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Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd vs. Sri Sai Ganesh Productions & Ors

CASE BRIEF

Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd

vs.

Sri Sai Ganesh Productions & Ors

Plaintiff- Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd

Defendant- Sri Sai Ganesh Productions & Ors

Decided On: 8.07.2019

Statutes Referred:-

Section 2(f), Section 13(3)(a), Section 13(1)(b), Section 14(d)(i)

Cases Referred:-

  1. MRF Limited vs. METRO Tyres Limited on July 01, 2019
  2. R.G Anand vs M/S. Delux Films & Ors on 18 August, 1978

Facts:-

  1. Yash Raj Films (YRF), a renowned production house and the plaintiff in this matter, is the producer of the Bollywood film, Band Baja Baarat which was released on December 10, 2010 in India and other countries. The Plaintiff holds copyright in various original works in this film, including but not limited to the storyline, dialogues, theme, concept, plot, script, music, lyrics and character sketches.
  2. YRF even proclaimed through a public notice in May 2011 that it had not sold the copyrights of the film to any third party and was the sole owners of the same.
  3. Around December 2011, the Plaintiff came to know that Sri Sai Ganesh Productions, one of the defendants in this case, intended to remake the film in Telegu. The plaintiff sent two cease and desist notices to the defendants, one in January 2012 and the other in April 2012 but received no response.
  4. Subsequently, the defendants released a trailer, following, the Plaintiff issued the Third Legal Notice requesting a copy of the Impugned Movie and the Script before the release of the Impugned Movie. The defendants did not respond to the third notice either, and instead released the film titled Jabardasth in February 2013.
  5. The defendants had also sold their rights to a Tamil production house for its remake, which was to be released in April 2013. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a copyright infringement suit against the Sri Sai Ganesh Productions, the director and the distributor of the Telegu film (collectively referred as the ‘defendants’) for blatantly copying the plot, theme and character-sketch of their movie.

Contentions by Parties:-

Plaintiff’s Arguments

  1. They contented that the manner in which the plot unfolded, and the treatment as well as expression given to the theme in the plaintiff’s Film had been blatantly copied in the impugned film.
  2. They also submitted that the similarities between the Plaintiff’s Film and the defendants‟ film were substantial and material in terms of theme, concept, plot, character sketches, story, script, form and expression etc. which amounted to copyright infringement.
  3. They also contended that a spectator or viewer of the impugned film who had also seen the plaintiff’s Film, would have an unmistakable impression that the defendants‟ film was a copy and/or reproduction of the plaintiff’s Film.
  4. They further contended that the reviews received by the impugned film validated and reinforced the fact that the defendants‟ film was a blatant copy of the plaintiff’s Film.

Defendant’s Arguments

They submitted that the trial court did not have the territorial jurisdiction to deal with the present matter as the impugned film was conceived, written and directed in Hyderabad and no part of its preparation including post production work had taken place in New Delhi.

Issue:-

  1. Whether copyright exists in a cinematograph film and the underlying works that it is comprised of?
  2. Whether the expression ‘to make a copy of the film’ under Section 14 under Section14 means mean making physical copy of the film only?
  3. Does the Delhi High Court have jurisdiction to hear the present matter?

Judgement:-

The court while dealing with the first issue held that for the purpose of copyright law, a cinematograph film is seen in a wider perspective than just an assortment of its underlying works.

The term “underlying works” here refers to the different kinds of creative and original works that go into making an entire cinematograph film. For instance, the script and dialogues come under literary works; the lyrics of the songs under musical works; the complete songs come within the purview of sound recordings; posters and advertisements as artistic works, etc.

While each of these underlying works claim individual copyright protection under the Copyright Act, 1957, a cinematograph film as a whole is also entitled to be protected under the Act.

The court then took the reference of the case MRF Limited vs. Metro Tyres Ltd. and held that the fact that a cinematograph film infringes on another film can be a valid reason for lack of ‘originality’ and thus will not be protected under the copyright law.

The Court further added that even though the term ‘original’ is absent from the text of Section 13 (1) (b) of the Act which talks about copyright in cinematograph films, the requirement of “originality” can be clearly derived from Section 13 (3) (a) and 2 (d) of the said Act.

It clarified the point that copyright shall not subsist in a cinematograph film if a substantial part of it is infringing the copyright of any other work.

The court while dealing with the second issue held that the expression “to make a copy of the film” under Section 14 (d)(i) of the Act is not restricted to making only physical copies of the film by the process of duplication.

It also means copying the idea, expression and other intangible aspects of an existing cinematograph film and incorporating them in another film.

To determine the originality of a film, the Court referred to the test laid down in the landmark case of R.G. Anand v. Deluxe Films, 4 SCC 118 (1978) wherein it was held that in such matters, the Court must compare “the substance, the foundation, the kernel” of the two films in question.

It is imperative to understand whether an average viewer who is made to watch both the films would get the unmistakable impression that one is the copy of the other. And, in the present case, the Court found that the defendants, in their film Jabardasth, had blatantly copied the fundamental, essential and distinctive features of the plaintiff’s film, Band Baja Baarat.

In this case, the defendants had also argued that the entire process of making their film was in Hyderabad and no part of it was executed in Delhi and hence the Delhi High Court had no territorial jurisdiction in hearing or passing any order in this matter.

The court while dealing with the third issue. And, the plaintiffs submitted that this court had the jurisdiction to deal with the present matter as, the defendant’s film was released pan India including Delhi.

However, the Honorable Court held that as the defendants’ film was released in Delhi along with the rest of the country, the Delhi High Court had the territorial jurisdiction over this matter.

Thus, the Delhi High Court decreed the suit in favour of the plaintiff and against defendants.

Rule of law:-

The provision of the law which was under scrutiny by the Hon’ble High Court of India was that the cinematograph film is an original copyrightable work by itself independent of the underlying works and is subjected to the protection under Copyright Act, 1957.

Conclusion:-

To conclude, it can be said that in the present case Supreme Court rightly ruled out that a cinematograph film is essentially greater than just a conglomeration of its underlying works like literary, dramatic or musical works.

Thus, copyright in a cinematograph film can subsist independent of its underlying works and also that making a copy of a cinematograph film is not restricted to just making physical copies of the film but also includes copying the idea behind the film.