India: Not A Musical Journey

Last Updated: 1 May 2018
Article by R. K Dewan & Co

The Indian Copyright Act, 1957 has risen to prominence with the advent of entities claiming to be representatives of the music labels, artists etc. by virtue of an agreement assigning them such rights. One such entity is Novex Communication Pvt. Ltd., an entity which claims to be representative of several movie producers, music producers etc. Recently, Novex filed a suit against National Restaurant Association (NRA) before the Delhi High Court for denying the copyrights of Novex.

It was the case of Novex, that NRA had sent letters dated 9th December and 22nd December, 2017 tp Novex denying its copyrights and also stated that Novex should not approach the members of the NRA for granting licenses in sound recordings in which it claims its rights or call upon the members of the NRA to show their licenses for sound recordings played by them. The members of NRA are , Essex Farms Pvt. Ltd., The Embassy Restaurant, Azure Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. and Kapco Banquet and Catering Pvt. Ltd. it was argued by the counsel for NRA that Novex could not consider the abovementioned reason to be cause of action for initiating a suit for copyright infringement. Novex's counsel argued that such an opinion/statement of NRA is directly affecting Novex's business since the members of NRA are not obtaining the licenses from it. The Hon'ble Court enquired whether an entity could be coerced into obtaining sound-recording licenses; the response of Novex's counsel was in negative. It was argued by Novex that NRA's members were playing sound recordings in their premises without the necessary licenses and therefore, it invoked Section 34 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963. Novex's counsel at the same time argued that such declaration (under Section 34) will not compel the members of NRA to obtain license from it.

The Hon'ble judge heard the matter and ruled that while the Copyright Act recognizes the rights of a rights holder to initiate action against a third party for infringement; the Act per se does not envisage a provision wherein a right holder can file a suit against an entity which denies the rights of such right holder. Novex had not made out a case for copyright infringement by NRA; furthermore, the members of NRA claimed that they were banquets and per se did not play any sound recordings and the persons availing the banquet services arranged for the sound recordings to be played. The Court ruled that Novex may have a cause of action against the members of NRA but not against NRA in this case. The suit was dismissed however, Novex could file a suit for infringement against members of NRA if there was such cause of action. This case highlights the fact that many entities holding the rights under copyright act tend to misuse the same for coercing lesser known/small entities into obtaining their license. In this suit there was clearly no cause of action, it was filed with the intent of intimidating NRA and its members into obtaining license from Novex; the fact that NRA denied that Novex had any right to do so was taken as a challenge thereby resulting in this frivolous suit. It remains to be seen if Novex will re-file a suit for infringement of copyright against the members of NRA.

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