No licence requirement to play sound recordings for social and religious functions

FHRAI, EEMA organise nationwide campaign to sensitise industry stakeholders, police and general public

The Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) and Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA) have jointly planned to organise a nationwide campaign to sensitise industry stakeholders including the police as well as the general public about hotels or wedding venues not requiring to obtain a licence for playing any sound recording for marriage and related social or religious functions held at the venues.

The campaign is being organised as a result of a recent incidence where two Mumbai-based private firms extorted Rs1.37 lakh from businessmen under the pretext of issuing them copyright licences for staging musical performances at marriage ceremonies in a star hotel at Koregaon Park in Pune. An FIR of extortion and cheating has been registered against the firms.

FHRAI has cited notification dated August 27, 2019, issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, notifying that all religious and marriage related functions shall be exempted from payment of copyright charges. Such functions would include all religious, marriage, engagements and receptions. The Association has also stated that section 52 of Copyright Act, 1957 provides an exemption on payment of royalty or licence fees for all the religious functions including marriage procession and other social festivities associated with marriage.

“We have been receiving several complaints from members about certain copyright agencies using strong-arm tactics including criminal trespass into wedding events to extort money from guests of the hotels. Since the wedding season begins this month, such incidences might become more rampant. We want to ensure that everyone in the events and hospitality industry, as well as other stakeholders, is made aware that the law exempts from obtaining the licence for playing any sound recording for marriage events and related social functions held at hotels or other venues. A public notice to this effect has been issued by the Government in 2019. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of this exemption in the law and the so-called copyright agencies are misusing this to extort money from businesses. FHRAI and EEMA will soon organise a nationwide campaign through its regional and local associations to propagate this information to as many hotels, restaurant establishments as well as to all the events management companies as possible. We will also reach out to the law enforcement agencies including the police across all the states in the country to make them aware of the illegal activities of these agencies,” said Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice-president, FHRAI.

FHRAI has stated certain private agencies have criminal antecedents and operate just like bank recovery agents and indulge in nefarious activities, including threatening calls to hotel managers, trespassing in wedding events and taking undercover photos or video clips of events, sending threatening legal notices with claims running into lakhs of rupees to the hotel owners, as well as the guests failing which they threaten to file FIR and cases against the hotel and the guests. The Association has also stated that such agencies tend to make unauthorised entry at private venues to secretly record events. They send threatening legal notices to hotel owners and their guests, who hire banquet halls for their wedding events to extort money from them. Such acts have been held as criminal trespass.

“We have been constantly hearing these concerns from our community members. Certain agencies have been creating unethical issues during weddings and related events. There are a lot of people who do not understand these irregularities and while booking these five-star hotels, turn victims and end up paying an unjustified amount for these licences. They harass families that are under immense wedding pressure and try to extort money at the eleventh hour under the name of such licences. EEMA along with FHRAI empathises with them and opposes this illegal activity conducted by them across the country. Weddings and other related functions are exempted under Section 52 (1) (za) of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957,” said Roshan Abbas, President, EEMA.

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