Putting an end to an over a decade-old copyright infringement case between the producer of the 1971 Bollywood movie Parwana and SITI cable, a major digital cable television services providers, the Bombay High Court recently asked the latter to cough up Rs 15 lakh in damages.
The court held SITI cable responsible for telecasting the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer without the producer’s knowledge. Justice Gautam Patel also permanently restrained the cable service provider from airing the entire movie or a part of it. The court also ordered SITI cable to pay an additional 24 per cent interest from the date of filing of the suit which happened in 2002.
During his visit to Delhi on September 1, 1999, the producer Rajiv Suri found the service provider’s three channels — Siticable, Sity Cinema and Movie Express — had aired the movie “without his knowledge or consent and in violation of the copyright that vested solely in him”.
Suri later found that the service provider was a subsidiary of Zee telefilms. On September 20, 1999, during a meeting with the managing director of Zee, Suri informed him of the illegal telecast of his film by SITI cable.
Zee, however, denied any assignment of any rights in this film to SITI cable claiming that it did not itself have any such rights.
Justice Patel observed that the service provider filed a written statement, claiming that all disputes regarding the film Parwana were settled between Suri and Zee. “The defendant (service provider) now admits that it is part of the Zee group, and that it is a 100 per cent subsidiary of the Zee Telefilms Limited. There are inconsistencies in the written statement that are never explained,” said the judge. SITI cable denied “misuse of the film” and claimed that it was not liable to pay damages.
After thorough examination of statements of the producer, the High Court posed an array of questions to the producer.
“No evidence has been led by the service provider. No arguments have been advanced by the service provider to show why the suit is not maintainable,” said Justice Patel, adding, “The producer has not only in his oral testimony established his claim for damages but he has also shown by means of documentary evidence that he had made such a claim even at the relevant time.” The judge directed SITI cable to pay Rs 15 lakh as damages “as per particulars of claim with interest thereon at the rate of 24 per cent per annum”.
Justice Patel restrained the service provider, “their servant and agents from in manner telecasting or causing to be telecast or exhibiting or exploiting the film or its part.”