delhi high court

Delhi High Court: A suit was filed by Saga Music Private Limited (plaintiff) seeking an injunction restraining the defendants from incorporating or using the song ‘JALSA’ in a feature film produced and to be released by Pooja Entertainment Limited (defendant 3) titled ‘MISSION RANIGANJ’ in which the rights in the sound recordings are stated to be owned by Jjust Music Label Pvt. Ltd. (defendant 4). Prathiba M Singh, J., rejected the prayer for an injunction to the plaintiffs as the agreement vide which the rights were transferred has no legs to stand on its own because Defendant 1 did not own rights in the underlying works on the said date which forms subject matter of the present suit.

The song ‘JALSA’ authored by Defendant 1 – Satinder Pal Singh Sartaaj, a singer, is the subject matter of the present suit. The said song was first sung by him sometime in 2014 and he entered into an Exclusive Album Assignment Agreement (‘2014 Agreement’) with Sony Music Entertainment India Pvt. Ltd. (‘Sony Music’) on 22-04-2014, wherein the rights in the song ‘JALSA’ were assigned, and included the literary works, musical works, sound recordings, performances and performer’s rights (`Rights’). The term of the 2014 Agreement was for ‘perpetuity’ and the territory was the ‘Universe’.

Sony Music is stated to have released the song ‘JALSA’ in 2014 on a commercial scale and on 17-07- 2018, an Assignment Agreement was executed by Sony Music in favour of Hardip Sidhu (defendant 2), who was based in the United Kingdom. The said Defendant 2 acquired the Rights in the song vide an exclusive and absolute assignment in terms of Clause 4 of the Assignment Agreement described as an agreement for perpetuity and applicable to the entire universe. In the meantime, Defendant 1 held a concert at the Sydney Opera House in August 2022 wherein he sang a total of 19 songs, out of which, he assigned the rights to plaintiff in 12 songs and JALSA was one of them.

This agreement dated 16-08-2022 also gave rights to plaintiff 2-Unisys Infosolutions Pvt. Ltd. even in the literary works and plaintiff 2 would be the author. Under this agreement, Plaintiff 2 was to pay a sum of Rs. 50 lakhs to Defendant 1. Admittedly, a sum of Rs. 25 lakhs is stated to have been paid by plaintiff 2 to Defendant 1 and the remaining Rs.25 lakhs is yet to be paid. The Plaintiffs’ grievance in the present case is that it recently learned of the feature film produced and to be released by Defendant 3 titled ‘MISSION RANIGANJ’ in which the rights in the sound recordings are stated to be owned by Defendant 4.

The Court noted that Defendant 1 entered into multiple agreements in respect of the same song JALSA with different parties. Having signed the 2014 Agreement with Sony Music, prima facie, no rights could have been assigned in the underlying works to Plaintiff 2 vide Copyright Assignment Agreement dated 16-08-2022. The said Copyright Assignment Agreement to the extent that it sought to assign underlying works to plaintiff 2 would have no legs to stand because on the said date, Defendant 1 did not own rights in the underlying works.

The Court further noted that even if the Defendant 1 wanted to exploit the right to public performance in the Sydney Opera House Live Concert, before assigning any rights to the Plaintiff 2, he ought to have taken permission from Sony Music or Defendant 2, to be able to do so. Without the said consent being obtained, the rights in the underlying works would not prima facie, vest in the Plaintiff 2. Moreover, the right in a public performance of any song would itself be incapable of exploitation by Plaintiff 2 without rights in the underlying works. Therefore, the rights transferred between Defendant 1 and Plaintiff in respect of the song ‘JALSA’ are unclear and ambiguous.

As Defendant 1 volunteered to deposit the sum of Rs.25 lakhs with the Registrar General of the Court, thus, the Court directed Satinder Pal Singh Sartaaj to do so within a period of one week from the date of order.

[Saga Music Private Limited v Satinder Pal Singh Sartaaj, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 6055, decided on 25-09-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Uttam Datt, Mr. Arjun Anand, Mr. Neel Mason & Ms. Sonakshi Singh Advocate alongwith Plaintiffs in person through AR.

Mr. Abhishek Malhotra & Ms. Subhalakshmi Sen, Advocates for D-1.

Mr. Harsh Kaushik, Ms. Anushree Rauta, Mr. Shwetank Tripathi, Mr. Kunal Gupta, Ms. Narayani Choudhary, Ms. Ruddhi Bhalekar, Mr. Harsh Prakash, Advocates for Defendant No.2

Mr. Dayan Krishnan, Senior Advocate with Mr. Pravin Anand, Mr. Ameet Naik, Mr. Dhruv Anand, Ms. Madhu Gadodia, Ms. Udita Patro, Ms. Megha Chandra, Ms. Sampurnaa Sanyal, Mr. Sujoy Mukherjee & Ms. Nimrat Singh, Advocates D-3&4.

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