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Delhi High Court restrains Telugu remake of Bollywood movie “Band Baaja Baaraat”

July 24, 2019

By Tulip De and Ashish Sharma

The Delhi High Court in Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd. vs. Sri Sai Ganesh Productions & Ors.[1] vide its decision dated July 08, 2019 restrained the Defendants, i.e., the production company, the distributor and the director from violating and infringing the copyrights of the Plaintiff comprised in and over the movie BAND BAAJA BAARAAT (hereinafter “Plaintiff’s film”). They were also restrained from dubbing or releasing the movie JABARDASTH (hereinafter “Defendant’s film”) in any other language including Tamil and from releasing the movie on any other format including on DVDs, VCDs Blu-ray discs or any other electronic or magnetic format and from showing the Defendant’s film in theaters across the country.

Brief Facts:

  1. The Plaintiff is a company engaged inter alia in production, direction and marketing, etc. of films. In 2010 the Plaintiff’s film was released worldwide and received numerous positive reviews from reviewers and film critics. The film was stated to have earned a total revenue of INR 24,68,83,661 (USD 3,444,150 approx.)*.
  2. Plaintiff claims to be the owner of copyright in various original works that subsist in the Plaintiff’s film including but not limited to the story line, dialogues, theme, concept, plot, script, music, etc. The Plaintiff is also stated to be entitled to copyright protection under Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957.
  3. In April 2011, the Plaintiff decided to remake the Plaintiff’s film in Tamil and Telugu languages and in furtherance thereof, signed various artists and incurred expenditures in payment to the artists for this project. Later the Plaintiff issued a public notice which stated that it had not sold the remake rights of their film in any language to any person and that it remains the sole and exclusive owner of all its works.
  4. Later the Plaintiff learnt that Defendant No. 1 intended to remake the Plaintiff’s film in Telugu language. Consequently, in January 2012, Plaintiff sent a legal notice to Defendant No. 1 calling upon it to stop any arrangements for making a remake of Plaintiff’s film. However, in January 2013, Defendant No. 1 released the first trailer of the film alleged to be infringing the Copyright of the Plaintiff’s film.
  5. Thereafter, despite issuing various legal notices the Defendant released its film across various movie screens in India, including Delhi.
  6. Upon watching the film, Plaintiff alleged that impugned film was a blatant copy of Plaintiff’s film.
  7. The Defendant No. 1 had also unlawfully sold the rights to release a dubbed version of the Defendant’s film in Tamil language titled “DUM DUM PEE PEE” to the Defendant No. 2 and the same was scheduled to be released in late March – early April 2013.

Plaintiff’s Contentions:

  1. That the story, the manner in which the plot unfolded, and the treatment as well as the expression given to the theme in the Plaintiff’s Film had been copied blatantly in the Defendant’s film.
  2. That blatant copying of all the elements of the Plaintiff’s film by the Defendants amounted to copyright infringement. Further, a spectator or viewer of Defendant’s film who had also seen Plaintiff’s film would have the unmistakable impression that Defendant’s film was a copy and/ or reproduction of the Plaintiff’s film. Further, a table highlighting 19 similarities between the two films was also handed over to the Hon’ble Court.
  3. Counsel for Plaintiff also relied upon the reviews received by the Defendant’s film which validated and reinforced the fact that the Defendant’s film was, in fact, a blatant copy of Plaintiff’s film.
  4. That the sale of the rights to release the Tamil dubbed version of Defendant’s film by Defendant No. 1 to Defendant No. 2 infringed the Plaintiff’s copyrights. It also rendered ineffective the efforts of the Plaintiff to make Telugu and Tamil remakes of the Plaintiff’s Film, for which it had already taken irretrievable steps.
  5. That the Hon’ble Delhi High Court had jurisdiction to deal with the present suit as the Defendant’s film was released pan India, including Delhi.

Defendant’s Contention:

The Defendant challenged the Delhi High Court’s jurisdiction in the matter and claimed that the Court did not have territorial jurisdiction to deal with the present matter as the Defendant’s film was conceived, written and directed in Hyderabad and no part of preparation including post production work had taken place in Delhi.

Court’s Observation & Decision:

In view of the facts and circumstances of the case, the Hon’ble Court held that the Plaintiff is the owner of copyright of the script, screenplay, dialogues of the impugned film and that Defendants had blatantly copied the fundamental features and thereby infringed Plaintiff’s copyright in the film.

  • The Court relied upon the decisions passed in MRF Limited vs. Metro Tyres Limited[2] and G. Anand vs. M/s Deluxe Films & Ors.[3] and held that as per Sections 13(3)(a) and 2(d) of the Copyright Act, 1957, originality was an essential feature of a film which was missing from the Defendant’s film.
  • That Section 14(d)(i) of the Act, which provides that “Copyright” means exclusive right to make a copy of a cinematograph film including a photograph of any image forming part thereof and did not mean just to make a physical copy of the film by a process of duplication but included materials that were rather similar in “the substance, the foundation, the kernel”.
  • That Defendants had blatantly copied the fundamental, essential and distinctive features as well as forms and expression of the Plaintiff’s film on purpose and consequently, have infringed Plaintiff’s copyright in the Plaintiff’s film.
  • That Defendant No. 3, i.e., the Director of Defendant’s film, had consented to the suit being decreed against himself and his acknowledgement that Plaintiff is the owner of copyright of the script, screenplay, dialogues, etc.
  • That it had jurisdiction to decide the present case as the Defendant’s film was released in Delhi too. The Hon’ble Court also observed that the Defendants had no real prospect of defending the claim as their defence had been struck off and that they had not denied the documents of the Plaintiff.

Hence, the Hon’ble Court decreed the suit in favour of the Plaintiff and against the Defendants.

[1] CS (COMM) NO. 1329 of 2016

[2] CS (COMM) No. 753 of 2017

[3] (1978) 4 SCC 118

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