Raj Television Network Limited v. Kavithalaya Productions Private Limited and Ors., High Court of Madras, O.A. No. 446 of 2020 in C.S. (Comm. Div.) No. 244 of 2020
The 1st defendant, is a producer and first owner of the entire copyright with respect to each one of the said 34 movies and the 1st defendant had assigned and transferred the rights now sought to be protected by the plaintiff by an agreement dated 06.02.2001 for a consideration of INR 65, 00,000/- (Rupees sixty five lakhs) for a period of 99 years. The plaintiff had agreed not to assign any further rights to any other party with consulting the plaintiff herein. The plaintiff had been exploiting the films by marketing the DVD rights and by telecasting the films through Satellite Television network on their channel Raj TV. After the advent of the internet, they have been streaming the films in the various internet platforms known as OTT platform.
The plaintiff then came to know that two of the films Annamalai and Duet were distributed on the 3rd defendant’s streaming platform, following which, the plaintiff issued a notice to the 3rd defendant. The 1st defendant sent a reply stating that the claim of the plaintiff for internet rights was illegal and the plaintiff did not possess any such right. The plaintiff disputed the said claim.
This was followed by a series of notices being sent by the plaintiff and the defendants to one another. Subsequently, the suit was preferred seeking reliefs under the Copyright Act, 1957, for a declaration that the plaintiff is the absolute owner of the entire copyrights. The court passed an interim order in the favor of the plaintiff.
A copy of the order may accessed be here.
Shamoil Ahmad Khan vs. Falguni Shah and Ors., High Court of Bombay, MANU/MH/0590/2020
The plaintiff in this matter, is the author of the popular short story ‘Singardaan’. The defendant is the producer of a web series which is also titled Singardaan, same as the plaintiff’s story. After the plaintiff became aware of the defendant’s web series, the plaintiff approached the court, seeking a temporary injunction against the defendant for making a web series of the same name with a similar story line. Both had the same base script of a vanity mirror belonging to someone bringing out in another user a change in appearance or behaviour, which mirrored the behaviour of the original owner of the vanity.
The court opined that, “in a written work of art, such as the story with which we are concerned here, a germ of an idea is developed into a theme and then into a plot and then final story with the help of characters and settings. It is a combination of all these elements which give a body to the work or a substance to it.”
After reviewing the facts and evidence presented the court decided that there would be a copyright violation if the similarities are on fundamental or substantial aspects of the mode of expression adopted in the copyrighted work. This would be based on the effect the work creates on the reader, spectator or viewer. The court found a substantial similarity in both the storylines and ordered the defendant to restrain from making any further adaptation or use in a different format of their web series by the name of “Singardaan”, pending the final disposal of the suit.
A copy of the order may accessed be here.
Vinay Vats vs. Fox Star Studios India Pvt. Ltd. and Ors., Delhi High Court, I.A. 6351/2020 in CS(COMM.) 291/2020
The plaintiff in this lawsuit was a writer and the defendant was a production house. The Plaintiff filed this lawsuit claiming to be the original scriptwriter and own the copyright in the script of the film titled ‘Tukkaa Fitt’, and alleging that the film ‘Lootcase’, produced by the Defendant, had the same story as the film Tukkaa Fitt, produced by M/s. AAP Entertainment Limited. However, due to the sudden death of one of the producers, the film’s release was indefinitely delayed, despite the production of the film being completed in November 2012. The Plaintiff in the lawsuit claimed that, the film ‘Lootcase’, was only recently brought to the Plaintiff’s attention and when the Plaintiff watched the trailer, the Plaintiff noted several similarities between Lootcase and Tukka Fitt.
The film Lootcase was set to release on 31st July, 2020. However, the Plaintiff chose to file a lawsuit for the grant of an interim injunction mere days before the release of the film, despite the film’s trailer being launched almost a year before the release date. The story of the film Lootcase revolved around a suitcase full of cash, and several people looking for that suitcase after it went missing. The Defendants stated that the film’s story line was a very common one, which had been previously used in several films. Further, the Defendants stated that according to the documents submitted by the Plaintiff, the producers of the film Tukkaa Fitt, had paid a certain sum of money to the Plaintiff, to purchase the script of the film, and all the rights subsisting therein. Due to this, the extent of the Plaintiff’s rights over the film’s script needed to be clarified. The court observed that, copyright can only be granted for the expression of an idea and not for the idea itself, and that idea can be expressed in several forms. According to the court, in order to determine whether two films were exactly the same in terms of the execution, the most reliable way to do determine that, was to see the audience’s reaction to both the films. If the audiences found any similarities in both the films, then the next step was to ascertain the extent of such similarity.
The court opined that the balance of convenience lay in favour of the Defendant. The court was not convinced with the Plaintiff’s claim of becoming aware of Lootcase’s release only recently, since the media had been covering the film for a year before the release date. Further, the court stated that by filing a lawsuit only a few days before the film’s release, the Plaintiff tried to compel the court to expedite the proceedings to get an interim injunction to halt the film’s release. The court therefore, decided in favour of the Defendant and dismissed the Plaintiff’s plea for the grant of an interim injunction.
A copy of the order may accessed be here.
Ashutosh Dubey vs. Netflix Inc. and Ors., Delhi High Court, I.A. 3754/2020 in CS(OS) 120/2020
This lawsuit primarily dealt with the issue of defamation, allegedly caused due to certain derogatory remarks made by the protagonist in a web-series known as “Hasmukh”. The plaintiff in this matter was a lawyer by profession and the defendants included the digital streaming platform Netflix, on which viewers could access the web-series, Hasmukh. The plaintiff, while watching Hasmukh, came across a dialogue in an episode, which in his opinion was allegedly derogatory to the legal profession. Following this, the plaintiff filed a suit, seeking a decree of permanent injunction against the defendants further airing or streaming of the episodes of Web-Series (TV show) “Hasmukh” particularly Episode 4 of Season 1. The web-series was about an aspiring stand-up comedian, who could only perform well on stage, if prior to his performance, he committed a murder of a victim who was either corrupt or an extremely ruthless person. In the scenes preceding the impugned dialogue, Hasmukh was being duped and harassed by a corrupt lawyer in Mumbai, which compelled him to murder the lawyer and then proceed to make certain statements about lawyers and the legal profession, in his stand-up comic act, while directly making references to lawyers in Mumbai. The impugned dialogue when translated in English was as follows, “This is the first city I have seen where even the thieves are rich. But out here, they’re called lawyers. Your lawyers are the biggest scoundrels and thieves. These so-called upholders of law will never be brought to justice because they rape you with their pen. People say the law is blind. But I say the law is dirty because every lawyer carries a little stick in his hand.”
The plaintiff took offence to this dialogue, as it allegedly attacked the entire legal community and was therefore defamatory in nature. The counsels for the defendant stated that, lawyers could not be defamed as a class of persons, nor could the plaintiff be defamed by a general reference to a class, to which the plaintiff belongs. It was held that, as lawyers consist of a large group of individuals and that the impugned dialogue did not refer to or name a particular individual or more specifically the plaintiff, it therefore cannot be considered as defamatory in nature. The court stated that the entire theme of the show and the dialogues therein, were meant to be viewed purely as satire, and must not be construed in the literal sense, as this was a known fact with regard to jokes made by stand-up comedians.
Further, for a statement to be deemed as defamatory, even towards a group of people, it is necessary that the person making such a statement refers to an individual from that particular group or class of people. The plaintiff in this case was unable to prove that the impugned dialogue refers to the plaintiff or that it has already caused or could potentially cause some kind of serious loss or damage solely to the plaintiff’s reputation. The court opined that the balance of convenience was not in favour of the plaintiff, following which the court dismissed the plaintiff’s plea for an ad interim injunction and ruled in favour of the defendants.
A copy of the order is available here.
HT Media Limited and Ors. vs. www.theworldnews.net and Ors., Delhi High Court, MANU/DE/0563/2020
The plaintiffs in this case were part of a media conglomerate which was also engaged in the business of publication of news articles, among other media related businesses. The multiple defendants in this suit included the infringing website, which aggregated content and published the same from various sources, and the entity managing this website (defendant nos.1 & 2), the German company hosting the infringing website (defendant no.3), the privacy service provider (defendant no.4), the erstwhile registrar of the infringing website (defendant no.5), and the internet service providers (ISPs) (defendant nos.6-14), whose assistance the plaintiffs sought to block the concerned website. The departments of the Government of India (defendant nos.15 & 16) were also impleaded as defendants in this suit, since they were required to issue notifications with regard to blocking of the impugned website. The plaintiffs conducted a private investigation through which it was discovered that Defendants no.1 and 2 were reproducing and publishing content on the impugned website, that originally belonged to the plaintiffs, without taking the required permission or prior authorization from the plaintiffs, to allow such publication. The Defendant no.1 was also using the Plaintiffs’ copyright and registered trademarks on its website, due to which the Plaintiffs filed a suit alleging copyright and trademark infringement, in addition to the claims of passing off, primarily by Defendants no.1 and 2.
In light of the evidence presented by the Plaintiffs, the Delhi High Court observed that, while the defendants in fact, did acknowledge and attribute to the Plaintiffs the articles published on the impugned website, they however, did not provide a link to permit a user to directly access the article on the Plaintiffs’ own website. The Plaintiffs submitted screenshots of the impugned website to demonstrate the availability of large-scale infringing content. The evidence also reflected that the impugned website had a bill payment option, which indicated that its activities were of a commercial nature, thereby violating the statutory protection granted to the Plaintiffs’ intellectual property rights under the respective laws.
After reviewing the evidence presented by the Plaintiffs, the court opined that since the Plaintiffs were able to substantiate their claims with the evidence that they had presented and Defendants no.1 to 5 did not make any attempt to appear in court or respond in any manner to the notices sent to them, the order granted by the court would be ex-parte. In conclusion, the court decided in favour of the Plaintiffs by granting a permanent injunction along with the damages, which were to be paid by Defendants no.1 to 5.
Link to the order : https://indiankanoon.org/doc/187541084/
Part I of the Indian Copyright Orders and Judgments 2020 can be accessed here.
Part III of the Indian Copyright Orders and Judgments 2020 can be accessed here.
Authored and compiled by Neharika Vhatkar and Ashwini Arun (Associates, BananaIP Counsels)
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