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Introduction:

Since 2022, [1]Section 52(1)(za) of the Copyright Act, 1957, has been pivotal in discussions regarding the use of sound recordings at wedding-related events. This section stipulates that the performance or communication of a literary, dramatic, or musical work or sound recording during bona fide religious ceremonies, including wedding processions and associated social festivities, does not constitute copyright infringement. Despite this provision, recent legal developments and court orders have sparked debates and confusion, especially concerning pre and post-wedding functions like Sangeet and Mehndi.

Chronology of Legal Provisions, Judgments, and Notifications.

1. [2]Public Notice (August 27, 2019)

A Notice was issued by the Government of India Ministry of Commerce & Industry Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade Copyright Office. This notice clarified that using sound recordings during bona fide religious ceremonies, including wedding processions, does not amount to copyright infringement. However, it was later vide order Dated May 19, 2022 quashed by the Punjab & Haryana High Court, which argued that the notice could lead to misuse for commercial gain.

 2. [3]Punjab & Haryana High Court Ruling (May 19, 2022)

The court quashed the 2019 public notice issued by the Government of India Ministry of Commerce & Industry Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade Copyright Office, emphasizing that executive interpretations cannot override the Copyright Act or the petitioner’s right to take legal action against infringement. This ruling highlighted the judiciary’s role in ensuring that legislative provisions are not misinterpreted to the detriment of copyright holders.

3. [4]Jaipur Police Commissionerate Circular (December 7, 2022)

This circular echoed the exemption for wedding functions but was stayed by the Rajasthan High Court vide in case of Phonographic Performance Limited versus state of Rajasthan order Dated 23.01.2023 , which deemed the circular could not permit commercial use without licenses. This stay reinforced the need for a higher level of scrutiny when issuing such broad exemptions.

4. Government of India Notification (July 24, 2023).

This notification reaffirmed that marriage processions and associated social festivities fall within the ambit of Section 52(1)(za) and directed copyright societies to refrain from actions contradicting this provision. This notification is a clear indication of the government’s intent to simplify the legal landscape for wedding events.

5. [5]Delhi High Court Interim Order (January 25, 2024)

In the Canvas Communication case, the court’s interim order required the plaintiff to deposit fees for certain wedding events without providing a final judgment on the exemption’s applicability. This order was aimed at temporarily balancing the rights of both parties, acknowledging the ongoing legal debate without setting a precedent.

Key Issues:

1. Do Pre and Post-Wedding Events Require Licenses?

The central and state governments have issued notifications and circulars suggesting that no music license is required for wedding functions, including Sangeet and regional events. Despite ongoing legal challenges, there is no conclusive mandate requiring occasional licenses for pre and post-wedding events. Based on the latest government notifications, it appears that these events are exempt from needing music licenses. This understanding aligns with the legislative intent to facilitate traditional and cultural festivities without imposing undue legal and financial burdens on the organizers.

 2. Application of Section 52(1)(za) of the Copyright Act, 1957

Section 52(1)(za) exempts the playing of sound recordings during weddings and associated events from constituting copyright infringement. The latest notification from the Government of India, dated July 24, 2023, reinforces this exemption. Despite legal challenges, no interim or final court order has overturned this notification, making it applicable and valid. The exemption ensures that cultural and social traditions can be upheld without the constant threat of legal repercussions, promoting a more relaxed and festive environment for weddings.

3. Impact of the Delhi High Court Interim Order (January 25, 2024)

The interim order by the Delhi High Court in the case of Canvas Communication vs. Phonographic Performance Limited, directed the plaintiff to deposit a certain amount for specific wedding events but did not provide a final verdict on the merits. The matter remains sub-judice. Thus, this interim order does not directly impact other cases, and the notification of July 24, 2023, continues to be in effect. The interim nature of the order means that while the court balances the interests of both parties, the broader applicability of Section 52(1)(za) remains intact.

 4. [6]Reliance on the Jaipur Police Commissionerate Circular

A circular issued by the Additional Police Commissioner-I, Jaipur, stated that no music license is required for any wedding functions. However, this was stayed by the Rajasthan High Court via order Dated 23.01.2023 in case of Novex Communications Pvt. Ltd. Versus the State of Rajasthan Nonetheless, the central government’s subsequent notification on July 24, 2023, which is legally superior, supports the same exemption and remains in effect. This precedence suggests that central notifications should take precedence over local circulars, ensuring a uniform application of the law across the country.

Conclusion

Given the public notice and various court rulings, it is clear that the legislative intent is to protect organizers from needing occasional licenses for wedding-associated events. However, staying updated on any further legal developments or court decisions that may impact this exemption is crucial.

The sequence of judgments, notifications, and circulars indicates a consistent governmental stance in favor of exempting wedding-related events from requiring music licenses. Despite ongoing legal challenges, the latest central government notification from July 24, 2023, remains effective, supporting the exemption under Section 52(1)(za) of the Copyright Act, 1957. For organizers and individuals planning wedding events, this means there is currently no legal requirement to obtain occasional licenses for pre and post-wedding functions, provided they stay informed and compliant with any new legal developments.

Notes:-

[1] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/257434/

[2] https://copyright.gov.in/Latest_Notice37.aspx

[3] 2022 SCC ONLINE P&H 1105

[4] https://www.eventfaqs.com/news/ef-18777/jaipur-police-states-no-music-licenses-required-for-weddings-and-regional-events

[5] CS(COMM) 77/224

Author: Devesh Agarwal, a fifth-year student at Apex School of Law, Apex University  Jaipur, pursuing B.A.L.L.B.

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