NEW DELHI: In a judgement that can have grave consequences, the Delhi High Court has held that use of a few words from a song or a few lines from a lyric does not amount to infringement of copyright.
Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Manmohan Singh said this amounts to "fair use" and is at the same time "de minimus", which means very little usage compared to the whole programme.
The judgement was delivered in a case filed by Yash Raj Films alleging infringement of copyright by India TV. Five words of the song ‘Kajrare, mera chain vain sab ujhda‘, had been used in a promo for a consumer affairs programme telecast on India TV, and Vasundhara Das had sung a portion of the song ‘Salaam Namaste‘ in an hour-long programme ‘India Beats‘ on India TV, where the singer’s life sketch was being shown.
India TV MD and CEO Ritu Dhawan said, “The ruling itself is a victory for the channel and media houses alike and places their right of "Fair Use at the forefront.”
Senior counsel Prathiba Singh who appeared for India TV said: "The court has protected the rights of artistes and creators on the one hand and news channels on the other. The court has held that if every form of usage of even small bits is infringement then creativity would be stultified."
In a similar development, the high courts in Mumbai and Delhi have held that performance royalty is not payable on a mere broadcast of original sound recordings by FM radio broadcasters. Following these judgements, Reliance Broadcast obtained a legal opinion which backs the judgements and accordingly, has stopped paying performance royalties.
The judgements were delivered by the Bombay High Court in the case of Indian performing Right Society (IPRS) v/s Music Broadcast Private Ltd and by the Delhi High Court in the case of IPRS v/s Aditya Pandey. IPRS is a representative body of owners of music – the composers, lyricists and the publishers of music and has been collecting royalties for commercial usage of music.
Reliance Broadcast, in its first quarter results statement, said it has not provided for Rs 34.66 million of performance royalty for the year ended 31 March 2012. It has also written back royalties paid in earlier years amounting to Rs 211.31 million.
Reliance Broadcast has gone a step ahead and filed declaratory suits in the high courts of Mumbai and Delhi and also applications for refund of performance royalty before the Copyright Board from the respective rights holders/copyright societies.