Delhi HC asks Zee to deposit amount in T-Series copyright case

MUMBAI: In the legal case between Zee Entertainment Enterprises and T-Series regarding the usage of T-Series music content without a valid licence, the Delhi High Court has Zee to pay an amount, “running into several crores in favour of T-Series”, as an interim measure.

T-Series had filed a case against Zee, asking for permanent injunction and damages against infringement of its copyright. In the suit, T-Series demanded an interim injunction, alleging Zee for using its copyright content without a valid licence. While T-Series was represented by senior advocate Dushant Dave, Zee was represented by senior advocate Harish Salve and Pratibha M Singh.

Additionally, Zee has taken up the issue with the Copyright Board to determine the tariff for music content used by TV channels, similar to the music content tariff regulated for audio/video and radio industries by the Copyright Board.

According to T-Series, the dispute between the parties concerned relates back to April 2009. While earlier Zee had entered into a licensing arrangement with the music major for using its copyrighted content in its programmes, especially music-based shows such as Sa Re Ga Ma Pa; once the license period was over on 31 March 2009, renewal arrangement could not be entered into for the period commencing from 1 April. As per T-Series, Zee was not willing to pay the licence fee, which other contemporaneous satellite channels were paying to the music company.

T-Series also contended that if Zee wants to use its content, payment should be made on the basis of its tariff card which was uniformly applicable for all satellite channels. T-Series also said that not only was Zee unwiling to pay the outstanding dues of Rs 69 lacs emanating from the earlier agreement which expired on 31 March, the company continued to use the copyrighted content of T Series even after the expiry of the license agreement.

In its defence, Zee, said that since the application for compulsory licence under section 31 of the Copyright Act is pending before the Copyright Board, an injunction at this stage would be detrimental to its business and especially for its popular programmes such as Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, which was a show for encouraging new talent. Another argument put forth by Zee was that T-Series was not owner of copyrighted content being used by Zee and, therefore, no case for infringement was made out.

After hearing arguments of both the parties, the Delhi High Court reached a finding that the act of Zee in using the copyrighted content of T-Series are unlicensed acts for the year 2009-10 and, therefore, prima facie infringing acts within the meaning of Copyrights Act, 1957. The Court also dismissed the plea of the defendants that prima facie infringing acts constitute fair dealing as they are for promotion of talent or imparting training. The last plea raised by the Defendants that T-Series does not have any valid rights of works and, therefore, no case of infringement was made out was also dismissed by the Court by holding that there are several circumstances which established that these submissions are not correct such as – entering into earlier license agreement with T-Series, paying license fee in the past and filing an application to the Copyright Board for compulsory license.

Zee has been asked to furnish accounts pertaining to usage of copyrighted content owned by T-Series for the period 1 April 2009 to 1 August 2009 within two weeks of the date of the order and shall continue filing the same on monthly basis. The final quantum of damages on the basis of rate card of T-series will be determined by the Court and will be considered at the time of final stage of the suit

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