Latest Indian Copyright Cases – 2021 – Part 2

This running post provides a summary of the latest Indian Copyright cases in 2021, decided by various Courts and tribunals in the country.

1. Mr. John Hart Jr. & Anr. vs. Mr. Mukul Deora & Ors, High Court of Delhi, CS (Comm) 38/2021

In this case, Plaintiff No. 1 claims to be vested with the exclusive copyright to make a movie adaptation of the book “The White Tiger” authored by Mr. Aravind Adiga by virtue of a Literary Option/Purchase Agreement dated 4th March, 2009. Plaintiff no.1 and Plaintiff no.2 (“Plaintiffs”), have approached the Court at the eleventh hour to seek an injunction restricting the release of the film “The White Tiger” (‘Film’) produced by Defendant No. 1 to be released on the streaming platform, Netflix. The Plaintiffs assert that when it came to their knowledge that Netflix was in the process of making and releasing the film, a cease and desist notice dated 4th October, 2019, was sent by Plaintiff No. 2 to Defendant No. 1. Further, the Plaintiffs stated that allowing the release of the film would result in irreparable injury, as the Plaintiffs planned to release the film in Hollywood. The Plaintiffs also attempted to justify the delay in approaching the Court by stating that the delay was unavoidable as the Plaintiffs were unaware of the fact that Defendants were shooting the film during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The court opined that no case exists for grant of any interlocutory injunction and the case constitutes a misuse of the judicial process. The court held that, “The Plaintiffs were aware of the possibility of the film being released on the Netflix platform at least from 4th October, 2019. There is not a scintilla of material produced on record to justify the Plaintiffs approaching this court less than 24 hours prior to the release of the subject film, seeking stay thereof.” The court relies on several precedents to elucidate that a Plaintiff who approaches the court at the eleventh hour, seeking an interlocutory injunction against the release of a cinematographic film, is disentitled to any such relief. A delay in approaching the Court for an equitable relief is always fatal.
The Delhi High Court held that the balance of convenience favours the Defendants and by granting an injunction at the eleventh hour, greater irreparable loss and injury would be caused. The Plaintiffs stand disentitled from seeking any interlocutory injunction against the release of the film on the ground of unconscionable delay in approaching the court. The court nevertheless directed the defendants to keep detailed accounts of the earnings made from the film so that, if the Plaintiffs were to succeed in the future, the account details would facilitate in  awarding damages or monetary compensation.
A copy of the order may accessed be here.

2. Aman Chhabra And 7 Ors vs Trac Entertainment Pvt Ltd And 6 Ors.

In this case involving the copyright of two music videos, “Pyar Ko Na Kaho” and “Lutti Heer,” the Appellant contested the order of the Single Judge vacating an interlocutory consent order restraining the Respondents from commercially exploiting the songs. On appeal, the Division Bench reversed the order of the Single Judge stating that time ought to be given to the Appellants to contest the interim application filed by the Respondents to vacate the interlocutory consent order. This is required as several facts that formed the basis for vacation were disputable and should have been considered by the Single Judge. The Division Bench also pointed out that as the attempts by the Respondents to commercially exploit the songs yielded no financial returns, and that the songs can be taken down from the platform, Believe International, at any time, no third party rights have been created, and therefore, the interlocutory consent order may be in force until the Single Judge decides that matter after hearing the parties.
Citation: Aman Chhabra And 7 Ors vs Trac Entertainment Pvt Ltd And 6 …, Decided by Bombay High Court on 3 July, 2021, available at:, visited on 6th July, 2021.

3. Unknown vs Iquest Enterprises Private Ltd and Others.

In this case, the primary question before the Madras High Court was with respect to ownership of satellite rights pertaining to the telugu film, Pelli Koduku. Like many other films of the nineties, the agreements with respect to transfer of rights with respect to this film were not worded very clearly, and copyright terms were not always clearly expressed. Also, many of these films are the subject of multiple transfers, which in this case includes  at least five. Owing to ambiguity of rights, duplicity of right transfers was common, and in this case, the plaintiff prayed for a declaration of copyright ownership over satellite rights.
After reviewing the first transfer agreement, the Court came to the conclusion that the initial transfer included satellite rights also. Based on the conclusion, the Court  stated that  the  subsequent transfer to the plaintiff was not valid. As the transfer/assignment was not valid, the Court concluded that the plaintiff does not hold  the satellite rights asserted.
Citation: Unknown vs Iquest Enterprises Private Ltd and Others, Decided by Madras High Court on 14 July, 2021, available at: Unknown vs Iquest Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. and Ors., visited on 26th July, 2021.

Read Latest Copyright Cases in 2021 – Part 1 here

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Updates on recent orders and judgments are brought to you jointly by the Entertainment Law and Consulting/Strategy Divisions of BananaIP Counsels, a Top ranked IP Firm in India. If you have any questions, or need any clarifications, please write to [email protected]  with the subject:  Copyright Judgments
Disclaimer: Please note that these case updates have been put together from different sources, primary and secondary, and BananaIP’s reporters may not have verified all the decisions published in the bulletin. You may write to [email protected]  for corrections and take down.

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