated with the marriage”, and that playing of music in wedding functions would not amount to copyright infringement as the same is exempted under Section 52(1)(za) of the Copyright Act. Furthermore, according to the plaintiff, the pre-and post-wedding functions, which include the “Cocktail Party” and “Sangeet”, will also be covered under the notification.

The defendant, in its defence, by referring to the judgment in Novex Communications Private Limited v. Union of India and Anr, passed by the Single Judge of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, argued that the said order had earlier quashed an exactly a similar 2019 notice of the Copyright Board as that present one. The defendant further argued that the 2023 notification had been replicated again in the same language and that the Petitioner, in the above case, had filed a contempt against the Government. The defendant argued that the exception only extends to bona fide religious ceremonies, such as the actual solemnisation of marriage, and not the ceremonies associated with the wedding, the sangeet ceremony, and the cocktail party the plaintiff wants to hold on the commercial premises. The plaintiff submitted that the notification covers all the attendant functions as well, including the two other functions.

After hearing both sides, the Court did not decide the case on its merit but rather directed the plaintiff to deposit Rs. 1 lac (Rs. 50,000 for each two events as the license fee) with the defendant for playing the defendant’s repertoire of songs to balance the equities, subject to final adjudication in the suit. On the contrary, the defendant submitted that they would return the deposit with interest to the plaintiff if the plaintiff succeeds in the suit.


The Court’s interim order underscores the complexities surrounding the use of copyrighted music in wedding-related events. While the DPIIT’s notice aimed to clarify exemptions, the interpretation and application of these exemptions remain contentious, particularly when commercial interests are involved.

This case highlights the need for more precise guidelines and potential legislative adjustments to address the use of copyrighted material in cultural and social contexts. As wedding celebrations continue to evolve, the interplay between tradition and intellectual property rights will likely remain a focal point of legal scrutiny. The outcome of this case could influence how copyright laws are applied to social and cultural events, prompting a re-evaluation of the current exemption.

Authors: Manisha Singh and Shubhankar Sushil Sharma

First Published by: Lexology here