The Bombay High Court, in the case of Wynk Ltd & Anr. v. Tips Industries Ltd., rendered a judgment concerning the application of compulsory licences.

Compulsory Licences under Copyright Law are only Applicable to Play Songs on Radio and TV, not the Internet: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court, in the case of Wynk Ltd & Anr. v. Tips Industries Ltd., recently rendered a judgement concerning the application of compulsory licences with respect to copyrighted songs, specifically highlighting the limitation that such licences can only be invoked for traditional broadcasting platforms, excluding internet-based services.

To elucidate, the court clarified that the provision for compulsory statutory licences as per Section 31D of the Copyright Act is confined to conventional non-internet-dependent broadcasting mediums such as radio, television, and stage performances. Internet-based services, by contrast, do not fall within the purview of this provision.

The court issued this judgment on October 20, 2022, and it was subsequently made available on the High Court's website on September 29, 2023.

In the judgment, a division bench comprising Justices GS Patel and Gauri Godse upheld a prior ruling by a single judge. This ruling affirmed that Wynk Limited, a digital music application owned by Airtel, cannot utilise music owned by Tips Industries without the latter's consent. Wynk had attempted to justify its actions by invoking the statutory broadcasting rights under Section 31D of the Copyright Act.

Under certain circumstances, Section 31D permits individuals to publicly broadcast content, provided they inform the copyright holder (through a notice) and pay the royalties prescribed by the Copyright Appellate Board.

The division bench opined that platforms like radio and television offer content in a manner where users can only tune in to access it without any control over the content. On the other hand, internet-based services like Wynk enable users to download digital audio files without direct purchase, albeit for an additional fee. The bench also noted that making audio files available offline, through downloads, essentially constitutes commercial rental.

In light of these distinctions, the division bench concluded that the statutory licences under Section 31D are not applicable to internet-based services. Their ruling explicitly stated,

"We affirm the finding that statutory licences under Section 31D are restricted to traditional non-internet based radio and television broadcasting and performances alone. Section 31D has no application to any internet-based offering."

The dispute leading to this High Court case originated from failed negotiations between Wynk and Tips Industries in April 2017, concerning the use of copyrighted songs on Wynk's platform.

Following the impasse, Tips demanded that Wynk cease using songs under its copyright, issuing a cease and desist notice effective from May 10, 2017.

Wynk allegedly continued to exploit these songs for an additional ten months without compliance.

In November 2017, Tips sought a royalty payment of ₹2.83 crores for the use of its copyrighted material. In response, Wynk asserted its rights as a 'broadcaster' under Section 31D, unilaterally determining that the owed royalty for the period between September 2016 and November 2017 amounted to only ₹1.41 crores.

Subsequently, Tips initiated legal action in the High Court to prevent Wynk from hosting its songs on the platform. An initial ruling by a single judge favoured Tips, prompting Wynk to appeal before the division bench.
Click Here For Detailed Information

Important Links

Updated On 2 Oct 2023 12:16 PM GMT
LB Desk

LB Desk

Legal Bites Correspondent.

Next Story