Holding that an author has right to protect his intellectual property even after assignment of copyright, the High Court of Kerala granted relief to author-scenarist Sajeev Pillai, who is fighting a legal battle against the makers of big budget Malayalam movie "Mamankam".
A single bench of Justice V Shircy observed that Section 57 of the Copyright Act protects the special rights of the author even after the assignment, if his original creation has been changed, modified or distorted affecting his reputation and good name.
The appellant Sajeev Pillai claimed that he had worked on the history of the historic festival 'Mamankam' and prepared a movie script based on his research. He further said that he had started directing the movie based on the script, in furtherance of an understanding with Venu Kunnappilly, the producer.
Sajeev Pillai contended that after the completion of two schedules, he was terminated from serving as director of the film and another person was appointed as the new director.
He complained that the shooting of the film was completed "mutilating, distorting and modifying" the original script and a civil suit was filed seeking damages.
He also filed a petition for interim injunction with a prayer to restrain the respondents from releasing, publishing, distributing, exploiting the film 'Mamankam" and to stop the exhibition of anyone else's name as the screen writer. When the application for interim injunction was dismissed by the trial court, he appealed to High Court.
He also complained that name of another person was being shown as the script writer of the movie.
Disposing of the appeal, the HC said that, " Section 57(1)(b) consists of two segments. The first part would entitle the author to restrain the opposite party from making any distortion, mutilation, or modification or any other act in relation to the said work if it would be prejudicial to his honour or reputation. The second part says that, the author is entitled to claim damages in respect of distortion, mutilation or other modification in the said work or any other action, in relation to the copyrighted work which would be prejudicial to his honour or reputation. This right is even available to the legal representatives of the author."
The court remarked that, " it would be pertinent to mention that in a film industry, the work and effort of so many persons are involved in making a film and if its postponed, that will definitely cause untold difficulties to all those persons who rendered their effort and service for making the film ready for release. But the right of the appellant and his tears are not simple things which could be ignored by this Court."
It was further observed :
"In the given state of affairs ,it is prima facie, clear that the author of the screenplay, script etc. of the movie 'Mamankam', is the appellant and his right for his creation is safeguarded and protected by the Copyright Act. Section 57 of the Copyright Act is included in Chapter XII which deals with civil remedy available under the Act. So, the special provision gives protection and it ensures the right of the author for his creation, even after assignment".
At the same time, the Court refrained from staying the release of the movie, as prayed for, considering the massive financial investment and preparations for its world wide distribution.
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