Copyright protection is available only to the cinematograph film including the sound track: High Court Of New Delhi

This is an application filed by the plaintiff seeking an ex-parte ad interim injunction to restrain the defendant, and the same issue was held in the judgement passed by a single bench judge comprising HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE JAYANT NATH, in the matter SHRI RISHI RAJ V. SAREGAMA INDIA LTD dealt with an issue mentioned above.

The accompanying suit is filed by the plaintiff stating that it is carrying on the business of film production, distribution and exhibition IA No.6852/2017 & 1414/2020 in CS(COMM) 403.2017 under the name and style of ‘RAJ RISHI FILM’. Apart from the film the plaintiff is also said to be engaged in the business of acquiring negative rights of various films from different producers which are approximately 250 in number.

Regarding the defendant, it was stated that they have engaged in the act of copyright infringement, since, it is involved in the unauthorised exploitation of sound recording as well as audio-visuals of such songs etc. It was also stated that the defendant was been misrepresenting itself to be the copyright holder of the sound recordings as well as audiovisuals of such songs incorporated in the aforesaid films rights of which exclusively vest with the plaintiff alone.

Later the defendant in the written statement states that the defendant is in the business of acquiring copyright in many sound recordings and literary, musical and dramatic works. It was stated that the plaintiff‘s rights are limited to the assignment of alleged rights in the negatives of the impugned cinematograph films, which are only rights over the source material of the impugned cinematograph films.

Meanwhile, they also stated that this application came up on the first date i.e. 30.05.2017 for a hearing notice was issued in the matter. The matter was then sent for the recording of evidence were the issue which was framed by the court on 12.12.2019.

On 12.12.2019, the issues were framed:

Issue No.1 is as to whether the plaintiff has copyright over the sound recording and the underlying works of the cinematograph films forming the subject matter of the present dispute. Further, reference may also be had to the ‘List of Documents’ filed by the plaintiff. As an example, I may have a look at the first agreement dated 01.05.1999, which pertains to the films, ―Ankh Ka Tara‖, Hindi, ―Nagin Aur Suhagn, Hindi etc.

Accordingly, it was mentioned that the defendant will maintain true and appropriate accounts of all revenue generated from the songs of the films spelt out of the plaint. If at any stage, this court directs the filing of the said accounts, the defendant will forthwith file the same on an affidavit.  With the above directions, the present application is disposed of.

Now IA.No.1414/2020 14. This application was filed by the plaintiff in January 2020 after issues were framed stating that the plaintiff along with the plaint had filed copies of 58 agreements in respect of the films in support of its claim, It is however claimed that the plaintiff noticed 9 more agreements at the time of further scrutiny, were the agreements which were entered into with various producers right holders which were not filed due to inadvertence.

However, in the reply, the defendant states that the plaintiff has not been able to provide sufficient and reasonable cause or explanation for filing the additional documents at this belated stage. The suit is at the stage of evidence, the plaintiff cannot be allowed to produce any additional documents at this belated stage without giving a reasonable cause for non-filing of the same.

The judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Sudhir Kumar @ S. Baliyan vs. Vinay Kumar G.B. being 2021 SCC OnLine SC 734, decided on 15.09.2021 was also helpfully to give a decision. Later it was said that the facts of the present case, it is obvious that the documents which are now sought to be filed by the plaintiff were in the power and possession of the plaintiff. The only ground urged for not filing the documents with the plaint is that it was by an inadvertent error.

The court perused the facts and argument’s presented, it thought that- “The suit was filed in 2017 and the application for filing additional documents had been filed three years later in 2020 merely stating inadvertent error. In my opinion, there is no reasonable cause given by the plaintiff for not filing the additional documents along with the plaint. The application is belated. The plaintiff cannot be permitted to rely on the documents as sought. The application is accordingly dismissed”.

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Judgment Reviewed by: Mandira BS 

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