Band, Bajaa & ……copyright notice?
As we all know in India, weddings are just not the same without loud music and dance. In October 2021, there was a news report regarding an FIR registered by the Pune City Police against Phonographic Performance Pvt Ltd and Novex Communications Pvt Ltd for extortion, cheating and conspiracy alleging that the field officers of both the organizations used to make organizers of weddings at hotels pay hefty amounts after threatening various provisions under the Copyright Act for not obtaining licenses. This has indeed been a nightmare not just for the wedding parties & families, but for the event organizers as well.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2011 in the case Phonographic Performance Ltd v. State of Punjab and held that a DJ performing at marriage events is a function that is connected to the marriage but does not amount to conducting the marriage, and hence a license is to be obtained for performances of such functions even if it were to take place during a religious ceremony. Thus, the above judgment of the High Court does prima facie appear to go against the spirit of Section 52(1)(za), as a social function relating to an Indian wedding and DJs playing music therein is practically a norm. Thus, the subject matter indeed needs clarification and exploration.
Subsequently, I found notices issued by the Copyright Office here where it was reported in August 2019 that copyright licences are not required for weddings and wedding-related events. The notice clarifies that the use of sound recordings in the course of a religious ceremony including a marriage procession and other social festivities associated with marriage does not amount to copyright infringement and therefore, does not require a copyright license.
In view of the provision contained in Section 52(1) (za) of the Act, read with the explanation thereto, it is evident that the utilization of any sound recording in the course of the religious ceremony including a marriage procession and other social festivities associated with marriage does not amount to infringement of copyrights and hence no license is required to be obtained for the said purpose.