Reading Sec. 52(1)(za) of the Copyright Act 1957: Report of the Independent Expert appointed by the Delhi High Court in Phonographic Performance Limited v. Lookpart Exhibitions and Events Private Limited
85 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2022
Date Written: October 11, 2022
Sec. 52(1)(za) of the Copyright Act 1957 is an important exception provision under the Indian copyright law. It exempts from copyright infringement liability public performance and communication to the public of certain types of copyrighted works in the course of bonafide religious ceremonies and official ceremonies. The explanation provided with the provision mentions that 'religious ceremony' includes marriage procession and "other social festivities associated with a marriage". But the scope and limitations of this exception provision remained largely untested. Recently, a copyright infringement case was initiated before the Delhi High Court by Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), which issues licenses for public performance of sound recordings assigned to it by copyright holders, against Lookpart Exhibitions and Events Private Limited (Lookpart), which provides event management services for different social events including weddings. PPL argued that Lookpart was using the sound recordings for social events, including weddings, without obtaining any license from PPL. Lookpart relied on the exception provided under Sec. 52(1)(za) of the Copyright Act, 1957 to argue that use of sound recordings during marriage ceremonies or other social events connected with marriage does not amount to infringement of copyright under Sec. 51 of the Copyright Act 1957. As music is an integral part of marriage ceremonies and festivities associated with marriages in India and as the questions of law involved in the matter has enormous implications for creative artists and copyright owners on one hand and users of copyrighted works, including organisations involved in the management of weddings and other social events on the other hand, the court appointed an independent expert on the matter to examine the scope and historical context of Sec. 52(1)(za). This was also important in view of the fact that not much academic deliberations or judicial opinions were available on the provision, in spite of it's socio-cultural significance in the Indian context. This report, prepared by the independent expert appointed by the Court, examines in detail the social, cultural, historical and legal dimensions of Sec. 52(1)(za). The report was submitted to the Court on July 5, 2022.
Keywords: India, Copyright, Exceptions, Music, Religious Ceremonies, Marriage
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