The a producer or maker as per the

The Copyright Act, 1957
is considered to be a vintage legislation in the field on Intellectual Property
Laws in India. The focal thought is to protect the originality of an idea once
it is expressed by way of certain medium. Cinematograph film is a homogeneous
material with numerous other works within it which enjoys protection by
operation of law or by contract or assignment when all these works are put
together in the final form of a film over which the rights are vested in a
producer or maker as per the Act. Though much of attempts have been made to
update it as per the need of the hour, the Act still has loopholes especially
with respect to cinematograph, digital technology, software etc. 

An appeal (O.S Appeal
No: 22 of 20170) was filed, dated September 8, 2016, before the Division Bench
of Madras High Court comprising of Justice Ravi Shakdher and Justice Abdul
Quddhose against the judgement and decree passed by the learned single judge
wherein the plea made by plaintiff for injunction against the defendants was
rejected. Disputes between the parties center around the rights annexed to the
film ‘Aaranya  Kaandam’.

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Appellant/Plaintiff
wrote the script of the film “Aaranya 
Kaandam” and has complied with the formalities of registration before
the Film Writers Association in Mumbai. In the due procedure of changing over
the content into a film he met the respondents around May-June, 2007 and the
pre-production work for making of the film in Tamil commenced in July 2007.
Film script in the form of a bound copy was handed over to respondents in
February, 2008 and the shooting started in December, 2008. The entire work of
production was completed on May 25, 2010. When the film started rolling it
received umpteen appraisals and reviews and won ‘Grand Jury Prize’ at New York
Film Festival however it did not gain much commercially due to poor publicity.
In February, 2012, appellant came to know that the respondents were attempting
to dub ‘Aaranya  Kaandam’ in Telugu
without prior consent of the appellant which prompted the institution of this
suit.

Summary of actions by
lower courts show that the initial order of injunction passed by the learned
single judge was vacated on the subsequent move made by the respondents. Appeal
to the Division Bench also ended up with the same result. The matter was
carried up to the Supreme Court where it was disposed with a direction to the
High Court of Madras to dispose the pending suit as expeditiously as possible
by providing 3 months duration for the same.

Issues that rose for
consideration were:

a)     
Whether dubbing into Telugu constitutes
an infringement of the plaintiff’s rights under section 14(a) of The Copyright
Act, 1957?

b)     
Whether remaking into Telugu constitutes
an infringement of the plaintiff’s rights under section 14(a) of The Copyright
Act, 1957?

c)     
Whether plaintiff has any right to stop
the defendant from dubbing/ remaking/ doing any other activity in view of the
admitted fact that the plaintiff has not entered into any agreement for making
such a restrain?

d)    
Is section 14(1) (d) the only relevant
provision with respect to cinematograph films?

e)     
Whether plaintiff is entitled to
permanent injunction?

f)      
What other reliefs can be claimed by the
plaintiff?

Appellants contended
that there is no assignment of rights in the script as per section 19(1)
because for a legitimate assignment, there must be identification of the work,
specifying the rights along with duration and territory. The budget sheet on
which the respondents placed reliance does not advert to the script. In this
case, there is no assignment either by conduct or acquiescence in favor of the
respondents.  If assignment is presumed, it
could only be construed as having been limited to the making of Tamil film as
the respondents cannot utilize the content unless the rights are doled out
under segment 19. Dubbing involves translation of the dialogues embedded in the
film emanating from the literary work which primarily vests with the copyright
holder in the literary work. Section 14(1) (d) does not give producers of the
cinematograph film the right to translate the work by any means of dubbing even
because the dubbed film will eventually bring about the making of a different
film which is impermissible without license or assignment. Hence, the learned
single judge has committed a gross error in deciding otherwise which deviated
from the precedents set in PVR Pictures Ltd. v. Studio 18, 2009 (41) PTC 70;
R.G.Anand v. Delux Films, (1978) 4 SCC 118 and so forth.

On the other hand, the
respondents claimed that what were put on record under the watchful eye of the
court were a screenplay and not a script hence there was non-existence of
copyright in the said work in appellant’s favor. Respondents are producers
under section 2(d) and would be very well coming under the ambit of authors. On
and above this, the appellants were paid a valuable consideration for the
script which was converted into a cinematograph film which vests in the
respondents who are the owners, having rights not only to remake but also to
dub it into a language apart from the original and communicate it to public in
the language(s) of their choice. The appellants do not enjoy any special rights
as the registration of the film with the Film Writers Association was made
after it had been done.

Rights in the content
exceptionally well vests with the litigant however rights in the subject
cinematograph film lies in the hand of respondents. The appeal was partially
allowed and the suit decreed, granting an injunction against the respondents
from remaking /making distinctive variants of the film based on the subject
script and the parties were left to bear their own costs since the subject
cinematograph film was based on the story narrated by the appellant with
respect to the script and screenplay authored by him hence there is no doubt
regarding the existence of the script or its authorship. The justices were in
consonance while conveying this judgment.

This story has an
ending with a moral that when multiple stakeholders are involved in a
particular project, a considerable measure of perplexity exists particularly as
for the point that who should be remunerated and favored. . All things
considered, an agreement with clear terms and conditions is quintessential
which can fundamentally maintain a strategic distance from any disarray or
clashes in order to dissect the arrangements identifying with provisions
relating to ownership and assignment/license of copyright and tackle the
problems emerging therein.

Movies are meant for
entertainment and are loaded with a lot of complexities. Hence, the question of
intellectual property is even more complex as the answer lies in the fact that
every component of a movie requires protection. The central point which
requires consideration here is who can claim ownership of a movie, whether the
person who has directed the movie or the man who has financed it. It is in fact
a dumbfounding circumstance that a story can’t make a movie and without a story
there cannot be a movie also. An author under the Copyright Act merely means
producer in the case of cinematograph films. In spite of Copyright Amendment
Bill, 2011 aiming to give authorship not only to producers but also to
directors so as to acknowledge both producer and director as the authors of a
cinematograph film, it was however erased by the Parliamentary Standing
Committee when it acquainted changes with it and passed the Copyright Amendment
Act in 2012. It would be better if there is a joint possession in this space
taking into occurrence the matter of books where the copyright vests on owners,
leaving the publishers contrary to films wherein the director is merely in the
capacity of an employee of producer. It requires significantly more of
endeavors in order to perceive the laudable efforts of the creators behind the
screen. At this point, when there are no particular arrangements to regulate
the situation,  dependence can be hung on
specific understandings like director agreements, actor agreements, film chip
and photography agreements, distribution agreements etc., as seen in other
jurisdictions so that the situation do not turn out to be a hay way.