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Mansa Court Restrains Salim-Sulaiman From Releasing 'Jaandi Vaar', Says Sidhu Moosewala's Parents Hold Song's Copyright After Him

Rahul Garg
21 Nov 2022 11:24 AM GMT
Mansa Court Restrains Salim-Sulaiman From Releasing Jaandi Vaar, Says Sidhu Moosewalas Parents Hold Songs Copyright After Him

In a copyright infringement suit filed by the parents of late Punjabi Singer Sidhu Moosewala, a Commercial Court in Mansa has restrained the record label Merchant Records Private Limited and its directors Salim Merchant and Sulaiman Merchant from releasing or publishing the song Jaandi Vaar, in any manner whatsoever, till final disposal of the case.

"No part of the song in question shall be used in any manner by the remaining named or unnamed defendants nor the right in the song shall be sold by any named or unnamed defendants till the final decision of the suit," Civil Judge (Senior Division) Sumit Bhalla said in the order dated November 17.

Moosewala's mother Charan Kaur and father Balkaur Singh have filed a suit seeking injunction against the Merchant Records Pvt. Ltd, Salim Merchant, Sulaiman Merchant and their others to restrain them from infringement of the copyright of 'Jaandi Vaar', which was sung by their son Moosewala. The plaintiffs alleged that on August 25, they came to know about the defendants plan to release the song in September.

They argued that their son had written and composed the song originally in 2018 and was therefore, the sole owner of the song, being the sole creative and financial force behind it. It was also submitted that there existed no agreement by which the singer had transferred his rights to the defendants, and being his legal heirs, they were entitled to the inheritance of the copyright upon his death, since the singer possessed exclusive ownership over the song.

The Plaintiffs further submitted the defendants had admitted Moosewala to be the author of the song in their written reply, which admission makes out a prima facie case in their favour.

Merely because the defendants had created a duet of the song, they would not become authors of the song, as the lyrics of both the original (as sung by their son in 2018) and the new version (the duet) were totally similar only with mere alteration and addition of few words and lines, argued the plaintiffs.

The defendants, on the other hand, argued that although the old song was written and composed by the deceased singer, Afsana Khan had co-authored the lyrics of the new duet version, the main 'hook-line' antaraa of which was composed by them, making them joint-authors of the song. The deceased singer had only performed in it by which act alone, he could not have acquired any right. They relied on S.P. Chengalvaraya Naidu v. Jagannath and Others, AIR 1994 853 SC and Wheels India v. Nirmal Singh and Others, 2010 SCC OnLine Delhi 2852.

Further, they contended that as per Section 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957, the 'author' of the work is generally considered to be the 'first owner' or 'owner' of such work and being co-authors of the song, they had equal ownership over the song and the plaintiffs could not assert exclusive ownership over it.

The Court of Civil Judge, Mansa upon hearing both the parties, recognized that a prima facie case existed in favour of the plaintiffs and ordered injunction against the defendants till the final disposal of the suit.

The Court noted that as per Sections 2(d) and 17 of the Act, a lyricist is the author/owner in relation to 'lyrics,' and 'composer' is the 'author/owner' in relation to a 'musical work,' unless such work is produced in the course of being employed by another person, in which case, the employer becomes the first owner of such work.

The Court observed that in this case, the defendants could not show that the deceased singer was their employee who had written, composed or sung the song in the course of any such employment. It added that there was no difference between the two versions of the song, as far as the main part of the song was concerned. The defendants in their written reply themselves also admitted to the deceased singer being the original author of the song and they being only music recorders, said the court.

The Court placed reliance on the decision in Star India Pvt. Ltd. v. Piyush Aggarwal and Others, 2012 SCC OnLine Delhi 5691, where it was held that no sound recording could be created from the original musical work or lyrics unless license was taken from the author and on the decision in Ram Sampath v. Rajesh Roshan, 2008 SCC OnLine Bom 370, where it was held that even if a small portion of a work was copied, it amounted to an actionable infringement giving rise to a cause for action in damages as well as injunctive relief.

The Court said that:

"It is admitted fact that the deceased singer is the original author of the song, which was sung by him in the year 2017 and the new song in question is nothing but reprised version or cover version of the old song, for which, even the defendants were required to obtain right from the deceased singer. The act of the defendants is apparently prohibited by section 31C (1) of the Act."

Ruling that a prima facie case in favour of the plaintiffs, at this stage, is made, the court said the original song was sung by the deceased singer and after him, his parents holds the copyright, for which, the defendants, in absence of any agreement or contract to the contrary between them and deceased singer or plaintiffs, cannot publish the song in question in any manner.

Case Title: Charan Kaur and Another v. Merchant Records Pvt. Ltd. and Others

Citation: Civil Suit No. CS 629 of 2022

Click Here To Read/Download the Order

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