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13 October 2017

Copyrights - Sound recording rights different from literary or musical rights

A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court has dismissed the appeal filed against the Single Judge Order granting an interim injunction, restraining the defendants (Trimurti Films Pvt. Ltd)  from releasing the film “Baadshaho” with the song “Keh Doon Tumhe”. Plaintiff(Cassettes Industries Pvt. Ltd) had filed a suit for copyright infringement against producers of the said movie for infringing their copyright in the mentioned song which was originally part of the hit Hindi film produced by Plaintiff in 1975.

In response to the allegation of copying of the song, the defendants stated that the song in their film “Baadshaho” is slightly modified and hence there is no infringement. It was also asserted that by virtue of the plaintiff’s agreement with another company, the copyright in the same was now vested with that company and since the defendants(Trimurti Films Pvt. Ltd) had obtained it from them, the defendants were not infringing the plaintiff’s copyright.

The Single Judge Bench however, after hearing the two songs in court, noted that the lyrics were the same and that the music was similar. After perusing the agreement between the Plaintiffs and the other company, it was observed that the agreement only sold the rights in the song for the purpose of making and selling gramophone records with plaintiff's artistic work in the plaintiff’s earlier motion picture and to exploit sound track of said movie.

It was held that the agreement could at the most be termed as sound recording rights which were distinct from literary or musical rights. This would not permit the other company to allow defendants to use the lyrics and musical or score or song in the film ‘Baadshaho’.

The Division Bench also agreed with the reasoning and opined that when the sound recording rights are obtained, the arrangement in that regard would not take into its fold or subsume the original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work.

It was held that if these works are distinctly defined and understood by law (Copyright Act), then the copyright must subsist distinctly in them, as it cannot be that they are defined and recognized as different categories or classes of works, but the copyright therein is one and the same.