bombay high court

Bombay High Court: In an application essentially seeking direction against Super Cassettes Industries Pvt. Ltd. (‘defendant’) to restrict infringement of copyrights in the suit films by allegedly, illegally publishing audio-visuals pertaining to songs of the suit films on various channels on YouTube without requisite permission/license from Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd. (‘plaintiff’), Manish Pitale, J. dismissed the same pointing out the plaintiff’s failure in making out a prima facie case to prove grave and irreparable loss being suffered.

The plaintiff claims absolute ownership of copyright in 24 cinematographic films, particularly the audio-visual songs, based on agreements executed in its favour by various entities, conveying that all such rights have been duly assigned by the original owners/producers through various agreements/assignments. The defendant has claims limited to the audio-visuals of songs in the said films saying that the original producers never raised any objection to exploitation of such audio-visuals of songs by the defendant.

The plaintiff said that only audio rights were assigned to defendant between 1985-1990 regarding suit films, and that between 2004-2016, various producers of the suit films/assignees executed assignment deeds in favour of plaintiff when it acquired sole, exclusive and absolute ownership of the suit films, including the negative rights in the suit films. The plaintiff claims to have been exploiting such rights since 2006. It further claimed that the plaintiff gave temporary non-exclusive license to another defendant to exploit some of the contents from 1-5-2014 to 30-4-2015, while alleging that the exploitation continued after expiry of the said period. The defendant later claimed to be the exclusive owner of all copyrights stating assignment agreements with producers of original films.

The Court supported the defendant’s reliance on K. Bose Babu v. Gowri Productions, 2018 SCC OnLine Mad 13679 and pointed at the plaintiff’s failure in filing link documents to make out a strong prima facie case regarding copyright claim. The Court opined that “being the plaintiff claiming interim injunction, it is necessary for it to make out a strong prima facie case as regards its copyright in respect of all the 24 suit films”, and observed that the plaintiff was certainly expected to file all relevant documents with the plaint indicating the source of assertion of such rights in accordance with Order XI Rule 1 of Civil Procedure Code.

The Court referred to Sudhir Kumar v. Vinay Kumar G.B., (2021) 13 SCC 71 wherein, the Supreme Court rejected the explanation of voluminous documents required to be placed on record by the plaintiff. The Court observed that “In the absence of link documents, the plaintiff is not justified in calling upon this Court to exercise its discretion for granting temporary injunction in its favour, on the basis that exclusive copyrights are held in the said 9 suit films.”

The Court perused the assignment deed pertaining to the film ‘Amba’ and opined that ‘the said work’ indicates plaintiff’s failure in making out a prima facie case about only audio rights being assigned to the defendant. It further supported the defendant’s contention of exploiting audio-visuals of such songs of the suit films, openly and continuously based on the understanding and interpretation of assignment deeds with the original producers.

The Court prima facie found the interpretation of the assignment deeds in favour of defendant excluding the scope of only audio rights and grant of interim injunction. The Court reasoned that “the assignors of the plaintiff could not have assigned a title better than what they were themselves holding.”

The Court also pointed at the delay on part of the plaintiff in taking action against the defendant, who has been uploading the audio-visuals of songs contained in the suit films since 2012, openly and continuously, as accepted by the plaintiff too, since the first ‘Cease and Desist’ notice was issued to the defendant in 2019 and the instant suit filed in 2022.

Pointing towards the plaintiff’s failure to make a prima facie case, “the aspects of grave and irreparable loss being suffered in the absence of temporary injunction and balance of convenience, pale into insignificance” in the Court’s opinion.

[Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd. v. Super Cassettes Industries Pvt. Ltd., 2023 SCC OnLine Bom 1148, Order dated 5-6-2023]

Order by: Justice Manish Pitale

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Applicant: Senior Counsel Sharan Jagtiani, Advocate Hiren Kamod, Advocate Mahesh A. Mahadgut, Advocate Prem Khullar, Advocate Poonam Teddu, Advocate Abhinav Tripathi;

For Respondent: Senior Counsel Ravi Kadam, Advocate Harsh Kaushik, Advocate Abhilisha Nautiyal, Advocate Zahra Padamsee, Advocate Kyle Curry, Advocate Amit Jamsandekar, Advocate Nayan Mahar, Advocate Abhinav Tripathi.

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