The Allahabad High Court has refused to grant any interim relief against release of Amitabh Bachchan starrer Bollywood film 'Chehre' in a plea alleging copyright infringement (Uday Prakash v. Anand Pandit).
Single-judge Justice JJ Munir said that while the movie and the copyrighted work alleged to have been plagiarised, appear to have come from a common source, they are materially different in treatment and development.
"There is, thus, prima facie a materially different and distinctive development and treatment of the same theme in both the scripts. In the prima facie opinion of this Court, there is, apart from the fundamentals of the basic theme that appear to have come from a common source, no such distinctive feature in the copyrighted version that have been prima facie plagiarized," the order said.
The Court was hearing an appeal against an order of District Judge, Ghaziabad who had rejected the application of the plaintiff, Uday Prakash for temporary injunction in his suit for infringement of copyright.
It was Prakash's case that his copyrighted script was plagiarised by defendant, Anand Pandit who is the producer of 'Chehre'.
The plaintiff contended that he had obtained copyright registration for his work from Copyright Office, New Delhi under the name 'Highway-39' way back in 2007.
He later discussed the copyrighted work with one of his acquaintances, Mazhar Kamran, who was at the relevant time, working with the plaintiff as a cameraman on several audio visual projects.
Later, Mazhar Kamran had assured the latter that he would show the copyrighted work to a few prominent producers, of whom Anand Pandit was one (defendant no.1).
In June 2019, Prakash came to know, from reliable sources in the film industry, that Pandit is making a movie which is very similar to his copyrighted work.
"The plaintiff claims that he was given information that defendant no.1 has scheduled a release of the movie under the name and title of ‘Chehre’. The plaintiff also asserts that he read news and collected information available in the public domain that the movie, last mentioned, went into production somewhere around the month of May, 2019," the Court noted.
The plaintiff contended that he has so far not assigned, transferred or sold his copyright in the copyrighted work to any third party and he holds it in his name alone.
The violation of the plaintiff’s copyright is causing loss of name and reputation to the plaintiff, it was submitted.
It was further argued that the infringement due to production and release of the feature film would cause the plaintiff severe harassment, loss of reputation and a cascading effect on the plaintiff’s professional prospects, vis-a-vis his reputation as an author.
The Court, however, compared the two scripts after which it opined that it shows that while the principle theme is common to both scripts, there are "a host of differences in the script leading to the feature film."
In this light, the Court rejected the plea for temporary injunction to stay the release of the movie.
The Court, however, directed the trial court to decide the suit expeditiously and conclude the trial within four months.
"It is, therefore, to be ordered that if the plaintiff succeeds, all further displays of the feature film shall have to carry an acknowledgment, suitably to be displayed that the movie is based on the copyrighted work, which is the plaintiff's authorship. Also, the trial of the suit is to be expedited. Since the learned District Judge is hearing the suit himself, he will proceed with the suit, fixing one date every week and endeavour to conclude the trial within four month," the Court further said.
The Court also clarified that all its observations are for a decision on the aspect of temporary injunction and shall not have any bearing on the trial.
"It must be remarked here that whatever comparison has been done, is not, in any manner, a final expression of opinion on merits about the distinctive similarities or the dissimilarities. That is something that has to await trial, where wholesome evidence would now be led. All the remarks here are limited to the decision of the temporary injunction matter and nothing more," the order said.