IPR Newsletter: ANALYSING COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT “BEETAL” JUDGEMENT-June-2021
How would you know that someone has infringed the copyright in your work? What do you need to assure before filing any complaint in this regard?
FACT OF THE CASE
Sameer Wadekar wrote a copyright work titled Vetaal in the year 2013-14 and registered the same in 2015. Sameer Wadekar came across the trailer of Netflix Entertainment Services Private Limited’s (Netflix) web series titled “Betaal”. Sameer Wadekar alleged that there are several similarities between the two works. According to Sameer Wadekar, in 146 seconds of the video trailer of the web series, there were at least 13 similarities with his work with that of the web series’ video trailer. Accordingly, Sameer Wadekar alleged that the Netflix has infringed his copyright work. Further Sameer Wadekar sought an injunction on the release of Betaal web series.
Whether Netflix infringed the copyright work of Sameer Wadekar? Whether Sameer Wadekar is entitled for an injunction against the release of Betaal web series?
ANALYSIS AND OBSERVATIONS
The Court asked Sameer Wadekar, “How did Netflix come to know about your unpublished work?”. The Court further asked whether the writers of the web series had access to the work of Sameer Wadekar. The Court stated that since Sameer Wadekar is alleging that someone has stolen or copied their copyright work, he has to prove how Netflix accessed Sameer Wadekar’s work.
Sameer Wadekar argued that he had shared his copyright work with many known and established producers and directors of the industry. Sameer Wadekar further stated that they had shared the copyright work with a filmmaker/director named Mr. Wilson Louis. According to Sameer Wadekar, Mr. Wilson Louis liked the story and was determined to make a film on the same. Sameer Wadekar alleged that Mr. Wilson Louis had several contacts in Netflix. The Court observed that none of the evidence submitted by Sameer Wadekar shows any link between Mr. Wilson Louis and Netflix. The Court further observed that the Sameer Wadekar is unable to back his claim with any evidence.
Sameer Wadekar failed to establish the point of contact between him and Netflix. Therefore, it cannot be presumed that the Netflix had access to the copyright work of Sameer Wadekar. The Court cannot make a presumption of copyright infringement in the absence of the established point of contact. Any similarities between the two works would be treated co-incidental. Hence, the Court denied the interim relief to the Sameer Wadekar.
“The most important conclusion of this case is that proving the point of contact is essential to claim copyright infringement”.
This is harsh but true that the Court do not even analyze the similarities between two works if the plaintiff fails to prove the access or point of contact. “The analysis of the ‘substantial similarities’ happens only in the case of an established point of contact”.
All the creators and authors do not share their work randomly with anyone. It is essential to always keep records of the people with whom authors shares their work. The authors need to execute a non-disclosure agreement before sharing his work with anyone. Remember, when author makes a copyright infringement allegation, it is necessary to ask a simple question, “How this person has accessed author’s copyright work?”