Punjab and Haryana High Court Quashes the notice which allowed playing songs during weddings without Copyright Owner’s licence

In a recent judgement of the case Novex Communications Private limited V. Union Of India & Anr. Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed a public notice issued by the Registrar of Copyrights which permitted sound recordings to be played in a religious place or in a wedding ceremony without obtaining licence from the copyright owner.

The single judge Justice Raj MMoha singh ruled that this exemption violates the rights of the copyright owner under the Copyright Act.

The court held that “The public notice seeks to impinge upon the fundamental rights and protections granted by the Constitution of India and is violative of Articles 13 and 14 of the Constitution. The protections granted by the Copyright Act are sought to be abridged by the public notice which is unsustainable,".

In this particular case writ petition was filed by the petitioner (Novex Communications Private Limited) that the company owning a large number of copyrights of a sound receding of well known labels such as Zee music, Eros, Tips etc.

The notice dated August 27, 2019, issued by the Registrar of Imprints( replier) interpreted Section 52( 1) za of the Copyright Act to mean that utilisation of any sound recording during religious form or marriage form would not amount to violation of brand and, hence, no licence would be needed to play similar songs during similar events.

Petitioner approached the Hon’ble High court saying that such an interpretation falls under judicial domain and is subjected to amendment. It was further contended that respondent was not having jurisdiction upon such legislative tasks.

The court therefore have relied upon various jufgemegets i.e. Phonographic Performance Limited V. State of Punjab and check whether sound recordings can be played at social functions or not.

The single jge observed that section 52 of the Copyright Act exempts live performances of such work when there is no commercial purpose and is used for any educational, religious or charitable purpose.

Now the question arises before the court that whether section 52(1) is to be followed for exemption of these categories?

There cannot be general exceptions or marriages as such under the act. If there is no commercial purpose of that sound recording playing in the wedding function then that sound recording can be played in that wedding function.

It was a future note that the public notice under challenge could be used by the notorious elements to play sound recordings for commercial purposes in commercial spaces.

Punjab and Haryana High Court Quashes the notice which allowed playing songs during weddings without Copyright Owner’s licence

Further the court said that the Registrar has no authority to issue such notice since he does not have any authority provided under the Copyright Act to clarify or interpret the applicability of law.

The impugned public notice was also violative of the doctrine of separation of power as an attempt had been made by respondent No.2 to usurp the legislative power of enactment and judicial power of interpretation," the Court said.

Moreover, the ilegal playing f sngs in social functions were infringing the right of the Petitioner according to Artcle 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution, tHe court said while quashing the order.

Therefore Single-judge Justice Raj Mohan Singh ruled that the notice granting such a general exemption violates the protections granted to copyright owners under the Copyright Act.