Copyright is referred to as the ‘Cinderella of Intellectual Property Law’ as it plays a very important role in the IP regime. Copyright protects authors, composers and other artists against unauthorized reproduction of their work. Copyrights are also such personal intangible property that can be transferred through various assignment agreements from one person to the other. While the Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957 defines the exact meaning of the term “COPYRIGHT” whereas Sections 18, 19 and 19A of the Copyright Act, 1957 govern any assignment of copyrights and give every copyright holder the right to transfer his copyright to an assignee by means of various assignment agreements.
Recently, Saga Music Private Limited, a leading indie music label (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Plaintiff’) filed a copyright suit seeking a permanent injunction against a production house – Karma Entertainment (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Defendant’) for copyright infringement of Sound Recordings/Songs titled “Black Suit” and “Suit Lahore Da” – Saga Music Private Limited vs. Karma Entertainment, [CS(COMM) 174/2022].
BACKDROP – FLASHBACK TO REASONS BEHIND THE SUIT
- In the year 2019, Plaintiff entered into two Content Assignment Agreements with Defendant for the assignment of Music Tracks/Songs/Sound Recordings titled “Black Suit” and “Suit Lahore Da”. The scope of the Agreements was as follows:
- Plaintiff will have the exclusive right to license a part or all of the copyright in the Sound Recordings titled “Black Suit” and “Suit Lahore Da”;
- Plaintiff will have exclusive right to monetize in respect of the exploitation of the Sound Recordings titled “Black Suit” and “Suit Lahore Da”;
- Plaintiff will have the exclusive right to sue for infringement of any of these rights.
- The Agreement also categorically mentions the timeline for delivery of the following the songs titled “Black Suit” and “Suit Lahore Da”
- Audio Masters in Wave format, 48KHZ & 44KHZ;
- Video Masters in PRO RES 422 HQ MOV format [Clean + Credits];
- On-Location Photoshoot & making & footage of videos;
- Audio Minus Track, 16 Tracks of the Songs; and
- Censor certificates of songs, song promos, Teasers etc. of the Songs
- Plaintiff had also paid a certain amount as advance royalty in respect of subject Songs/Sound Recordings
- It is noteworthy that by virtue of said Content Assignment Agreements Plaintiff had become the owner of copyright in the subject songs as per Sections 14, 18 and 19 of Copyright Act, 1957.
- Plaintiff claims that Defendant has failed to, deliver the content material to Plaintiff in accordance with the Content Assignment Agreements even after subsequently sent reminders for pending delivery by Plaintiff.
- Further, the Plaintiff claims that the Defendant has been approaching several other music labels, including the Plaintiff’s rivals and competitors in the industry, with copies of the Audio Clips of the songs “Black Suit” and “Suit Lahore Da” which are now owned by the Plaintiff, offering the same for sale and/or license resulting in imminent threat of unauthorized and illegal copies of the Plaintiff’s copyrighted songs. Hence, finding no other efficacious remedy left to be available, Plaintiff approached the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi.
Let us now understand what exactly is a Content Assignment Agreement that made the Plaintiff the exclusive copyright owner of the songs “Black Suit” and “Suit Lahore Da”
CONTENT ASSIGNMENT AGREEMENTS
A Content Assignment Agreement is a contractual Agreement that Assigns or transfers Intellectual Property rights of particular “content” from one person or entity to another. This type of agreement is commonly used to transfer rights held in intangible property such as Copyright and Trademarks etc. A Content Assignment Agreement is also a legal record that certifies the transfer of ownership of Intellectual Property rights.
BALANCE OF CONVENIENCE
As it appears that the balance of convenience is in Favour of the Plaintiff in this matter because according to Section 19 of the Copyright Act, 1957 any deed of assignment shall specify the ‘rights assigned’, the duration as well as the territorial extent of the said assignment, and the royalty payable if any. Plaintiff (as claimed in plaint submitted) had already paid the advance royalty for the subject’s sound recordings/songs while the scope of the Content assignment agreements was well defined. It’s the Defendant who failed to sufficiently justify the Object and Scope of the said agreement hence giving the impression of the breach of said Content Assignment Agreements amounting to irreparable loss to Plaintiff.
COURT’S APPROACH SO FAR
The Hon’ble High Court was of the view that Plaintiff has established a prima facie case in its favour and accordingly issued an ex-parte ad-interim injunction, restraining Defendant from making a copy or substantially similar copy of Plaintiff’s copyrighted Sound Recordings/Songs titled “Black Suit” and “Suit Lahore Da”, from selling, licensing, or offering for sale or licensing to third parties or from communicating the songs to the public in any manner.
While with so much a legal hype to songs “Black Suit” and “Suit Lahore Da”, we surely can’t wait to listen to them, it would be even more overwhelming to see the High Court’s final verdict in this matter as copyright encompasses a bundle of rights, one of which is a ‘moral right’. This constitutes certain specific rights that the author of an original literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work and the director of a film enjoy in their creation. Well, this concept is still not explored by the Court which may give merits to the Defendant.