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“I love you” is a Hindi movie that is directed by Nikhil Mahajan which is set to be released on 16 June, 2023 on Viacom 18’s OTT platform. The plaintiff, Lions Gate India LLP through their counsel filed an interim application no. 15729 of 2023 in Commercial IP Suit no. 15713 of 2023 seeking an ad-interim relief of stay of the film “I love you” alleging copyright infringement on the part of the makers of the movie.
DEFINITION OF COPYRIGHT
Copyright is defined in Section 14 of The Copyright Act, 1957. It is the exclusive right of an individual to reproduce, sell, issue copies of, give on commercial rental etc. any literary work, artistic work, dramatic work, cinematograph film or sound recording or authorise any person to do such acts.
WHAT IS COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT?
Section 51 of The Copyright Act, 1957 lays down the situations in which copyright infringement occurs:
- When the person does not have an exclusive license granted by the owner of the copyright or does any act violation of the terms of the license or for the purpose of making profits gives permission to use any place for public communication of the work.
- When the person makes for sale or sells any infringing copies of the work.
- When the person distributes any infringing copies of the work.
- When the person exhibits in public any infringing copies of the work.
- When the person imports any infringing copies of the work in India for the purpose of trade and not for domestic use.
SETTLED LEGAL POSITIONS
- Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation v. Sohail Maklai Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. (2010)
The Plaintiff, Twentieth Centruy Fox Film Corporation claimed copyright of its film “Phone Booth” which was being infringed by the Defendants in their film “Knock Out” which was set to release shortly. The Defendants denied all allegations and contended that there is no copyright in an idea. The Hon’ble Bombay High Court opined that the statement of the Defendant was partly correct. An idea that was never shown or expressed earlier is an original idea and the inventor alone would have the copyrights over the said idea.
Therefore, the Hon’ble Bombay High Court held that there was no doubt that the Defendant’s film “Knock Out” was a copy of the Plaintiff’s film “Phone Booth” because the Plaintiff’s novel idea of a phone booth caller being held hostage by a sniper on the roof was copied by the Defendants.
- Sholay Media and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. v. Parag Sanghavi (2015)
In this case, the Defendants were engaged in the production of a film which was a remake of the famous movie ‘SHOLAY’. This was done without the authorisation of the Plaintiffs.
It was held by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court that even if the infringing film is considered to be an adaption of ‘SHOLAY’, it was done without the authorisation of the Plaintiffs who have the copyrights over ‘SHOLAY’. Therefore, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court held that the same amounts to infringement under Section 14 (a) of The Copyrights Act, 1957.
- MRF Limited v. Metro Tyres Limited (2019)
The decision of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi was that the expression “to make a copy of the film” does not just mean a physical copy of the film but also includes reproduction of the original film such that the infringing film is substantially, materially or fundamentally resembles the original film.
- Yash Raj Films (P) Ltd. v. Sri Sai Ganesh Productions (2019)
In this case, the Plaintiff was the owner of the copyright of the movie “BAND BAAJA BAARAAT” which was released in the year 2010 and was entitled to copyright protection under Section 14 of The Copyright Act, 1957. In April 2011, the Plaintiff decided to remake the film in Tamil and Telugu but incurred exorbitant costs of over Rs. 1 crore in signing of artists and payment of artists. A month later, on May 2011, the Plaintiff by way of a public notice made it clear that it had not sold the remake rights to any person. The Defendant no. 1’s film, “JABARDASTH’ was released in the year 2013 and was a remake of the film “BAND BAAJA BAARAAT”. Three legal notices were issued by the Plaintiff to the Defendant no. 1 prior to the release of the film, but to no avail. Furthermore, the Defendant no. 1 had illegally sold the rights to release a Dubbed version of “JABARDASTH” in Tamil language to Defendant no. 2.
The Hon’ble Delhi High Court held that the Defendants’ film was a blatant copy of the movie “BAND BAAJA BAARAAT”. The Defendants had infringed the copyright of the Plaintiff.
ARGUMENTS ON BEHALF OF THE PLAINTIFF
The Plaintiff claimed that an American company, Summit Entertainment, had the sole and exclusive rights over the movie P2 which was released in the year 2007. Summit Entertainment had given the exclusive rights of remaking the film in Hindi to Lions Gate India LLP. The Plaintiff contended that ATHENA E&M LLP remade the film without their authorization which amounted to copyright infringement. Lions Gate India LLP urged the Hon’ble High Court to observe the method of presentation and expression of the competitor’s work, in order to determine copyright infringement.
ARGUMENTS ON BEHALF OF THE DEFENDANTS
The Defendants denied all allegations of the Plaintiff and argued that prima facie there was no copyright infringement on their part. The producers of the movie “I love you”, ATHENA E&M LLP, claimed that the film was an original work.
The order was passed by the Single Judge, Justice Riyaz Iqbal Chagla
After hearing the arguments of each side, the Hon’ble Bombay High Court felt that it was imperative for the Defendants to place on record any materials in their favour and affidavits in reply to the Interim Application within a period of two weeks i.e. on or before 28th June, 2023.
The Hon’ble Bombay High Court also gave liberty to the Plaintiff to file a Rejoinder Affidavit on or before 5th July, 2023.
In the meantime, the Hon’ble Bombay High Court did not stay the release of the film “I love you”, but stated that in case at a later stage, the Hon’ble High Court finds it reasonable to grant a remedy to the Plaintiff, the Defendants cannot claim equity.
Author: Sonakshi Pandey a law student of Symbiosis Law School (NOIDA), and Co-Author: Medha Banta – Litigation Associate , in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.
- Sholay Media and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. v. Parag Sanghavi, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 11644
- Creativity Deficiency in the Indian Film Industry : A Study Highlighting the Copyright Laws of India and the Notable Incidents of Infringements, 1 CMET (2014) 45
- Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation v. Sohail Maklai Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., 2010 SCC OnLine Bom 1577
- MRF Limited v. Metro Tyres Limited, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8973
- Yash Raj Films (P) Ltd. v. Sri Sai Ganesh Productions, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9094