High Court rejects copyright licensors' plea to vacate injunction, asks them to prove ownership
In it's pursuit towards regularizing and streamlining the music licensing regulatory framework, EEMA took copyright licensors PPL, IPRS & Novex to court on 23rd December 2016, based on which the Delhi High Court issued an injunction against the three bodies from granting licenses as registered copyright societies. Shortly after, a plea was filed by the licensors resulting in a hearing on 29th December where the court ruled in favor of EEMA.
For the first time, the PPL, IPRS, Novel and other licensing entities have been forced by the court to prove their ownership of copyright. Moreover, they are required to publish all their assignments, agreements, chain of ownership, etc. online and list it on their website, thereby making it available to all stakeholders.
In reality, EEMA believes that copyright fees should be paid to the rightful creators and owners of copyright in a transparent and reasonable manner so that the rightful owners should receive their due and the rates charged are logical and reasonable. The orders of the court are a big step in this direction.
In continuation of the Writ Petition that EEMA had filed in the court, it had received an Injunction against PPL / IPRS & NOVEX on the 23rd against charging royalty under section 33 (as a registered copyright society). The writ petition was challenged by PPL, IPRS and Novex. The respondents were represented by more than 20 senior Advocates including the previous law minister Dr Ashwani Kumar who made strong arguments to the court requesting that the interim order passed by the court on 23rd be vacated and that EEMA should put in a bank guarantee if its members do not want to take the music license.
The court was convened before the Vacation Judge on 29 December to hear the above matter.
Representing EEMA, Sr Advocate Mr Ramji Srinivasan backed by TMT Law appeared before the court and spoke for over 90 minutes explaining the entire situation to the Hon Judge in great detail. There were several rounds of discussions and cross questioning that took place in the hearing which lasted for over 4 hours in the Delhi High Court yesterday.
EEMA was able to secure the interests of its members and get significant reliefs from the court at the end of the hearing, some of the points that came out were as follows:-
1. The Judge did NOT cancel or vacate the previous order - so the injunction obtained by EEMA against the collection of licence fees under Section 33 ( reserved for copyright societies) by these parties continues. PPL, IPRS and Novex have accepted in court that they are not copyright societies.
2. Therefore copyright licence fees can only be collected under Section 30 which is reserved for owners of the copyright with the clear proviso that when called upon to do so they need to prove their ownership.
3. The court has provided a process for the Licensing in the immediate interim period:
- The event organizer will provide PPL/IPRS/Novex a list of songs that they intend to play BEFORE the event on mail.
- The respondents (PPL / IPRS / Novex) will thereafter need to confirm in writing if they own the tracks mentioning the assignment no/ details on the invoice
- The event organisers will pay the amount before the event as per mutual negotiation with the copyright owner
- The License issuing company/entity shall provide proof by way of legal agreements within 7 days of the invoice, to the satisfaction of the event organiser.
- In case the event organiser is not satisfied by the proof provided, a refund can be claimed through the courts. The money will not be appropriated till such time that the matter is mutually resolved
4. Additionally, PPL and other bodies are required to put up a detailed list on their website listing all songs they own including the names of the authors / producers they have acquired them from along with the dates of validity of the contract - Till 31st December 2016
5. In addition to this, the licensing companies without fail need to also upload the valid legal agreements by which they claim ownership of these tracks by 31st December which will be available for all to see and check.
6. The Court instructed PPL/IPRS/Novex to set up an online payment gateway within 1 month of this hearing wherein we will be able to easily obtain permissions online.
7. IPRS has been given a period of 15 days to complete this entire process
Ankur Kalra, Secretary- Legal, EEMA, stated, "Over the next few weeks EEMA plans to work with its team of legal experts to ensure that the matter is pursued to its logical conclusion and a reasonable tariff structure and transparent process with accountability is put into place. This is a long drawn battle through which the entire music industry, creative industry and event industry will change for the better."
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