Samir Kasal V. Prashant Mehta & Ors: Decrypting The Conundrum Conflux Of Copyright And Confidentiality Over Cricket

Introduction

The multifaceted pursuit of undue capitalistic gains has for decades posed a colossal threat to intellectual autonomy, the daunting effects of which ruthlessly trickled down to the burgeoning infringement of innovation in the past. In furtherance of such interest, the absence of a definite judicial advertence that paralleled immunity against such allied transgressional oversights ultimately led to the formulation of the Copyright Act, 1957. The meaning of copyright, for each category of work, is quite extensive, especially when we note that the definitions of most genres of work is inclusive rather than exhaustive and that copyright protection extends to all kinds of work including those which represent “originality at vanishing point.[i]” Amidst the prevailing roll-out of digital transformation in India, this structured judicial protocol has been positively construed to safeguard the idea-expression dichotomy concerning innumerable works of artistic creation, pivoting the prospect of legally protecting touchstones of creative conscience and innovation per say. At the outset, this article shall analyse a recent Indian judgment delivered in the case of Samir Kasal v. Prashant Mehta & Ors, 2022[ii] that addresses the conundrum conflux of copyright and confidentiality over cricket at large.

Samir kasal

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Facts of the Case

In this case, the Plaintiff [Samir Kasal], a novel personality in the field of sports entertainment conceptualized the format and novel features of an International Cricket League wherein famous retired cricketers would compete against each other amidst a test cricket format divided over 2 innings of 10 overs each that which would be intended to roll out in non-cricket playing countries to bolster the interest and spirit of the sport within the same. It was claimed by the Plaintiff that he alongside Defendant 1 [Prashant Mehta] had started working on the project, who also successfully roped in Defendant 2 [Vivek Khushalani] to join as an investor and in light of the same, the allied format, conceptual clarity and other information about the project had been shared to Defendant 2 collectively in discretion and due confidentiality underlying the project titled “Legends Premiere League.”

However, after getting notified from media coverage about the fact that the Defendants were intending to organize a league titled “Legends League Cricket” rather than “Legends Premiere League” which had been previously agreed between them, the Plaintiff filed a petition seeking interim relief claiming that there was an undue copyright infringement of the concept that was primarily developed by him and a clear breach of confidentiality on which the Defendants misappropriated the Plaintiff’s original concept in light of the same.

Issues

  1. Whether the Plaintiff could have claimed copyright that had arisen out of his “work”[iv] or in light of the same, whether the entire sport of cricket pertaining to its conceptual format could fall within the ambit of copyright?
  2. Whether a breach of confidentiality can be claimed by the Plaintiff on behalf of the concerned Defendants?
    Analysis
  1. Contention of the Plaintiff

The Plaintiff conferred reliance on the cases of:

Zee Telefilms Ltd. Sundial Communications Pvt. Ltd, 2003[v]

-Anil Gupta v Kunal Dasgupta, 2002[vi]

-Urmi Juvekar Chiang v. Global Broadcast News Ltd, 2007[vii];

and in such correspondence contended that the 2 Defendants in secretive communications substantiated between them, planned to oust the Plaintiff with dishonest intentions and make commercial gains by starting a new company that would execute the conceptualized idea which had originally been introduced by the Plaintiff; amounting to both breach of confidentiality as well as undue infringement of copyright.

  1. Contentions of the Defendants

(a) Firstly, the Defendants after conferring reliance on the verdict of MRF Limited v. Metro Tyres Limited, 2019[viii],  submitted that the “format” which the Plaintiff claimed to have been introduced by him had been first introduced in the public domain in 1997, holding that the Plaintiff’s idea which he desired exclusivity and claimed for copyright infringement itself lacked originality. Further, the Defendants asserted that their Tournament’s format was different from that of the Plaintiff’s pertaining to the novel features that included the number of teams, overs, venues, franchises, innings and league names per say; thus vehemently denying any such claims of undue copyright infringement.

(c) Secondly, Defendant 2 and others submitted that there had been no contract signed with the Plaintiff regarding the concept and in light of the same contended that if there was any form of such allied breach of confidentiality as claimed by the Plaintiff, an obligation for the same shall depend on the nature of information sought and cannot continue indefinitely owing to which there was no such form of breach per say.

(c) Lastly, the Defendants submitted that the tangent of interpretation centric to pressing charges for undue copyright infringement is maintainable only on “completed work” but since the Plaintiff’s work was not yet completed, the aforementioned claim is not maintainable.

Conclusion

  1. Firstly, the Delhi High Court noted that although there had resulted a monetary loss on behalf of the plaintiff after which he had lawfully acquired the aforementioned loss of the information that was of proprietary use, damages that had been suffered by the Plaintiff shall continue to remain infinitesimal as weighted to that of the Defendant if there would have been a requisite grant of an interim injunction against them.
  2. Secondly, pertaining to the Plaintiff’s contention of claiming copyright over his “work[ix],” the Court held that the concept fails to fall within the aforementioned legal ambit because it was observed that such a concept had been out in the public domain for a significant period of time and did not hold any form of originality owing to which exclusive rights over the same cannot be granted to the Plaintiff.
  3. Thirdly, the Court was of the view that there were significant differences to establish that the format followed in the Defendant’s tournament is not a copy of the Plaintiff’s underlying the sole similarity between the two formats being cricket. After conferring reliance on the verdict delivered in the case of R.G. Anand v Delux Films, 1978[x], the Court pointed out that several permutations and combinations in the format of playing the aforementioned sport have evolved over the years owing to which no one per say can therefore claim a copyright to same. Conclusively, the Plaintiff’s argument on breach of confidentiality was rejected by the Court on solidarity with the allied submissions of Defendant 2.
  4. At the outset, the Court held that the balance of convenience was in favour of the Defendants and dismissed the interim application filed by the Plaintiff, holding that the game of cricket cannot be granted any form of copyright protection as such.

Author: Harikushal Deshpande, A Student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to chhavi@khuranaandkhurana.com or at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.

[i] Baxi, U., COPYRIGHT LAW AND JUSTICE IN INDIA, Journal of the Indian Law Institute, 28(4), 497–540, 1986, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43951048

[ii] Samir Kamal v. Prashant Mehta & Ors, CS (COMM) 39/2022

[iii] The Copyright Act, 1957, § 2(y), Acts of Parliament, 1957 (India)

[iv] The Copyright Act, 1957, § 2(y), Acts of Parliament, 1957 (India)

[v] Zee Telefilms Ltd. v. Sundial Communications Pvt. Ltd., 2003 SCC OnLine Bom 344

[vi] Anil Gupta v. Kunal Dasgupta, 2002 SCC OnLine Del 250

[vii] Urmi Juvekar Chiang v. Global Broadcast News Ltd., 2007 SCC OnLine Bom 471

[viii] MRF Limited v. Metro Tyres Limited, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8973

[ix] The Copyright Act, 1957, § 2(y), Acts of Parliament, 1957 (India)

[x] R.G. Anand v. Delux Films, (1978) 4 SCC 118

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