As per reports, Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) has moved the Bombay High Court against around 150 five star hotels and New Year party event organizers calling upon them to either procure the requisite public performance license by paying the prescribed royalty or refrain from playing songs from its repertoire. A legal notice was also sent to these entities including inter alia Hotel Ramada, Leela, Courtyard Marriot, JW Marriott, ITC and Lemon Tree hotels, emphasizing the requirement to obtain a license from PPL for authorized use of the songs at upcoming year-end events. As the Court is closed for winter vacation till January 2, 2019, the matter would be taken by a vacation bench due to the urgency involved in the matter.
Last year, PPL had approached both the Bombay and Madras High Court seeking similar reliefs. A division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justice Bharati H. Dangre and Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari vide order dated December 22, 2017 granted an interim injunction restraining the defendant hotels and organizers from publicly performing or communicating the sound recordings works of PPL to the public without obtaining a license from it.
PPL had also approached the Madras High Court last year claiming an imminent threat of copyright infringement of its works by around 50 defendant hotels in the course of their Christmas and New Year programmes. Justice M. Sundar vide Order dated December 22, 2017 directed the defendants to deposit Rs.1.25 lakhs per premises to the credit of the suit on or before December 28, 2017. The order stated that the defendants would be entitled to play songs/sound recordings enlisted in the schedule annexed to the order pursuant to such deposit. Subject to the outcome of the main suit, the aforesaid deposit together with interest would be paid out to the parties in a suitable manner. In the event that the defendants failed to make the deposit as aforesaid, the order stated that an interim injunction would be granted against the defendant hotels, restraining them from playing for public consumption or for consumption of their guest the songs/sound recordings set out in the schedule annexed to the order. Upon appeal, a division bench of Justices M.S. Ramesh and G.R. Swaminathan reduced the deposit amount to Rs. 75000 for those parties who had preferred an appeal.
In its report, PPL has given details of various suits filed by it across the country in the light of ‘year end activities’ under the title ‘Year End Suits’. Apart from the Bombay and Madras High Court, PPL had also filed 2 Year- end Suits covering West Bengal, North East, Jharkhand and Orissa at The Court of the Ld. District Judge, North 24 Parganas at Barasat. Interim Injunction was granted against defendants from using/exploiting the sound recordings in respect of which PPL owns copyright in their programmes without obtaining license from PPL till disposal of the injunction application. The report also notes contempt proceedings would be initiated against the establishments who have infringed the copyright and violated the aforesaid court orders.
PPL’s Indian repertoire consists of as many as 900416 sound recordings. Its international repertoire comprises songs by Sony Music Part 1, Sony Music Part 2, Universal Music/Polygram/Polydor & Warner Music for public performance licensing.
Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA) had in 2016 filed a writ petition against IPRS & PPL & Novex stating that they were carrying on the “business of issuing and granting licenses” in copyrighted works without being registered copyright societies in India and that this was specifically prohibited under Section 33(1). However, the Delhi HC had considered the rationale of the Bombay High Court in Leopold Café & Stores vs Novex Communications Pvt. Ltd. [2014 SCC OnLine Bom 4801], where Justice Patel has interpreted Section 30 and 33(1) to hold that it is legally permissible for companies like Novex to issue licenses and carry on the business of granting licenses on behalf of copyright owners but it must not do so “in its own name” and must clearly represent to the licensees that it is acting “as an agent” on behalf of the owner. Alternatively, it can always act as the “assignee” of the works. PPL owns the sound recording rights as an assignee of such rights and hence demands for an events license for “events where sound recordings are used as one of the features of entertainment eg. for dancing, choreography, syncronised music, etc.” . Since PPL now deals only in public performance and radio licenses, the new year events are a major source of revenue collection for PPL.
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