New Delhi: The Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has issued a public notice warning copyright societies against collecting fees for the performance of literary, dramatic, musical, or similar recordings at official or religious ceremonies, including weddings. The notice was prompted by numerous complaints received by the DPIIT regarding the collection of royalties by copyright societies for musical performances.
According to the Copyright Act of 1957, the performance of a literary, dramatic, or musical work or the communication of such works to the public during bona fide religious ceremonies or official ceremonies conducted by the central government, state government, or any local authority does not constitute copyright infringement. The definition of “religious ceremony” includes events like marriage processions and other social festivities associated with weddings.
The DPIIT cautioned the public against complying with any unjustified demands for royalties from individuals, organisations, or copyright societies that violate Section 52 (1) (za) of the Copyright Act, which specifically addresses this exemption.
Copyright societies are legal bodies formed by copyright owners in accordance with the Copyright Act. To carry out activities such as licensing works for public performance or transmission and distributing copies of copyrighted works to the public, they must be registered under the Act. These organisations are also empowered to defend intellectual property and to take legal action against infringers when required.
The issue of playing copyrighted music at wedding functions has been the subject of ongoing disputes between copyright owners and event management companies, often leading to legal battles. However, the DPIIT’s recent clarification in the public notice reiterates the scope of exemption available under the Copyright Act for religious functions and wedding ceremonies. This resolution aims to bring clarity to a long-standing issue and alleviate further legal conflicts.
In India, there are four major copyright societies, namely the Indian Performing Right Society Limited (IPRS), which handles literary works associated with musical works, Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (which deals with photocopying works), and the Recorded Music Performance Limited (RMPL).
The Central Government’s circular assures that weddings and similar celebrations fall under the concept of religious services, exempting them from the application of copyright rules for music performances.