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India: Sound recording copyright limited in scope

The Division Bench of the Bombay High Court recently upheld the order of the single judge of the Bombay High Court whereby the single judge issued an interim injunction in favour of the plaintiff (Trimurti Films Pvt Ltd) and against the defendants (Super Cassettes Industries Pvt Ltd & Ors) and restrained the defendants from releasing their Bollywood film "Baadshaho" with a remixed version of the original song "Keh Doon Tumhe". The original song was from an old and famous Bollywood movie "Deewar" produced by the plaintiff.

The defendants asserted that the plaintiff had granted Polydor of India Limited (Polydor; now called Universal Music India Pvt Ltd) on January 2 1974 the right to make and sell gramophone records of the songs of the film "Deewar". It was further asserted that by an agreement of July 10 2017, the defendants acquired an absolute assignment of the sound recording rights of the film "Deewar" from Universal and were thus entitled to make remixed versions of the original song "Keh Doon Tumhe".

The single judge of the Bombay High Court referred to Section 13(4) of the Copyright Act, 1957 and held that the rights acquired by Universal from the plaintiff were only the sound recording rights which are distinct from the underlying literary or musical rights. The single judge held that the said agreement cannot be interpreted to mean that Universal was entitled to the rights over the lyrics and/or the music of the song "Keh Doon Tumhe" and consequently the defendants were also not entitled to the same.

The defendants approached the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court on appeal. The Division Bench concurred with the reasoning of the single judge and upheld the interim injunction order granted by the single judge, and dismissed the appeal. Although this area of law has been visited quite often by courts, it is still interesting to note that such issues continue to create difficulties at the practical level.

R Parthasarathy

Lakshmi Kumaran & Sridharan
B6/10 Safdarjung Enclave
New Delhi 110029, India
Tel: +91 11 41299800
Fax:91 11 41299899

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