A judge in the Bombay High Court in India has ruled against streaming and download service Wynk in its long-running licensing dispute with record company Tips Industries.
It is a protracted story but, in brief, Tips and Wynk had failed to agree licensing terms back in 2017 and this saw Tips requesting that its catalogue of around 25,000 recordings be removed from the service. Wynk, however, refused and instead involved Section 31 D of the country’s Copyright Act, arguing that it was a broadcaster and, as such, qualified for a statutory licence. Legal ping-pong ensued in January 2018, with Tips accusing Wynk of copyright infringement.
It has now reached something of a conclusion as the judge in the case ruled that Wynk did not quality for a statutory licence and was therefore infringing Tips’ copyrights by making the label’s catalogue available to users.
“This is true justice & I humbly bow in respect to the Indian judiciary,” said Kumar Taurani, MD of Tips, in a statement following the ruling. “It’s been a long and trying process but we prevailed and justice was served. I’m very happy that the Indian judiciary believed in not only Tips but the whole music industry and vindicated what was right.” He added that Wynk was “very unfair” and, as a “music streaming service [with] valuations in millions” it should not have refused to pay Tips what it felt it was due.
A press release from the Indian Music Industry trade body said that “INTERNET [their use of caps] music streaming and digital downloads are not covered under the Statutory licensing provision of the Copyright Act, 1957”, adding that the ruling will offer “significant boost for the entire recorded music industry in India”.
There will be inevitable comparisons with the still-unresolved Spotify/Warner case in India, but just what sort of precedent the Wynk/Tips case sets is unclear for now. An appeal by Wynk could follow and if that sees the ruling changed then all bets are off – plus it could drag out a second hearing for a long time.
Music Ally’s source in India says, “I think it’s likely Wynk will appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court considering that this has consequences for all streaming services. It’s what TikTok did after the Madras High Court ordered a ban on it.”
They add that the Spotify case is around music publishing and not sound recordings (the injunction was filed by Warner/Chappell) so is not precisely comparable. Both cases, however, have drawn on Section 31 D and it states, “Any broadcasting organization desirous of communicating to the public by way of a broadcast or by way of performance of a literary or musical work and sound recording which has already been published may do so subject to the provisions of this section.”
The devil, as always, is in the detail. And just because Tips was victorious in this hearing against Wynk, it does that automatically follow that Warner will bulldozer its way through the Indian courts to triumph.