Mrs. Sellappapa Keeran v. S. Vijayaraghavan & Anr
The Plaintiff, Mrs. Sellappapa Keeran, wife of late Pulavar Keeran, a famous religious Hindu preacher and historian, sought a declaration from the Madras High Court that she was the rightful owner of the copyright of her husband’s works. She also filed for an injunction against the Defendants, asking them to surrender all master tapes containing original recordings of the speeches, lectures and discourses and in any other form like cassettes or CDs. Pulavar Keeran had met Defendant No. 1., S. Vijayaraghavan, who was the proprietor of Vani Recording Co., a small audio cassette shop in 1987, and decided to record his concerts in the form of 38 cassettes between 1987 and 1990 and sell them so they could be listened to at people’s convenience. He allowed Defendant No. 1 to promote the cassettes in exchange for incurring the expenses involved in making the recordings. Defendant No. 1 also sold certain cassettes through a dealer, along with a temporary mutually beneficial agreement based on the market and the number of copies sold.
The Plaintiff claimed that her husband did permit any further reproduction after a formal agreement laying down the profit-sharing ratio was in place. He did not part with the copyright, and was not paid by Defendant No. 1 for his recordings. He suffered a brain hemorrhage in 1990, so he only completed recording 12 of his works. The Plaintiff entrusted the master tapes with Defendant No. 1 based on his assurance that he would keep it safe and maintain them well in his shop, but intended to retain the copyright of her husband’s works. S. Vijayaraghavan commercially exploited the recorded works, against the Plaintiff’s wishes, while she was abroad. The Plaintiff’s counsel stated that as per Section 2(d) and Section 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957, the Plaintiff would be the rightful copyright owner as she was a legal heir, and Defendant No. 1 did not assist in the capacity of a producer.
The counsel for the Defendants claimed that the sound recordings were the work of a producer, which in this case was Defendant No. 1. They also claimed that the present suit was filed back in 2004, and was thus barred by limitation as it was 13 years after the preacher’s death in 1990. The Court stated that this argument did not hold water, because the copyright was valid till 1/1/1991, i.e. 60 years from beginning of the next calendar year after the death of Pulavar Keeran. The Court analysed Section 2(d), 13, 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957 and Section 2 of the Berne Convention. The Court held that the copyright holder would be the Plaintiff, and granted a permanent injunction against the Defendants, restraining them from using, selling, distributing, broadcasting as a whole or exploiting the literary works in isolation (transcript of speeches) through any media.
Citation: Mrs. Sellappapa Keeran v. S. Vijayaraghavan & Anr., Decided by The Madras High Court on 1st September, 2021, last visited on 11th October, 2021.
Smt. Shumita Deb v. Saregama India Ltd. and Anr.
Smt. Shumita Deb, the Plaintiff, daughter of late singer, Probodh Chandra Dey, popularly known as Manna Dey filed a suit against Saregama India Ltd. (Defendant No. 1) and Sony DADC Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd. (Defendant No. 2) seeking perpetual and mandatory injunction, and damages for infringement of copyright of 14 songs sung by her father. The Plaintiff claimed that Manna Dey held copyright over the 14 songs in the music album, which the Defendant No. 1 infringed by wrongfully reproducing, manufacturing, marketing and distributing as the CD album with the infringing songs.
The Defendant No. 1 proved before the Court that Manna Dey only sang the 14 songs, out of which he composed 2 songs. Manna Dey assigned the rights to those 2 songs to the Defendant No. 1 by an agreement to that effect and received the royalties. Out of 14, 4 songs were part of a cinematographic film, making the producer the copyright owner. The Defendant No. 2 manufactured and distributed the CD albums through an exclusive licensing agreement between the Defendants, for songs/musical works that were owned by Defendant No. 1.
The Court concluded that Manna Dey was not the author of the songs, being the singer, by virtue of S.2(d)(ii) of the Copyright Act. The rights to these songs lay with the Defendants, as they owned the original plate from which the record was made. The Court denied the claim of distortion of songs u/S. 57, as well as rejected any claims to damages and dismissed the suit.
Citation: Smt. Shumita Deb v. Saregama India Ltd., decided on 20th December 2021, in the Court of City Civil Judge, Bengaluru City, available here, last visited on 4 January, 2022.
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