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The Sun TV Network has exclusive rights to broadcast the film “Jilla.”: Madras High Court

The 1st defendant after having assigned the telecast rights absolutely in favour of the plaintiff for a valid consideration, loses that right and the 1 st defendant can no longer assign the same rights in favour of any other party much less in favour of the 2 nddefendant. The facts of the present case are governed by the latin maxim nemo dat quod non habet which means that “no one can give what they do not have”. These were upheld by the  High Court of Madras through the learned bench of Honourable Justice Mr. N. Anand Venkatesh in thee case of  M/s. Sun TV Network Ltd  vs M/s. Super Good Films Private Limited & Ors. (C.S.No.329 of 2014)

The crux of the case is The plaintiff is a leading television network in South India has filed the instant suit seeking for a relief of permanent injunction against the defendant, their men, representatives, agents and anybody on behalf of the defendants from in anyway exhibiting or exploiting the Tamil film ‘JILLA’ and for a declaration that the plaintiff is the sole and exclusive copyright holder for broadcasting the Tamil film ‘JILLA’ starring Vijay, Mohanlal and others through Satellite television Broadcast, direct to home broadcast, direct satellite service, internet, video streaming through all forms, etc for a perpetual period of 99 years. The plaintiff has further prayed for a direction to the defendant to pay costs.

The plaintiff submits that the 1st defendant is the producer and exclusive copyright holder of the cinematography Tamil film ‘JILLA’ starring Vijay, Mohanlal and others. The 1 st defendant by way of agreement dated 08-07-2013 assigned the copyright for the said film in favour of the plaintiff for broadcasting through various modes of broadcast and transmission, for a consideration of Rs.15,50,00,000/-. The plaintiff states that they have clearly established the assignment of copyright of the film by the 1 st defendant in favour of the plaintiff and also established the entire consideration paid for the same. The agreement in favour of the plaintiff is prior to that of the alleged agreement in favour of the 2 nd defendant. The plaintiff claims that the alleged assignment agreement in favour of the 2 nd defendant was for theatrical release of the said movie outside India. Clause 8 of the alleged agreement clearly states that the said consideration of rupees 10 cores is only for theatrical release of the said film outside India. While this being so, the plaintiff claims that the 2 nd defendant cannot claim airborne rights and assign it in favour of the 3 rddefendant who in turn assigned it to 4 th defendant without any valid right. The plaintiff states that they have exploited the film in its satellite channels and OTT platforms and various other modes and the 2 nddefendant has not come forward with any claim. The plaintiff claims that this clearly establishes that the 2 nd defendant is well aware of the fact that, what was assigned to them was only theatrical release of the said movie outside India. On these pleadings, the plaintiff has laid the present suit.

The 2nd defendant claims that that they were not aware of the assignment agreement entered into by the 1st defendant with the plaintiff. The 2nd defendant further claims that neither the plaintiff nor the 1st defendant informed about the assignment agreement dated 08-07-2013 to the 2nd defendant. The 2nd defendant states that the entire consideration of Rs.8,25,00,000/- was paid before the plaintiff’s alleged supplementary agreement with the 1st defendant dated 06-01-2014. The 2nd defendant states that 1st defendant is the author and copyright holder of the suit film and in view of the assignment dated 31-07-2013, the 2nd defendant has got copyright to telecast the film.

The learned bench of Honourable Justice Mr. N. Anand Venkatesh observed and stated that “this court holds that the plaintiff is the sole and exclusive copyright owner for broadcasting the Tamil film “JILLA” and the agreement in favour of the 2nd defendant dated 31-07-2013, does not in anyway take away the right of the plaintiff conferred through the assignment agreement dated 08-07-2013 and to the extent the agreement dated 31-07-2013 executed in favour of the 2nd defendant transgresses into the right of the plaintiff, the same is held to be invalid. In view of the same, the plaintiff is entitled for the reliefs sought for in the present suit. All the issues are answered accordingly.

In the result, the suit is allowed and it is decreed as prayed for. Taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case, there shall be a direction to the defendants to pay costs of a sum of Rs.1,50,000/- jointly and severally in favour of the plaintiff

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Judgement reviewed by Himanshu Ranjan

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