The Bombay High Court has refused to grant any relief to Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd and dismissed the notice of motion in a commercial suit filed against Sony Pictures, alleging copyright infringement.
According to the plaintiffs, Sony Pictures Networks India Private Limited illicitly copied Zee’s popular show India’s Best Dramebaaz, a televised talent hunt for child actors in 5 to 12 year age group. Zee alleged Sony infringed its copyright in its “concept note” and “production bible”.
A production bible is a master document detailing various aspects of a production.
Justice GS Patel dictated the order after hearing both parties at length.
Senior advocate Ravi Kadam appeared for the plaintiffs (Zee), while senior advocate VV Tulzapurkar appeared for defendant Sony and senior advocate Janak Dwarkadas appeared for defendant No. 2 (Frames Production).
At the very outset, outlining the premise of the submissions to be made by the plaintiffs, Justice Patel said: “What Zee needs to be able to show is that there is something in its production bible, concept note or in its show that is utterly and identifiably original and that this has been copied by Sony. Zee must specify what precisely it claims to monopolize.”
It was Zee’s case that Frames Production was earlier working with them in the area of set design. On November 15, 2016, a representative of Frames emailed Zee saying that they wanted to pitch a new show called Nautanki Ke Superstars. It was then that Zee noticed that this was nothing, but a copy of its Dramebaaz show “with some small tweaks”.
Zee claimed that Frames told Zee it would not pursue this idea any further. However, when in January 2017, Zee wanted to launch Season 3 of Dramebaaz, Frames said they had “sold” the concept to Sony.
In protest, Zee wrote to Sony in January itself.
Sony Pictures denied involvement in a show called Nautanki Ke Superstars.
It was submitted before the court that Sony is, in fact, developing a children talent hunt show called Sabse Bada Kalakar. For this, Sony has its own concept note and production bible.
Tulzapurkar argued that given the complexity and manner in which these shows are put together, it would be simply unthinkable to grant a monopoly in such wide, non-specific and fuzzy terms.
Accepting the said submission, the court noted how that would “stifle all creativity and put an end to all talent shows of every description”.
Dismissing the notice of motion, Justice Patel said: “In my view, the manner in which the selections are made and the trajectories of the two shows are quite distinct. The fact that both feature children, the fact that both seek out children with acting talent, the fact that they seek out children with acting talent from different cities, and the fact that they seek out the best of these is hardly something in which anyone can claim any copyright.”
The order comes as a relief to Sony as the first episode of Sabse Bada Kalakar is set to be telecast on Saturday i.e., April 8.
Read the Judgment here.