Mumbai Court refuses to stay release of Hindi film Maidaan

A Mumbai court on April 8, refused to grant a stay on the release of Ajay Devgn starter Maidaan after a vendor approached the court due to alleged outstanding dues. Camera vendor, Meherafrin Investments Private Limited (MIPL), had approached the Mumbai City Civil Court at Dindoshi for a commercial suit against the producers, Byaview Projects LLP and Boney Kapoor.

According to MIPL’s claims, the production company Byaview Projects LLP and producer Boney Kapoor failed to fulfil their financial obligations, despite assurances that all outstanding payments would be settled prior to the film’s release. The vendor sought a stay on the film’s release due to unpaid dues totalling ₹64,59,577.

MIPL also sought compensation for the unpaid dues along with an interest at a rate of 21%. The vendor has invoked the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, seeking interim reliefs, including an injunction to prevent the release of the film until the outstanding payments were resolved. However, after considering the arguments presented by both parties, Civil Judge AZ Khan declined to grant the injunction against the film’s release.

To ensure the interests of the plaintiff, the judge directed Bayview Projects LLP to provide a bank guarantee amounting to ₹96,06,743 within a stipulated timeframe of two weeks.

Delhi HC accepts Reliance Ent’s profit sharing undertaking for Netflix film ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’

The Delhi High Court has accepted Reliance Entertainment Studios’ undertaking to share 50% of its profit from the upcoming Netflix film “Amar Singh Chamkila” with Super Cassettes Industries (SCI) that operates music label and film production house T-Series.

“Amar Singh Chamkila”, a biopic of the slain Punjabi singer, features Diljit Dosanjh in the titular role, and has been directed by Imtiaz Ali.

To provide a practical resolution to the enforcement of the lien or charge, Reliance had offered an undertaking – the commitment includes the deposit of a fixed commission of 2% from the licensing fee, to be deducted from the final tranche Reliance receives from Netflix, and 50% of the profits generated by the film Amar Singh Chamkila, Justice Sanjeev Narula said in his order.

“These measures reflect an equitable approach to reconciling the interests of all parties involved and ensuring compliance with the contractual and legal frameworks governing the relationships between SCI, Reliance, Netflix and WSF,” he added.

“The above undertaking is accepted and shall bind the defendant (Reliance Entertainment), who shall deposit the aforesaid amounts with the Registrar General of this court as and when the same are received by them,” according to the judgement.

The single judge noted that the films “Section 84” and “Singham Again” have been produced by other entities, such as Film Hangar LLP and Rohit Shetty Picturez LLP, where Reliance is only a partner. “These productions are also then in collaboration, where the reasoning given above would apply,” it held.

The HC said that “it is untenable for SCI to assert that revenues generated from the Netflix Reliance Agreement – executed under the License Agreement between WSF and Reliance – constitute revenues in Reliance’s possession over which, SCI can legitimately claim a lien or charge. Given the complexities inherent in distinguishing between gross revenues and direct profits accruing to Reliance, the court finds that SCI’s lien or charge, under the current circumstances pertaining to the film in question, is more appropriately enforceable over the net profits of Reliance, rather than the gross revenues.”

Super Cassettes had extended a loan of Rs 268 crore to Reliance for production of 11 Hindi cinematographic films. Reliance allegedly having defaulted in repayment of dues led SCI to filing of a recovery suit for Rs 60.23 crore that became due as on November 16. Thus, SCI had asserted a lien and charge over any future films that Reliance Entertainment planned to produce, either independently or in collaboration with others.

In November, Reliance had assured the HC that it would refrain from releasing any cinematographic films or transferring any rights related to such films for a two-week period. However, SCI moved the HC alleging that the Ambani firm was planning to release five films.

While SCI had sought to stall the release of “Amar Singh Chamkila,” it later specifically demanded the deposit of Rs 42.16 crore which Reliance received from Los Gatos Production Services India LLP, an affiliate of Netflix Inc.

Supreme Court slams Uttarakhand government for not acting on misleading Patanjali ads

While hearing contempt proceedings against Patanjali Ayurveda over its continuing publication of misleading advertisements in breach of a Court undertaking, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority (SLA) for its inaction in the matter.

It may be recalled that on April 4, the Court had issued notice to the Uttarakhand authority seeking its affidavit regarding the action taken against Divya Pharmacy (which belongs to Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust) regarding its advertisements.

The Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, while rejecting the second affidavit of apology filed by Patanjali Ayurveda, its Managing Director Acharya Balkrishna, and co-founder Baba Ramdev, questioned the SLA as to why it must not think that the State authority was in cahoots with the alleged contemnors.

While emphasizing that the alleged contemnors’ conduct was in the teeth of Drugs and Other Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, yet no action was taken solely because Bombay High Court passed an order with respect to the 1945 Rules, Kohli, J questioned: “Is a Regulation above the Act?”

After hearing the parties, as well as Joint Director of SLA who was personally present in Court, the Bench directed the predecessor of the present Joint Director of SLA to file an affidavit in 2 weeks explaining inaction on his part for the entire tenure of his posting as a Licensing Authority. In addition, all District Ayurvedic and Unani officers holding post from 2018 till date were also directed to file similar affidavits in the same period.

Lastly, it was commented by the Bench that the case did not exemplify a lapse, rather, it was a deliberate folly. It was further conveyed that if the delay was of a few months, perhaps some indulgence could have been shown.

On the previous date of hearing, the Court had slammed the Union Government by saying that it had shut its eyes when Patanjali was advertising fake cures for COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic.

Read order here.

Ilaiyaraaja is above everybody, says counsel, opposing case filed by Echo Recording at Madras High Court

While opposing an appeal filed by Echo Recording Company Private Limited before the Madras High Court, against a single judge’s 2019 order recognising his ‘special, moral right’ over 4,500 songs composed by him for more than 1,000 movies between the 1970s and 1990s, the counsel Ilaiyaraaja mentioned that he is above everybody.

“I may sound arrogant but that is what it is… I am certainly not above God but below Him, I am above everybody,” the counsel said.

When the appeal was listed before Justices R. Mahadevan and Mohammed Shaffiq, senior counsel Vijay Narayan, representing the appellant, said, the single judge had erred in interpreting the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957. He said, the judge had permitted the composer to exploit his songs, though such a right had not been contemplated under Section 57.

Mr. Narayan said music composers in the film industry in India lost all their rights, except for the right to receive royalty, once they received remuneration from a film producer for a particular movie. Therefore, whether Mr. Ilaiyarajaa would fall under the definition of ‘author’ under the Copyright Act was itself a question to be decided in the appeal, he said.

The senior counsel also said, Echo Recording had purchased the rights for around 4,500 songs from the producers of the movies concerned and had been exploiting them commercially until the composer filed a civil suit before the High Court in 2014, seeking a permanent injunction against the recording companies and obtained a decree from the single judge on June 4, 2019.

Though the judge had permitted Echo Recording too, to commercially exploit the 4,500 songs strictly in the form and manner as contained in the cinematograph films without making any distortion or mutilation to them, the composer then filed an appeal against that portion of the order and obtained an interim stay against it from a Division Bench of Justices M. Duraiswamy and T.V. Thamilselvi in February 2022.

The judges decided to continue the hearing on April 16. Justice Mahadevan, the senior judge in the Bench, also asked Mr. Parasaran to come prepared to answer some of the questions to be posed by the court during the next hearing.

Karnataka High Court lifts stay on release of Hindi film Maidaan in a plagiarism case

The Karnataka High Court has cleared the way for Ajay Devgn’s new film Maidaan after it was stayed by a Mysore court.

The high court ruled in favour of the film after its makers appealed the lower court’s order which stayed the film from releasing in any language or form, including on OTT.

The film has been accused of plagiarism by a scriptwriter who claimed to have written the story of Maidaan some years ago. Maidaan is already in theatres and had a slow start at the box office.

In a now-deleted LinkedIn post, scriptwriter Anil Kumar claimed that he had shared his idea about a film focusing on Indian football players’ struggles post-independence with an assistant director of the film in 2017. However, upon seeing the trailer of Maidaan, he said that he realised that his story had allegedly been used without his consent.

Reacting to this, the makers of the film – Zee Studios and Boney Kapoor’s Bayview Projects LLP, issued a statement and said that the order of the District Court was an ex parte order and was obtained without giving them a chance to appear and make their submissions.

Justice SR Krishna Kumar issued a notice on a writ petition filed by Boney Kapoor, the film’s producer, and temporarily stayed the order restraining the film’s release. A hearing has been scheduled for April 24.

Vijay Deverakonda’s Team Files Police Complaint Against Trolls Targeting Actor, His Film Family Star

Actor Vijay Deverakonda’s team has lodged an official police complaint with the Cyberabad Police and claimed that the Arjun Reddy fame was being attacked unnecessarily. Not just that, but the complaint also stated that his latest release, Family Star, was being targeted by those with malicious intent.

A member from Vijay’s team shared the update on his X handle, in which the actor’s representatives can be seen handing over the complaint copy to the cops. He also termed the trolling against Vijay as “orchestrated attacks and planned negative campaigns”.

Family Star released in theatres on April 5 and is directed by Parasuram Petla, it has received mixed responses from audience and critics alike, and has failed to see an uptick in its numbers.

YouTube on Blocking Independent News Channels: ‘We Review Govt Removal Requests, Content’

Within a week’s time, two digital news outlets Bolta Hindustan and National Dastak received notices from YouTube stating the video streaming platform had received a notice from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) directing that both YouTube channels be blocked with concern to Rule 15(2) of the Information Technology Rules 2021, read with Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Bolta Hindustan and National Dastak are both small-scale media start-ups and have striven to report on news that they claim does not make it to big media.

The YouTube channel of ‘Bolta Hindustan’, which had close to 3 lakh subscribers, was suspended after a notice it received on April 4.

In January, this year, Bolta Hindustan also saw the suspension of their Instagram handle, which had 40,000 followers, without any explanatory communication from the social media platform.

Bolta Hindustan and Indus News TV have said that they have been victims of this alleged throttling both on YouTube and Facebook.

Earlier in April, an investigation by Access Now and Global Witness found that YouTube approved ads which had blatant disinformation on the elections in India.

Domino’s Pizza: Delhi High Court Restrains Food Outlets From Using ‘Domino’, ‘Dominoz’ Marks, Orders Delisting From Swiggy And Zomato

The Delhi High Court has restrained eight food outlets in the national capital from using Domino, Domino’s, Dominon, Domino’s, Dominoz, Domino’s and Domain’s marks after famous multinational pizza restaurant chain Domino’s Pizza sued them over trademark infringement.

Justice Sanjeev Narula directed food delivery platforms, Zomato and Swiggy, to delist, takedown and suspend the outlets from their mobile applications and websites.

It was the case of Domino’s Pizza that the eight food outlets unauthorizedly adopted trade names which were identical and deceptively similar to its marks.

It was alleged that the impugned marks were being used to operate imitator brand outlets on online delivery platforms. Domino’s c;aimed that the food outlets were taking unfair advantage of the search results returned upon typing first string letters of its trade name and mark being Dom, Domi, Domin and Domino.

Justice Narula said that the eight food outlets had utilized the marks that were primarily facie identical prior deceptively similar to Domino’s’ registered trademarks.

It added that considering the fact that the impugned marks were associated with food products which are widely marketed and consumed across diverse demographic segments, the potential for misrepresentation carries significant consumer impact.

Read order here.

Delhi High Court asks Pass Code Hospitality to deposit ₹15 lakh with PPL to play music in restaurants

The Delhi High Court has directed hospitality firm Pass Code Hospitality Private Limited to pay a sum of ₹15 lakh to performance rights organisation Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) as an ad hoc arrangement to play music in its restaurants.

This arrangement is limited to this case and shall not act as a precedent, the Court added.

The Court was hearing a copyright infringement suit filed by PPL against Pass Code, the owner of popular restaurants Jamun, Saz and PCO. The suit aimed to restrain Pass Code’s restaurants from using music PPL owns the public performance rights to. It was alleged that Pass Code was using sound recordings owned by PPL without obtaining a proper license.

PPL had initially filed a civil suit before the Saket District Court, seeking an injunction and other related relief. On October 1, 2022, an interim injunction was issued in favour of PPL.

Subsequently, the parties reached an amicable settlement through an agreement dated December 4, 2022, by which Pass Code agreed to use PPL’s work only after obtaining the appropriate license.

The licenses obtained by Pass Code expired on November 3, 2023. After the expiration of the term, Pass Code did not agree to renew the license and insisted on the same license fee proposed by PPL for the first license.

Counsel for PPL submitted that it should have the liberty to license sound recordings at the rates determined by it.

However, counsel for Pass Code submitted that the rates cannot be unreasonable and must be legitimate. It was submitted that PPL itself averred that it monopolises the sound recording market by claiming ownership of almost 80% to 90% of the sound recordings.

It was stated that PPL agreed on a license fee of ₹7,80,852 for one year, it demanded ₹19,13,560 for the subsequent year.

After hearing the parties, the Court created an ad hoc arrangement.

The matter will be heard next on July 19.

Read order here.

New AI law will guard rights of content creators: experts

The government move to introduce an artificial intelligence law that will safeguard the commercial and creative interests of content creators including news publishers will help balance the interests of publishers with the needs of those developing generative AI (GenAI) models, legal experts said.

Union IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had earlier in a press report mentioned that the government is looking at introducing a law for regulating AI Law.

It is indeed a “timely” move amid rapid expansion of AI-generated content that could significantly impact publishing industry and has led to concerns over copyright infringements.

Regulating the use of news and content by AI companies is “a global regulatory and policy hotspot” and India’s law can address whether AI platforms can circumvent paywalls, what is considered fair use, use, how direct and indirect benefits should be shared, credit and attribution, etc.

The IT Minister said that the government through the new law seeks to secure the rights and sharing of the proceeds among news publishers, content creators and AI-enabled technologies, “while keeping good space for innovation”. The proposed law could be in the form of separate legislation or part of the Digital India Bill that will replace the 24-year-old IT Act.

The recently passed EU AI Act requires AI models to comply with EU copyright law and also publish detailed summaries of the content used for training. Under the existing provisions of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, to avoid infringement while using any copyrighted work, one has to either fall within one of the exceptions under its Section 52 (such as fair dealing) or procure an appropriate license or claim other legal defences (as applicable) such as de minimis usage.

However, Imposing obligations that increase the cost of doing business or discourage the use of Indian content by AI makers could deal a blow to India’s ‘innovation economy.

MeitY groups to devise rules for IoT, mobile and data safety

The government has formed five working groups to study and formulate guidelines for anonymisation of data, zero trust architecture, internet-of-things (IoT) devices, mobile device security, and digital education.

These working groups, set up under the ministry of electronics and information technology, will look to develop and adopt guidelines and frameworks for “effective and efficient implementation of e-governance projects” of ministries and government departments, according to sources.

The IT Ministry is working with various other ministries on the project. The current guidelines for some aspects, such as mobile device security or online learning and examinations systems, will need to be revised in light of the changing technologies. The idea is to stay ahead of the curve for suggestions and solutions to problems that are likely to arise.

The reports of the working groups on anonymisation of data and mobile security guidelines are being reviewed, while work on guidelines for zero-trust architecture, online exams, and IoT devices is ongoing said an official from the IT Ministry.

These standards and frameworks will be a part of the updated India Digital System Architecture. An earlier version of the planned architecture was released for public consultation in 2022.

Depending on the suggestions of the working groups, the government is likely to retain the function of designing, developing and managing core blocks of these technologies and sectors, while allowing the development of apps and services on top of them, the official said.