IPR Newsletter: Super Cassettes Ltd. v. Nandi Chinni Kumar- February-2021

Supreme Court Refuses to lift Stay on Movie ‘Jhund’

The Supreme Court in CMA.No.357 and 358 of 2020 has refused to lift stay on the movie ‘Jhund’. The litigation was initiated by filmmaker Nandi Chinni Kumar (“Plaintiff”), who claimed that he had purchased the right to make a movie about the life of Akhilesh Paul, captain of the Indian Slum Soccer team. It was later brought to his attention that the life of Vijay Barse, coach of the Indian Slum Soccer team, was being made into a movie by Super Cassettes (“Company”).

The Plaintiff then approached the civil court contending that the movie ‘Jhund’ will have substantial elements from the life of Paul, on whose life story he owns the copyright. The trial court ruled in favour of the Plaintiff and restrained Super Cassettes from exhibiting the movie till the conclusion of the case. The same was upheld by the Telangana High Court. It was also contended that real-life events of two persons might be inter-connected. Hence, a third person who purchases the true-life events of one person cannot prohibit others from making a film simply because the lives of the two persons in question met at some point in time. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case on merits and went on to dismiss the same.

Under the Copyright Act, 1957 (“Act”), no person can copy the original work of another. All original works have copyright protection, and legal protection in respect of any original creative work. Only the author of the copyright can reproduce the work and can grant a license to another person to do the same.

Copyrights Existing in a Film:

Copyright is the exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material. Copyright exists only when an original artistic work is expressed. No copyright exists in ideas, it exists only the expression. The Supreme Court agreed with the Copyright Act, 1957, in the famous judgement of RG Anand v Delux films and Others in 1978 on this topic.

The making of the film is not an easy job. There are various people involved, various locations, various artists that are required and marketing agencies. Therefore, there are various copyrights that exist while making a film.

1. If any person has a literary copyright, the author can make a cinematographic representation of the same. The author can even grant a right to anyone else to make the film. One example is JK Rowling. She wrote Harry Potter books, and then granted the rights to make the film to Warner Bros, a production house based in Los Angeles, USA.

2. The author can reproduce any artistic work in any film as well. Capturing the film on camera is also an artistic work. The copyright for this exists with the principal photographer, who captures the film on camera. For e.g. In the film Taare Zameen Par, the character played by Amir Khan drew a portrait of the small child. The original artist who drew the portrait was Samir Monda, and he drew it for the film.

3. Even set designs come under this heading by the Copyright Act, 1957. The set designers own their specific copyright.

4. The sound recording exists with the sound producers.

5. The producers own the entire film. If any person has a copyright, the producer owns the copyright as well.


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