India: Animated "Ramayana" In Copyright Row

Last Updated: 17 August 2009

Interlude Technologies in pursuance of its suit for permanent injunction, filed an application for the grant of an interim injunction to restrain the infringement of copyright, passing off, unfair competition, rendition of accounts, delivery up and damages. An ex parte ad interim injunction had been issued in respect of which an application under Order XXXIX Rule 4 to obtain order for the injunction to be discharged varied or set aside vide Interlude Technologies Thr. Its Proprietor v. Popular Entertainment Network Ltd. & Ors. 2009 (40) PTC 485 (Del.)

Interlude an establishment since 1998 is engaged in the business of production, manufacturing and publishing of animated cinematography films on CD ROM, video CD, licensing and distribution of films of varied genre including nursery rhymes, mythological stories. Classical stories and so on. They also have a production studio and distribution system and are the only company in India engaged in the specialized development and manufacturing of animated titles in India.

Amongst the various titles produced by them, was the animated film Ramayana which they claimed to be their original hard work and duly copyright under S. 2(o) and s. 13(1)(a) of the Copyright Act, 1957. Ramayana was produced with voice over in seven different Indian languages. The work being entirely controlled and funded by Interlude, they held the original source code for "Ramayana" which constitutes the original literary and cinematographic work. The approximate cost of developing the same was said to amount to Rs. 21, 98,000/-.

Popular Entertainment Network Ltd. the alleged infringers of the copyright in Ramayana had been trading, selling and displaying the copyright work of Interlude. The co-parties were associated in varied capacities including Directors (Defendants 2 and 3), while one defendant (Defendant No. 6) was said to have stolen the original work of Interlude in collusion and conspiracy, thus infringing their copyright in the work.

Interlude claimed that they came across an advertisement on Zee TV as well as ETC Network whereby they learnt that Popular Entertainment was displaying and advertising their original work on television and hence causing them monetary losses and damages. They claimed that their work had been copied frame by frame. The Court on perusal too found the characters shown to be exactly same and similar. However, Interlude stated that no license in respect of the infringed work had been granted to the infringers and that they gad fraudulently and dishonestly displayed the same to the public.

Popular Entertainment on the other hand contended that they were in possession of evidence to prove and substantiate that one of the defendants (Defendant No. 5) was the owner of "Ramayana" which had been developed, created and manufactured with its own original idea and novelty. The process was said to have started in the last quarter of 2004, with characters being finally developed in February 2006, voice recording and lip-sync in August 2006 and composition of characters finalized in October 2006.the film was said to have finally been completed in February 2007 after conclusion of editing. Subsequently Popular claimed that a copyright registration as well as Certification from Central Board of Film Certification had been obtained. Furthermore, the film was originally made only in Hindi and upon an agreement with Popular Entertainment, voice over was done in seven different languages. It was further stated that a comic series namely "Ram ki Kahani" was followed in developing the theme while denying that the work of Interlude had not been copied. It was also stated that there was reason to believe that Interlude had copied the animation work had that had approached the Court with mala fide intent.

Further it was alleged that Interlude had developed the idea of making the animated film in 2004 but the same was denied. Assignment deeds were also filed to show that works of developers had been assigned to them and claimed that payment thereof had been made. However finding that payments were made in cash, the documents were said to have been fabricated and the Court opined that the payment having been made in cash to all artists transpired the falsity of their claim.

The Court having considered the two works meticulously, stated that in view of the observations and impressions of the average viewer, the striking similarities in the two works could not be ignored and that the same could not constitute mere chance. The Court opined that the only inference that could be drawn was that a case of infringement of Interlude's works had been established. In view of the film being ideated in 2004 and that Popular Entertainment's work was made in the year 2005, no concrete evidence in the regard was said to have been filed in the regard. The copyright registration obtained too was said to have no bearing since the copyright office granted the same on the declaration placed forth them. The dates on the copyright certificate and the Central Board of Film Certification were examined and it was stated that these did not prove that the animated film had been made in 2005 or prior to that of Interlude's film.

In the absence of any documents filed by Popular Entertainment to prove that their work had been made in 2005 or prior to that of Interlude's film, the application filed under Order XXXIX Rule 4 of the Civil Procedure Code was dismissed as also the ex parte ad interim injunction was made absolute.

© Lex Orbis 2009

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