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Indian Case Summary

Super Cassette Industries Ltd. vs Entertainment Network (India) … on 30 June, 2004 – Case Summary

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In the case of Super Cassette Industries Ltd. vs Entertainment Network (India) on 30 June, 2004, the Delhi High Court was tasked with adjudicating a dispute between two major players in the Indian music industry. The case revolved around the issue of copyright infringement and the granting of a compulsory license under Section 31(1)(b) of the Copyright Act, 1957.

Facts of the Case

Super Cassette Industries Ltd., one of the leading music companies in India, appealed against an order passed by the Copyright Board directing the Registrar of Copyrights to grant a compulsory license to Entertainment Network (India), a leading FM radio broadcaster. Super Cassette Industries Ltd. held the copyright for a vast repertoire of music, either produced in-house or acquired through assignments. The company alleged that Entertainment Network (India) had been broadcasting their music without obtaining the necessary licenses, thus infringing upon their exclusive rights as set out in Section 14 of the Copyright Act.

Issues Raised

The appellant argued that their most valuable asset was the copyrights in cinematographic films and sound recordings. They claimed that they had invested several crores of rupees in acquiring and developing technology and infrastructure, as well as recruiting musical talent, to produce sound recordings. The appellant’s music division’s primary asset was its copyright in sound recordings, and its only source of revenue was from the sales of sound recordings in which it owned the copyright, in the form of audio cassettes and CDs.

The appellant also claimed that the respondent’s broadcasting of their music had significantly impacted their sales. They commissioned a survey which concluded that the average number of cassettes bought in Mumbai post-FM radio, which had been operating in the city for more than a year at the time the survey was conducted, as well as the amount spent on such purchases, was reduced by more than 30% as compared to pre-FM radio.

Court’s Observations

The court observed that the appellant had already granted licenses to two other prominent broadcasters, namely, AIR and Radio City. They argued that the public interest had been fully taken care of, and therefore, no order for the grant of compulsory license could be made by the Copyright Board in that situation.

The court also noted that the respondent had started broadcasting the appellant’s music without any permission, infringing the copyright. The appellant argued that the respondent was not entitled to get a compulsory license due to its conduct.

The court emphasized the need for a proper inquiry before the grant or refusal of the license. The appellant was denied the opportunity to adduce evidence, which was against the scheme and spirit of the Act. The court held that all aspects could only be considered after a proper inquiry, even by a quasi-judicial body.

Conclusion

This case highlighted the complexities involved in copyright infringement and the granting of compulsory licenses in the music industry. It underscored the importance of adhering to the principles of natural justice and conducting a thorough inquiry before making decisions that could significantly impact the stakeholders involved. The case also emphasized the need for broadcasters to obtain the necessary licenses before broadcasting copyrighted music to avoid legal disputes and potential damages.