On October 16, 2023, in the matter of Saga Music Private Limited & Anr. v. Sony Music Entertainment India Pvt. Ltd & Ors. CS(COMM) 740/2023, the Delhi High Court refused to pass an injunction order against the use of the sound recording of the song ‘JALSA’ performed by one Mr. Satinder Singh Sartaj at the Sydney Opera House concert in 2019, in light of the two suits that were already pending in front of the Court in respect of the same song. The Court instead held that it would like to comprehensively hear the entire matter first rather than immediately issuing directions for taking down the video that had already been uploaded.
The plaintiff filed the suit, one Mr. Hardip Singh Sidhu, an assignee of Defendant No. 4 herein Sony Music Entertainment, seeking an injunction against the use of the ‘JALSA’ sound recording by Defendant No. 3, Satinder Singh Sartaj, and a declaration that he had no rights to it. Further, the plaintiff also sought an injunction restraining Defendant No. 1 Saga Music Pvt. Ltd. and Defendant No. 2 Unisys Infosolutions Private Limited from infringing the plaintiff's alleged copyright in the song/sound recording ‘JALSA’ inter alia by making copies of the recording of the performance of the song/sound recording ‘JALSA’ at the Sydney Opera House Concert by uploading the same on YouTube.
Regarding the chronology of events, the artist Satinder Singh Sartaj wrote the lyrics and recorded the song ‘JALSA,' which was first performed in 2014. Thereafter, he entered into an Exclusive Album Assignment Agreement on April 22 2014, which, according to the plaintiff, had assigned all rights in the song, including the literary works, the musical works, performances and performer’s rights etc., to Sony Music, which were then later assigned to the plaintiff vide Assignment Agreement dated July 17 2018. However, once the Sydney Opera House Live Concert took place in 2019, where the song/sound recording ‘JALSA’ was performed by Defendant No. 3 Satinder Singh Sartaj, it was stated that the artist had assigned the rights in his sound recording to M/s Unisys Infosolutions Private Limited (`Unisys'), i.e., Defendant No. 2 vide Copyright Assignment Agreement dated August 16, 2022, who in turn had licensed the said rights vide Copyright Assignment Agreement dated August 18, 2022, to M/s Saga Music Private Limited (`Saga Music') i.e., Defendant No. 1, and which is why the latter parties had the rights to upload the recordings of the said performance on YouTube.
The dilemma that arose for the Court in deciding the present case was due to the fact that there were two other suits already pending in the Court in respect of the same song, 'JALSA' and wherein interim orders had been passed in favour of both claimants' sides, making the position unclear.
In Suit No. CS(Comm) 313/2023, the entities M/s Saga Music Private Limited and M/s Unisys Infosolutions Private Limited had filed for a suit of injunction against Sony Music Entertainment India and its related parties, as the latter, claiming that they had the rights in the song ‘JALSA’, had been threatening to issue copyright strikes against them over the sound and video recordings of the song and the underlying musical and literary works, namely “Sydney Opera House Live Concert by Sartaaj Singh” or any part thereof, including the recording of song “Jalsa” sung and performed by Satinder Singh Sartaj in the said concert. After assessing the case, the court opined that the Plaintiffs had made out a prima facie case in their favour due to the Copyright Assignment Agreement dated August 16, 2022, which assigned the copyright in the said works to them and, thus, had granted an ex-parte ad interim injunction against the Defendants, restraining them from issuing any groundless threats of copyright strikes or initiating legal proceedings against the Plaintiffs. On the other hand, in the second suit, Suit No. CS(Comm) 658/2023, when M/s Saga Music Private Limited once again instituted a suit for a permanent injunction against Sony Music Entertainment India Pvt. Ltd, to restrain the use of 'JALSA' in an upcoming movie Mission Raniganj, the coordinate bench of the court refused to pass the order of injunction, opining that Sartaaj had priorly entered into an “Exclusive Album Assignment Agreement” in 2014 with Sony Music and hence “prima facie, no rights could have been assigned in the underlying works” to the Plaintiffs through the subsequent Copyright Assignment Agreement dated August 16, 2022, since the Copyright Assignment Agreement would have “no legs to stand on”, considering Sartaaj himself did not own any rights in the underlying works.
Therefore, in light of the above two pending suits with interim orders favouring both sides, in addition to the present suit, the Court noted that it would like to consider the agreements placed on record by both sets of claimants, i.e., the Defendants herein - M/s Saga Music Private Limited and M/s Unisys Infosolutions Private Limited on the one hand and the Plaintiffs herein -Mr. On the other hand, Hardip Singh Sidhu and Sony Music heard the entire matter comprehensively rather than immediately directing to take down the video and sound recordings of the Sydney Opera House Concert, which had already been uploaded on YouTube since August 16, 2022. Accordingly, the Court issued the interim directions that the YouTube recordings of the Sydney Opera House concert, already posted on the said platform, could continue to remain online; however, the Defendants were required to disclose the amount of revenue that they had earned from the said YouTube videos consisting of the Sydney Opera House Concert performance of the sound recording ‘JALSA’ and that thereafter they were prohibited from uploading any such fresh videos. Thus, the Court noted that it was clear that Sartaaj had entered into multiple agreements of assignment in respect of the same song with different parties, who were now all vying for the position of being the legitimate rights holder. Thus this lawsuit highlighted the “precarious position” in which artists, film producers, companies that manage rights in music, and others were placed in due to the execution of multiple agreements in respect of the same work by the author. The Court’s decision herein to hear the matter comprehensively before passing any orders emphasizes the duty of the Court to untangle and determine the true rights holder from the multiple copyright rights that ordinary artists often end up assigning without realising the complexity of law involved and making sure that interests of all the parties involved are balanced.