Delhi High Court: In a suit filed by the plaintiff seeking an order declaring that the Plaintiff has all rights, title and interest in the content created/ produced by Khesari Lal Yadav who is a famous actor/singer/dancer of the Bhojpuri Film Industry (Defendant 6) and that all copyright in such content vests solely with the Plaintiff during the term of the Original Agreement as well as pass a decree permanently restraining and enjoining the defendants, their servants, employees, representatives and agents, jointly and severally, from violating and infringing, in any manner, the copyrights and intellectual property rights of the Plaintiff, Amit Bansal, J., held that the plaintiff cannot claim any copyright in the songs/content that are yet to come into being and therefore the present suit is nothing but a suit for specific performance of the contract, though guised as a suit seeking an injunction for infringement of copyright.
The Plaintiff is engaged in the business of production, aggregation, distribution and monetization of music and entertainment content. The defendant 1 company is engaged in the business of production, marketing and monetization of music and entertainment content. The defendants 2-4 are entertainment channels on the platform of the defendant 5. The defendant 5 is YouTube LLC, an online video sharing and social media platform.
The plaintiff company entered into a Production Agreement with the defendant 6 wherein songs were supposed to be delivered by the Artist to the plaintiff company in return for said consideration, however, the artist committed a breach of the terms of the agreement by releasing songs to the third parties in violation of the exclusivity clause which were eventually resolved between the parties and an addendum was added in the agreement adding few clauses wherein giving exclusivity to the plaintiff company were suspended except in respect of the YouTube Channel ‘BlueBeat Bhojpuri'. However, the Addendum provided a right of first refusal in favour of the plaintiff company.
Inspite of the addendum, disputes arose between the parties and the artist terminated the original agreement allegedly in blatant infringement of the copyright vested in the plaintiff company and the exclusivity/ ‘right of first refusal' in favour of the plaintiff company as the Artist created content and allowed third parties, i.e., the defendants 1 to 4 and the defendants 7 to 14 to promote the said content by uploading the same on the defendant 5's platform. Notices were issued and the rights of the plaintiff company were duly acknowledged by some of the music broadcasting companies such as T-Series by way of email. Thus, the present suit was filed.
The Court noted that on a perusal of Clause 5.1 of the Original Agreement clearly records that the said Agreement is a ‘contract of service' and the Artist shall deliver the content to the plaintiff company on a ‘work for hire' basis. A perusal of the termination clauses in Clause 7 of the Original Agreement and Clause 8 of the Addendum also reveals that right of termination was given only to the plaintiff company and the Artist was precluded under Clause 2 of the Original Agreement from terminating the contract.
The Court further examining if the said termination by the Artist is valid or not, noted that no case for grant of an interim injunction must be made out in favour of the plaintiff company as the contract in the present case was a ‘contract of service' as acknowledged in Clause 5.1 of the Original Agreement and was dependent on the personal qualifications of the Artist. Therefore, the contract falls within the category of contracts that are not specifically enforceable in terms of Section 14(c) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963.
The Court recorded that there is no provision in the contract for the Artist to terminate the contract, the right of termination has been provided only to the plaintiff company. However, the contract being a commercial contract between the two private parties for mutual gain and benefit, it cannot be stated that the Artist could not terminate the aforesaid contract. Once the parties have lost mutual trust and confidence in each other, the Court cannot grant an injunction compelling the Artist to continue with its contractual obligations with the plaintiff company. Therefore, the contract being determinable in nature, is not enforceable in view of Section 14(d) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963.
[Global Music Junction Private Limited v. Annapurna Films Pvt. Ltd., 2023 SCC OnLine Del 17, decided on 06-01-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Mr. Raj Shekhar Rao, Senior Advocate with Mr. Yashvardhan, Ms. Smita Kant, Ms. Rhia Marshall, Ms. Kritika Nagpal, Ms. Mansi Sood and Mr. Areeb Amanullah, Advocates, for the Plaintiff;
Mr. Akhand Pratap Singh and Mr. Abhinandan Gautam, Advocates, for the Defendant 1 and 4;
Mr. Neel Mason, Mr. Vihan Dang and Ms. Varsha Jhavar, Advocates, for the Defendant 5;
Mr. Pradeep Kumar Arya, Mr. Randhir Singh, Mr. Raj Karan Sharma, Mr. Aditya Yadav, Mr. Prateek Singh, Mr. Priyanshu Malik, Mr. Anshul Malik and Ms. Romita Malik, Advocates, for the Defendant 6;
Mr. Piyush Ranjan, Advocate, for the Defendant 12.
*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.