The Kerala High Court on Tuesday took up a petition seeking the cancellation of screenwriter Jinu Vargheese Abraham's copyright in the script of Kaduva.
The matter was taken up for hearing yesterday by a bench of Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas.
The petition may be one of the first moved before the High Court following the abolition of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board after the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 which vests the power of rectification of register in the High Court.
The petitioner Anurag Augustus alleges that the script for the film was written by Jinu while he was on a contract of personal service for Augustus. Therefore, he was the first owner of the copyright in the literary work, Augustus claims.
Among other reliefs, Augustus prays for a quash on the certificate of registration so far it grants copyright of the Script to Jinu.
The plea, filed by Advocate Santhosh Mathew, narrates that the script in question was written after Jinu along with his cousin, Associate Director Mathew Thomas approached Augustus seeking to raise funds for a prospective storyline regarding the life and legal battles of a planter named Jose Kuruvinakunnel (Kaduvakunnel Kuruvachan) of Pala in Kottayam District. In his petition, Augustus asserts that he liked the story and paid Jinu an advance of Rs 5 lakh (out of a total sum of Rs 10 Lakh) to develop a script.
Additional expenses that arose in the development of the script were also met by Augustus, the petition states.
In the final stages of the production of the script, Thomas agreed to direct the proposed film titled 'Kaduvakunnel Kuruvachan' with actor Suresh Gopi as the title character. The name of the film was also registered with the Kerala Film Chamber, Augustus avers in his petition. Teasers were released and press events arranged at Augustus' expense, the plea states.
Following these events, Augustua alleges that Jinu engaged in foul play, making arrangements with another producer to shoot the film as Kaduva, which would be directed by Shaji Kailas and star actor Prithviraj.
The petition reads,
"It is submitted that, in the meanwhile, the 4h" Respondent made some foul play in collusion with another producer… by suppressing the fact that the script had already been assigned/transferred/sold to the Petitioner. This was done without the knowledge or consent of the Petitioner."
Augustus also challenges Jinu's copyright claim over the title and character name kaduvakunnel Kuruvachan, and contends that the title of a movie or literary work are not copyrightable.
Therefore the 4th Respondent (Jinu) cannot claim any exclusivity over the character name and title Kaduvakunnel Kuruvachan, Augustus' petition states.
In addition to the prayer for quash, Augustus' petition seeks these reliefs,
A direction to the Registrar of Copyright to correct the register of copyright by substituting Jinu's name with that of the Augustus as owner of copyright in Kaduvakunnel Kuruvachan;
A declaration that Jinu does not hold any exclusive right over the title or character named Kaduvakunnel Kuruvachan since the same Is not an original literary work
In the interim, Augustus seeks a stay on the operation of the certificate of registration In favour of Jinu and also pleads that the his assignees or he are allowed to make use of the Title and character by name Kaduvakkunel Kuruvachan in a movie without any obstruction from the Jinu or his assignees. He also seeks a direction to the Registrar of Copyright to produce a copy of the script before the Court.
CASE: Anurag Augustus v. Registrar of Copyright and Ors.
COUNSEL: Advocate Santhosh Mathew for Anurag Augustus. Assistant Solicitor General P Vijayakumar for the Registrar of Copyright and state respondents. Advocate Benoy Kadavan represented screenwriter Jinu Vargheese.