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This article is written by Yash, a student of National University of Study and Research in Law.

Facts of the Case

In the present case, plaintiffs moved to the Delhi High Court in the eleventh hour for seeking an injunction against the release of film produced by the defendants ‘The White Tiger’, scheduled to be released on the OTT platform Netflix on 22nd January, 2021. Not only this, but an ad interim injunction is also sought by the plaintiff in order to restrain the release of the film during the pendency of the suit. 

Issues of the Case

  1. Whether there is a difference between OTT release of movies and theatre release.
  2. Whether an injunction and further ad interim injunction should be granted to the plaintiff.

Arguments of the plaintiff

  1. Counsel for plaintiff no.1 (Mr. Sankha) has submitted that he is vested with the exclusive copyright to make a movie of the book titled as ‘The White Tiger’ authored by Mr. Arvind Adiga. This is by the virtue of the purchase agreement / literally option dated on 4.03.2009 to make an Oscar-worthy film. If the film is allowed to be released it will lead to infringement of the copyright.
  2. Mr. Sankha further submits that plaintiff came to know about the making of the film in October, 2019 and that the film will be released on the online platform. To this, a legal notice was served to the defendants on 04.10.2019 where by plaintiff no. 1 claimed to have exclusive copyright of making the film. This was said to be sent by plaintiff no.2.
  3. It was also submitted that plaintiff had no reason to believe that shooting of the film was continuing admit of COVID-19 pandemic and that no due diligence would be exercised. Due to this reason there was a delay in approaching the court.
  4. The plaintiff contended that if the movie was released on Netflix then it will have server irreplaceable injury to them both financially and emotional. While if the release is postponed then defendants won’t face any severe financial consequences as it is an OTT release and not a theatre release where a large sum of money is invested for infrastructural ramification.

Arguments of the defendant

  • Counsel for defendant no. 1 (Mr. Sethi) asserts that there is no justification whatsoever manner can be accepted for the plaintiffs approaching the court to stay the release of the film 24 hours earlier while they have been aware of the same since October 2019.
  • Defendant also contended that the story portrayed by the plaintiff is one-sided story. They further submitted that in response to the legal notice dated on 04.10.2019 a reply has been sent denying the assertions made by plaintiff no. 1 on 11.10.2019.
  • Mr. Sethi contended that certain facts were concealed from the court, in which the defendants and plaintiff have a subsequent settlement for making the film of the novel between companies of plaintiff no. 1 and defendant no. 1 by an agreement dated 30.08.2013. Further, a legal dispute was raised in 2014 by plaintiff no. 2 was further settled for 53 lakhs where he waived all his claims relating to the present project. Thus, there should be no injunction provided in the favour of plaintiff. 
  • The defendants also refutes the submission made by plaintiff that plaintiff’s stakes are higher in the present case. According to defendants if the film is postponed then there will be an irreparable loss of goodwill and reputation of the defendants for which no monetary compensation will be justified.
  • The counsel Defendant no. 2 (Mr. Rajagopal) also submitted that there is a no real difference between OTT release and theatre release as in former case also there is a huge money transaction involved coupled with the labour to make the film.

Observation of the Court

The court observed that there is no reason for granting an interlocutory injunction in the present case. The court relied on certain precedents while deciding the case. Following observations were made by the court:

  • The plaintiffs were already aware of the possibility that the film may be released in future on OTT platform at least from 4.10.2019. Therefore, the delay they made in approaching the court seeking to stay the release of film just 24 hours prior, is not justified by any trace of material produced by them. Therefore, it is no answer to the delay made by the plaintiff who assumed that no shooting would take place during the pandemic.
  • The court relied on various precedents and held that the balance of convenience tilts heavily in favour of the defendants. Court reasoned that defendants have invested a large sum of money and entered into various copious agreements with third parties and if the injunction is granted it will amount to grave injustice and cause an irreparable injury to them.
  • The court held the stakes of the defendant is no way less than the stakes of the plaintiff in the present case. Court further said that the release of the film is merely the tip of a long lasting procedure of publication, production and promotion of the film. Thus, OTT release and theatre release are not much different as in both labour and capital are invested.
  • The present case is a prima facie case of misuse of judicial process where the plaintiff deliberately waited till the eleventh hour. The court emphasised on a precedent that the plaintiff who waits till last hour must face the consequences of his failed gambit.
  • The court emphasised that where the loss occasioned to the plaintiff is capable of being adequately compensated in monetary terms, an injunction especially of the release of a cinematographic film, ought not to be granted.
  • Thus, the court rejected the plaint for injunction though directed the defendant to make a detailed tab for the earning of the film so that if plaintiff in later stage succeed, may be may be awarded damages as the court deem fit.

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