The Bombay High Court on Tuesday passed a temporary order restraining Saregama India Limited from infringing Shemaroo Entertainment Limited's copyright in the Mithun Chakraborty starrer Disco Dancer.
Though the interim order extends to performance of the stage play 'Disco Dancer – The Musical' by Saregama, the court clarified that the ad interim relief granted to Shemaroo will not affect the planned staging of the musical at a theatre in London from November 16.
Granting ad-interim relief in favour of the plaintiff, Justice Manish Pitale observed that prima facie the intellectual property rights and other theatrical rights of the film were assigned to Shemaroo by producer B Subhash in 2011, prior to a 2019 agreement cited by Shemaroo.
"Prima facie, it appears that when defendant No.3 (B Subhash) had already assigned all rights, including intellectual property rights, theatrical rights and other such rights pertaining to the said film in favour of the plaintiff, any such subsequent agreements executed by defendant No.3, claiming to assign adaptation rights or the rights to stage musicals would pale into insignificance."
Shemaroo filed a suit and an application seeking interim relief claiming rights in the Mithun Chakraborty starrer 'Disco Dancer' as per agreement dated November 11, 2011. Shemaroo claimed that Subhash assigned the rights of 12 of his films to it, Disco Dancer being one of them.
Shemaroo's counsels argued that it came across the preview of a stage play titled 'Disco Dancer – The Musical' on the social networking platform Instagram. It also learned that the musical was based on the film, the rights for which Shemaroo held.
Responding to a legal notice earlier this month, Saregama said the musical was to be performed in March 2020 itself and was being advertised since 2019 therefore there was no substance in the notice.
Senior Advocate Birendra Saraf assisted by Rashmin Khandekar submitted that all rights had been assigned to Shemaroo, including theatrical rights.
Senior Advocate Venkatesh Dhond for Saregama submitted that they had acquired rights from Gamaphone Company, with whom the producer had signed an agreement in 1982, adding that Shemaroo's 2011 agreement was only for making of a film, not for a musical or drama.
He also argued that Shemaroo had waited till the eleventh hour to approach the high court.
The court found that the 1982 and 2010 agreements cited by Saregama prima facie related to recordings of performances of musical nature and sound tracks. Significantly, the third and final agreement cited by Saregama was signed in 2019 after Shemaroo's 2011 agreement.
The court took an exception to Saregama's conduct of not tendering copies of the earlier agreements to Shemaroo or the court in advance.
On an overall assessment and appreciation of the clauses of all the agreements, the Court found that the plaintiff had made out a strong prima facie case in its favour.
Regarding Saregama's contention that Shemaroo had approached the court at the last minute, the judge said that there was only a YouTube video in September 2022 and most previews on Instagram and social media were published much later, therefore this argument ought to be rejected.
However, the court refused to restrain Saregama from staging the London musical noting that Rs 4.3 crore in production cost was spent on the event, the theatre was booked, artists had rehearsed and reached London. "Granting an order of restrainment even for staging the musical from 16.11.2022 for four days in a row in London may not be appropriate," Justice Pitale noted.
Granting ad-interim relief to Shemaroo, the court directed Saregama and others to file their affidavits in reply and listed the matter for hearing on January 9, 2023. It clarified that entire collections from the London musical must be deposited in court within two weeks of staging such shows.
"The Defendant No.1 would be at liberty to apply to this Court for release of specific amounts towards expenses incurred for engaging the artists and other supporting staff, while staging the aforesaid musical at the theater in London. It is made clear that the payments that defendant No.1 is liable to make to such artists and other staff would not be withheld merely because the collections from the show are directed to be deposited in this Court."
Case Title: Shemaroo Entertainment Limited Vs. Saregama India Limited and others