“Unless a work exists, there cannot be any question of copyright or reproducing it”: Punjab and Haryana HC overturns stay on release of film ‘Dear Jassi’

Punjab and Haryana High Court

Punjab and Haryana High Court: In an appeal by T-Series challenging Additional District Judge’s order dated 23-11-2023 restraining them from producing, telecasting, selling or releasing the movie ‘Dear Jassi’ till the final decision, Rajbir Sehrawat, J. set aside the impugned order thereby vacating the stay on release of the said film since Dreamline Reality Movies could not prove a prima facie case in their favour.

Factual Background

T-Series intended to produce a film ‘Dear Jassi’ based on the story of Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu and purchased the right to make a film on the book written by Fabian Dawson on payment of authorization fee of about 5000C$. When the film was set to release, Dreamline Reality Movies claimed to have purchased the rights from another person stated to be the husband of Jaswinder Kaur. Accordingly, Dreamline Reality Movies filed a suit for injunction to restrain T-Series from exhibiting a film made by them. It was claimed that Dreamline Reality Movies entered into an agreement with Jaswinder Kaur’s husband prior in time, and that since husband’s story was also involved in the film, T-Series could not make a film without permission. Dreamline Reality Movies claimed to have a copyright over the story of Jaswinder’s husband. While the suit was still pending, an application for interim injunction restraining T-Series from exhibiting the film was also filed, which was allowed and impugned in the instant matter.

Court’s Analysis

The Court perused several definitions under Copyright Act, 1957 – Section 2(c) defining ‘artistic work’, 2(d) for ‘author’, 2(f) for ‘cinematograph film’, 2(m) for ‘infringing copy’, 2(u)(u) for ‘producer’ and 2(y) for ‘work’. It further referred to Section 13 regarding works in which copyright subsists, Section 14 for meaning of copyright. Based on the said provisions, the Court clarified that “to claim copyright over something, that something has to be an existing work.” Hinting towards the language of the provisions, the court said that it was obvious that the person could claim copyright only if he/she has already accomplished a work by incorporating his intelligence and creativity. It further added that “mere existence of certain facts constituting a human conduct or chain of events signifying a human behavior, as such, cannot be made a subject matter over which claim of copyright can be asserted by any person. Mere existence of an idea or existence of fact or set of facts, per se, and without involvement of talent, intelligence or effort by a person in converting the same into a work, by any means, cannot be stated to be a ‘work’, as required under the Copyright Act, qua which a person can assert his copyright.”

Coming to the instant facts, the Cout explained that although Dreamline Reality Movies claimed to having purchased rights to make film on Jaswinder’s husband’s story, but the same could not be a subject matter of copyright, though the same may entitled him to some other legal protections. In fact, he even did not have any right to assign the copyright to Dreamline Reality Movies.

Since T-Series claimed to have purchased the right to make a film on an existing book which contains story of Jaswinder Kaur, the said story and incidentally part of life of her husband, were already a part of literary work created in the form of a book. Therefore, the Court held that T-Series held the legal right to make a film on the same.

The Court further expressed that the life story of Jaswinder Kaur which included her murder, an alleged ‘honour killing’ after her family refused to accept her love story and consequent marriage, because of which, the entire aspect of the said life story had been part of court records in Canada extradition proceedings, and Indian courts where trail was conducted on account of honour killing, which also had been a subject matter of publications in media and five other films. Therefore, the subject matter was already in the public domain. For the said reason as well, her husband could not legitimately claim any copyright over the said story, as explained by the Court. The Court upheld the applicability of Krishna Kishore Singh v. Sarla A. Saraogi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 3146 and Ramgopal Varma v. Perumalla Amrutha, 2020 SCC OnLine TS 3018.

The Court did not find the prima facie case in favour of Dreamline Reality Movies. The Court further highlighted another aspect that the suit sought restraint against T-Series from making or exhibiting the film based on Jaswinder Kaur’s story, and not on her husband’s life story. Since Jaswinder Kaur was already deceased and did not leave any published or unpublished work behind her for which any legal heirs could claim any copyright. Also, the Trial Court in the impugned order granted an interim relief which was claimed as final relief, to be granted only after completion of trial.

While clarifying that Dreamline Reality Movies only claimed assignment of rights by Jaswinder Kaur’s husband and was required to satisfy certain conditions, the Court perused Section 18 of Copyright Act regarding assignment of copyright to further clarify that only existing copyright in an existing work could be assigned by the original copyright owner. Thus, the stated agreement between Dreamline Reality Movies and Jaswinder’s husband lacked any legal effect under Copyright Act. Regarding Jaswinder’s husband’s right to privacy, the court clarified that neither he enjoyed celebrity right nor publicity right to be used as saleable commodity for commercial exploitation. It further added that “The right to privacy would involve only those parts of one’s individuality and personality which are intrinsic and attached to his very existence as a human being, and also his orientations and choices which are unique to him and has no relativity to any other human being.”

Therefore, the Court allowed the instant appeal and set aside the impugned order dated 23-11-2023.

[T-Series v. Dreamline Reality Movies, Mohali, 2024 SCC OnLine P&H 661, decided on 22-02-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellants: Senior Advocate Amit Jhanji, Advocate Abhinav Sood, Advocate Amit Naik, Advocate Deepak Deshmukh, Advocate Madhu Gadodia, Advocate Anmol Gupta, Advocate Achintya Soni

For Respondent: Senior Advocate Sumeet Mahajan, Advocate Saksham Mahajn, Advocate Shrey Sachdeva

Must Watch

maintenance to second wife

bail in false pretext of marriage

right to procreate of convict

Criminology, Penology and Victimology book release

Join the discussion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.