This article on “Copyright Issues in Wedding Ceremonies in India: Explain with reference to latest Delhi High Court Judgement” was written by Nirmiti Ratnakar, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
The use of music in religious ceremonies, such as weddings and the accompanying Sangeet or Mehndi festivities, has evolved into a custom that is practiced all over the country. Because of this, there has been some contention over the legal protections bestowed upon songwriters, composers, performers, and the owners and producers of recorded musical compositions.
The “fair use” provision of Indian law, which is addressed under Section 52(1) (za) of the Copyright Act, 19571, has already been given a narrow interpretation by the country’s judicial system in “Phonographic Performance vs. the State of Punjab”
This Article covers the Legal provisions and the Latest Case law Titled “Phonographic Performance Limited v. Lookpart exhibitions and events private limited” and the futuristic view with regards to such infringement of Copyrights.
The Legal Rights of People who own Copyright
The Copyright Act of 1957 gives creators of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, as well as filmmakers and sound recordists, a number of rights. This law aims to protect all of these rights by requiring a license before anyone can use someone else’s work.
Section 51 of the Act says that a person is guilty of copyright infringement if they even allow for profit the use of any location for the transmission of a copyrighted work to the public in a way that is an infringement. This rule applies whether or not the communication violates someone’s copyright. Since weddings are usually held in hotels, banquet halls, and business halls, the previous section prima seems to include similar settings, which is concerning since those are the most common places for weddings.
There is, however, a part of the law about copyright that says weddings and other closely related social events are not subject to copyright rules. There is more information about this part of the law below.
Brief Facts & Current Position of ‘Phonographic Performance Limited V. Lookpart Exhibitions and Events Private Limited’
Justice Pratibha Singh of the Delhi High Court has asked Professor Arul George Scaria’s expert opinion in the matter of Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) and Lookpart Exhibitions and Events, Private Limited. The question is whether music played at weddings and social events is excluded under Section 52(1) (za) and fair use.
Phonographic Performance Limited issued rights for the public performance and transmission of sound recordings based on assignments from its member record companies, and the audio recording’s copyright holders.
While Lookpart Exhibitions and Events Pvt. Ltd. organizes events and offers services like wedding DJs. Plaintiff requested a temporary injunction, stating that Defendant should have gotten a license to play music on commercial social occasions. Defendant said it wasn’t needed.
At the first hearing of the injunction application, the court refused to grant PPL an ad-interim injunction and instead gave the parties time to finish their pleadings in exchange for the defendant depositing Rs. 1,000,000 with the High Court Registrar General. The court has asked the expert to research the provision’s historical foundations and Indian and international case law on fair use and fair treatment of sound recordings.
The court heard a petition for intervention under Order I Rule 8A CPC from Novex Communications Pvt. Ltd. and The Indian Performing Right Society Limited (IPRS) on July 6, 2022. The applicant argues that the expected ruling would affect the court’s current case regarding infringement exceptions under Section 52(1) of the Act (za). The applicant may join as a party and has two weeks to file an affidavit.
Dr. Arul George Scaria has joined the hearing in response to the 11 May 2022 ruling. On the next hearing date, counsel may argue the case’s legal issue. The Expert will next virtually assist the Court. The case is set for August 22, 2022.
The outcome of the Case:
Fair usage of sound recordings expert panel to be appointed when deemed necessary.
Legal Provisions & Relevant Conventions as referred to:
In the case of ‘Phonographic Performance Limited V. Lookpart Exhibitions and Events Private Limited’
1] Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 1886 (“Berne Convention”)/ the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, 1995 (“TRIPS Agreement”),/ the WIPO Copyright Treaty (“WCT”)
The current international laws on intellectual property, such as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 1886 (“Berne Convention”), the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, 1995 (“TRIPS Agreement”), the WIPO Copyright Treaty (“WCT”), and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (“WPPT”), give member states enough room to make exceptions and set limits that are just right. These laws include the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary the Indian legislation on intellectual property makes use of the adaptability provided by the framework of international intellectual property law.
It achieves a good balance between promoting innovation and making sure that everyone has adequate access to copyrighted works via the Act’s many exceptions and constraints. This establishes a good balance since it ensures that everyone has enough access to copyrighted works. One of these exemptions may be found in the Act’s Section 52(1) (za). It is covered by international copyright law treaties that allow for “implied exclusions,” “small exceptions,” and “minor reservations.”
In order to ensure that member states’ legal systems are in accordance with the terms of the TRIPS Agreement, such nations’ governing documents are required to be submitted to the TRIPS Council for examination. The copyright laws of India have been submitted, however, none of the member states has made any comments about S. 52. (1). (za). This might also be seen as an indication that all of the countries that are members of the WTO concur that this regulation is in accordance with the TRIPS Agreement as well as the Berne Convention.
2] Section 52 of the Copyright Act of 1957: The 1957 Copyright Act does not apply to weddings and marriages.
Section 52 of the Copyright Act of 1957 describes and gives a list of actions that do not violate intellectual property rights. Section 52(1) (za) of the Act specifically says that religious ceremonies, such as a wedding procession and other social events related to a wedding, do not need a license, even if a literary, dramatic, or musical work is performed or a sound recording is shared with the public during the event. Even if the work or recording is shared with the public, this is still the case.
According to an explanation clause in the section before, the phrase above refers to “religious ceremonies that include a marriage procession and other social events related to a marriage.” Since the sentence above also says “other social festivals associated with a marriage,” the exemption could be taken to mean social events like engagements/rokas, wedding tilaks, and other similar celebrations.
3] Rule 31 of the Delhi High Court’s Intellectual Property Rules, 2021, states “Panel of Experts”
In cases involving intellectual property rights, the court may request the help of an expert (or experts), who may be persons or organizations. The court isn’t had to adopt the expert’s proposal, but it will be considered.
- The IPD may retain a panel of experts to assist the Court, which will be reviewed frequently. The IPD decides on expert pay. Before being selected, the expert must sign a statement indicating he or she has no conflicts of interest and would be fair and objective.
- The court may seek specialists if it considers it essential, taking into consideration the nature of the case and the gravity of the situation. Given the gravity of the forthcoming verdict, the Court believes an expert’s view would be useful. The court will appoint.
It would be fascinating to see whether the clauses can be interpreted to balance public and stakeholder interests, particularly in the Indian context.
Having a subject matter expert as an assistant to the Hon’ble Court is vital for efficient adjudication and to guarantee enough technical and subject matter expertise.
Section 52(1)(k) removes hotels and other commercial facilities from fair usage, which is a crucial problem. The issue is whether Section 52 (1) (za) music falls within this limitation or is exempt if utilized for a legitimately authentic religious service. This question is briefly covered in “does playing music at weddings and religious events violate copyright”.
- Thapliyal, N. (2022) Rights of copyright owners must be balanced with society’s right to use music in marriage ceremonies: Expert to Delhi High Court, Live Law. Live Law. Available at: https://www.livelaw.in/amp/news-updates/rights-copyright-owners-society-right-music-marriage-ceremonies-expert-delhi-high-court-211690 (Accessed: October 19, 2022).
- S.M. et al. (2022) Indian wedding ceremonies and copyright issues, iPleaders. Available at: https://blog.ipleaders.in/indian-wedding-ceremonies-and-copyright-issues/ (Accessed: October 19, 2022).
- Rana, V. (2022) Fair use of music in marriage ceremonies in larger public interest: Expert opinion sought by Delhi High Court – Copyright – India, Fair Use Of Music In Marriage Ceremonies In Larger Public Interest: Expert Opinion Sought By Delhi High Court – Copyright – India. S.S. Rana & Co. Advocates. Available at: https://www.mondaq.com/india/copyright/1206726/fair-use-of-music-in-marriage-ceremonies-in-larger-public-interest-expert-opinion-sought-by-delhi-high-court (Accessed: October 19, 2022).