In the late 1950s, a few filmmakers in Paris made a departure from the traditional way of making films by adopting pathbreaking approaches to editing, visual style, narrative, and engagement with socio-political themes. This evolution in storytelling has come to be known as the 'French New Wave Cinema' and is considered to be one of the most significant film movements in the history of motion pictures.1 French film director Jean-Luc Godard was a pioneer of this movement and one of his famous quotes not only encapsulates his approach to filmmaking but also highlights the freshness that the French New Wave Cinema brought to world cinema: "a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order."

The trajectory of law is not too dissimilar. However, an approach that is captivating for viewers of cinema can be confounding for followers of law. It is not always easy to trace the genesis, continuation, and culmination of a piece of legal news unless one is reminded of a certain connection in the narrative which can make things clearer. To quote Jean-Luc Godard again, "there is no point in having sharp images when you have fuzzy ideas."

Keeping this in mind, we bring to you a new volume of The Recap, your bi-monthly reminder of all that's important and unmissable from the legal point of view for India's media & entertainment ("M&E") and gaming industries. This volume covers legal updates from the months of March and April 2022 and like its predecessors, is an eclectic mix of lawsuits, legal tussles, orders, and judgments. A crisp Parliament capsule at the end provides insights on what transpired in the final sittings of this year's budget session of Parliament.


Delhi High Court reinstates RMPL as a copyright society for sound recordings while directing the Centre to reconsider PPL's application

In the ongoing legal tussle for recognition as a copyright society for sound recordings, the Delhi High Court ("Delhi HC"), by its order dated April 11, 2022,2 has granted, as a pro tem measure, a stay on the decision of a single judge order to the extent that it disallows Record Music Performance Limited ("RMPL") from functioning as a copyright society. The division bench also directed the central government to reconsider the registration application of Phonographic Performance Limited ("PPL").

Up until 2012, PPL functioned as the sole registered copyright society under the Indian copyright law for public performance rights and broadcasting for sound recordings. The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 introduced new requirements for existing societies such as the obligation to get re-registered in order to continue management on behalf of rightsowners. In compliance with the amendments, PPL filed an application for re-registration as a copyright society in March 2013. Before the application for re-registration could be granted by the government, in May 2014, PPL filed an application for withdrawal of its registration application. In the said application, PPL cited the fact that their original license had expired and that they were no longer desirous of continuing to operate as a copyright society as the grounds for withdrawal. However, the Registrar of Copyrights ("RoC") rejected the withdrawal application on the basis that the interests of rightsholders were involved and hence, PPL could not take a unilateral decision on its status as a copyright society. Subsequent to this refusal, PPL filed a fresh application for re-registration in 2018.

On May 25, 2021, the central government refused to allow PPL's re-registration on the grounds that PPL had withdrawn its application, and that PPL's subsequent application for reregistration in 2018 was belated. Soon thereafter, the RoC accepted RMPL's application for registration as a copyright society for sound recordings. Since the central government is not ordinarily required to register more than one society for the same class of works, in this case, sound recordings, as per Section 33(3)3 of the Copyright Act, 1957, PPL filed two writ petitions before the Delhi HC – (i) challenging central government's order rejecting PPL's re-registration application; and (ii) the order allowing registration of RMPL as a copyright society.

By its common order dated March 9, 2022, the single judge set aside central government's order allowing the registration of RMPL as a copyright society and directed the central government to re-consider the application of PPL for re-registration on merits.4

The single judge observed that there was a sheer nonapplication of mind by the central government in rejecting PPL's application as it had, inter alia, ignored correspondences exchanged between PPL and the central government in 2018. These correspondences had clarified and assured PPL that its application for re-registration would not be rejected. Further, according to the court, the rejection of application was contrary to the principles of natural justice given that the Copyright Rules, 2013 nowhere state that re-registration application can be determined without providing an opportunity to be heard.

In the appeal filed by RMPL, the division bench observed that the central government's conduct of rejecting PPL's withdrawal of application as a copyright society while granting registration to RMPL contributed to the muddle and that the central government, through its hasty actions had gotten into fray both RMPL and PPL. Noting that RMPL has been functioning as a copyright society for close to a year, the division bench stayed the decision of the single judge order to the extent that it disallowed RMPL from functioning as a copyright society. The division bench held that the best way forward in the matter could only be a pro tem measure, directing the central government to consider the application of PPL for re-registration pending the outcome in the appeal. The division bench also clarified that the registration and continuing operations of RMPL should not prejudice the central government's decision on registration of PPL. The matter has been scheduled for further hearing on July 28, 2022.

You can access the Delhi HC single judge order here.
You can access the Delhi HC division bench order here.

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1. Richard Neuper, A History of the French New Wave Cinema, Wisconsin Studies in Film, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2002. Excerpts available here.

2. Recorded Music Performance Ltd. vs. Phonographic Performance Ltd. & Ors. LPA Nos. 243 & 244 (2022)

3. Section 33(3) of the Copyright Act, 1957 reads – "The Central Government may, having regard to the interests of the authors and other owners of rights under this Act, the interest and convenience of the public and in particular of the groups of persons who are most likely to seek licences in respect of the applicants, register such association of persons as a copyright society subject to such conditions as may be prescribed: Provided that the Central Government shall not ordinarily register more than one copyright society to do business in respect of the same class of works."

4. Phonographic Performance Ltd. vs. Recorded Music Performance Ltd. W.P. (C) IPD 41 (2021)

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