Why you [still] may not get to listen to your favourite music in Maharashtra pubs and restaurants this New Year’s Eve [Read Bombay HC order]
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Why you [still] may not get to listen to your favourite music in Maharashtra pubs and restaurants this New Year’s Eve [Read Bombay HC order]

Omkar Gokhale

People celebrating New Year’s Eve in hotels, restaurants and pubs across Maharashtra may not get to dance to their favourite songs, with the Bombay High Court effectively holding that popular film and non-film songs cannot be played without due permission.

In doing so, a Single Bench of Justice R D Dhanuka continued an interim relief sought by Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), a performing rights organisation, thereby restraining several hotels including Hotel Hilton and other pubs, restaurants in the State from playing recordings of popular film and non-film music under the control of PPL.

Effectively, the said sound recordings cannot be used without license or relevant copyright permissions from PPL.

The plaintiff company PPL claimed to be the licensee of sound recordings for non-physical use, which includes all forms of exploitation of copyrights such as public performance in hotels, restaurants and also radio and TV broadcasting.

It was claimed by the plaintiff that its repertoire consists of more than 20 lakh recordings including film and non-film genres in Hindi and other regional languages.

As per the PPL website, it owns and controls the Public Performance rights of over 340 music labels, with more than 3 million international and domestic sound recordings. It also claimed that it has acquired the rights from various music labels through exclusive assignment deed and by these deeds, PPL becomes the owner of the sound recordings.

It represents largest record labels, including Aditya Music, Lahari Music, Sony Music Entertainment, T-Series, Universal Music and Warner Music.

In view of this, it was argued that plaintiff organisation is authorised to grant license for use of such recordings and claimed that such rights are exclusive to it. Defendants, whenever they require to use said recordings, should seek prior permission and can perform the same on issuance of a license in their favour, argued PPL.

However, the defendant hotels and restaurants opposed the plea and argued that an earlier interim order of the High Court, which was to operate during the pendency of appeals, has given liberty to the Court to vacate or vary the injunction after considering an appropriate application.

In view of this, Justice Dhanuka noted that a Division Bench in its order passed on December 22, 2017 had granted ad-interim injunction. With this, the Court had restrained defendants from publicly performing the sound recordings of the plaintiff in public, without license from the plaintiff.

Moreover, the Court had earlier recorded that such pleas against hotels, restaurants and pubs are filed at the end of every year and do not reach finality.

In its order from December last year on several pleas filed by PPL, the Vacation Bench presided by Justice Bharati Harish Dangre had noted,

“What is remarkably noticed by this Court is that at the end of every year, this peculiar litigation lands up in the Court and hurriedly, the reliefs are sought. The orders which have been placed on record are of the three consecutive years and are in the nature of ad-interim orders, but the proceedings did not ever reach finality.”

In light of the previous orders of the High Court, Justice Dhanuka said that he does not require to pass a separate interim order and clarified that no further extension will be given to parties and that the matter will be heard next for final disposal.

It was held,

“In view of the order passed by the Division Bench and in view of the fact that there is ad-interim order already granted by the Division Bench which is in force during the pendency of the appeals, in my view, there no need to pass any further ad-interim order in these matters at this stage.”

Moreover, the Court directed the defendants to file an affidavit in reply within four weeks from service of the proceedings and asked plaintiff to file a rejoinder within two weeks thereafter.

The Court will hear the matter next on January 28, 2020.

Senior Counsel Kevic Setalvad along with advocates Amogh Singh, Lillian Dass, Hero Ramchandani and D P Singh appeared for applicant PPL. Defendants hotels and restaurants were represented led by advocate Anil Kumar Singh.

In another order passed last week, the Bombay High Court had issued injunctions against several hotels and pubs in the state restricting them from playing Bollywood music, licenses of which are vested with one Novex Communications.

It was claimed by the Novex Communications that it is an authorised firm for Zee Music Company, Yash Raj Films (YRF), Eros International Media Ltd among others.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice SC Gupte accepted claims by Novex and passed an interim order restraining the hotels from using the said music without license.

Advocates Rashmin Khandekar, Ravina Rajpal instructed by Dua Associates appeared for Novex, whereas defendants were represented by advocates Manish Pandya, Mittal Munoth instructed by Kokada & Associate.

Read the order in Phonographic Performance Ltd:

Phonographic Performance Ltd v Hotel Hilton and Others- Bombay HC.pdf
Preview

Read the order in Novex Communications:

Novex Communications v Marriot Hotels India Pvt Ltd- Bombay HC.pdf
Preview
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