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Religious Ceremonies and Copyright Act

Introduction

Ever since we learned property can be intangible, we as a society have worked our ways up towards protecting them. This includes our very own creations that resonate from the human mind such as a story, a song or a painting. The way we protect our intellectual property is through a copyright which is an exclusive right given to a creator for their work in order to prevent it from being misused or duplicated. However, this wide definition makes us ponder where the might of the copyright limits itself in the real world. Well, the answer to that is under Chapter XI, Section 52 of The Copyright Act of 1957 which lays down the criteria for acts which are not to be considered as infringement of copyright. This particular provision within the act is perfectly in sync with its practical application and acts as a major tool in preventing frivolous or trivial cases.

Relevant Provisions

While Section 52 mostly consists of technical and legal provisions which are rarely of importance to the general society, there is one subclause which stands out. The subsection (1) (za) advances that the performance of a literary or artistic work in the course of any bona fide religious ceremony or an official ceremony held by the government or statutory authorities does not amount to violation or infringement of the copyright. Furthermore, it also states that any communication to the public or sound recordings of the same would also not amount to copyright infringement. While reading this it may seem like this does not concern the average citizen but after some deliberation, we would actually find ourselves believing the opposite. The sole reason is that this provision is the reason one can fully enjoy these ceremonies without ending up in a court for copyright infringement. How is that? Well, it is quite simple. What would your reaction be if you weren’t allowed to play you favorite song at a wedding in your family? How would it make you feel if you were accused of violating someone else’s copyright simply because you were trying to record a religious ceremony and keep it as a memory? The answer is clear, you would feel like this is unfair and that your intentions were misunderstood. You would blame the system for making you suffer due an illogical law. Well, fortunately none of the above- mentioned instances can happen, all thanks to the Subsection (1) (za) under Section 52 of The Copyright Act, 1957.

This is why there is usually a need to issue licenses before one uses a particular literary or artistic creation for their own gain or purpose.  A license in this context pertains to right that a third party obtains from the owner of the copyright in order to reproduce his or her creation for personal gain. Therefore, if there were no exceptions to infringement of copyright then even an average person would have to get a licensing deal with the owner of a copyright in order play a song or record a ceremony. This would not just have been troublesome but also against the spirit of law. Hence, while most official business transactions do require a licensing deal in place for the commercial outsourcing of a creation, the conduct of ordinary citizens in good faith does not.

Case Study: Super Cassettes Industries ltd. vs. Mr. Chintamani Rao and Ors

There have been about a handful of cases where this provision has been used by parties to defend themselves when they were accused of copyright infringement by the owner of the copyright. For instance, Super Cassettes Industries ltd. vs. Mr. Chintamani Rao and Ors[1]. In this particular suit, the dispute was regarding the usage of a few seconds of a song produced by the defendant who claimed that they issued licenses for the reproduction of their work but had not given one to the plaintiff. The defendants claimed that several clauses under Section 52 of The Copyright Act, 1957 justify their usage of the creation.  They cited several exceptions including fair use and fair dealing on the grounds that they only used the said recording of a song while broadcasting news to the public and not for any personal gain. One conclusion that came was that the provision of fair use of copyright could be complementary to section 52(1) (za). Thus, when there is fair use of a creation there is no need to acquire a license in order to use the same. Furthermore, a public notice as issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on 27th August 2019 clarifying that sound recordings in marriage related functions or religious ceremonies did not amount to infringement of copyright and thus was protected by Section 52 (1)(za).

Conclusion

In conclusion, copyright law proves to be completely aware of its practicality and application. We can do anything a person with reasonable conduct would and avoid any altercations with the authorities. It is completely alright for people to behave like people without the fear of being sued everytime they felt like preserving a moment. Thankfully, we do not have keep worrying about the legality of our conduct when we perform a certain song or record a function we attend because or justice systems is aware of what is pragmatic and isn’t just a rigid system designed to straighten every person no matter what.


References

[1]http://delhicourts.nic.in/nov11/Super%20Cassettes%20 Industries%20Limited%20Vs.%20Chintamani%20Rao.pdf

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