In a recent decision, the Delhi High Court on July 5, 2012 granted a permanent injunction against OCA Productions Pvt. Ltd restraining them from broadcasting ‘Ek Kadam Aur’, a TV serial based on Indian novelist Maitreyi Pushpa’s autobiographical work ‘Kasturi Kundal Basey’. Acclaimed documentary filmmaker and National Award winner Arun Chadha filed the suit [CS (OS) No. 1096/2009] claiming authorship over the TV serial and sought damages for breach of special rights under Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957.
(Image from here)
On January 1, 2007, the Plaintiff entered into an agreement with Ms. Pushpa to obtain exclusive rights to produce TV serial based on the book with the same title. Consequently, the Plaintiff entered into another agreement on January 9, 2007 with the Directorate of Adult Education (DAE) assigning copyrights in the proposed serial in return for funds. Sometime around March 2008, the Plaintiff sought services from Optimum studios owned by one the defendants for editing the serial. Upon completion of the work, the Plaintiff stated to have requested the defendants to delete any copies of the work.
Close to a year later, the Plaintiff was informed that certain episodes from his TV serial have been broadcasted in Doordarshan Kendra of Bhopal as part of ‘Ek Kadam Aur’. After making enquiries with Doordarshan, the Plaintiff and the DAE found out that the defendants made false representations about the authorship of the TV serial. The Plaintiff averred that Defendants’ serial was an exact reproduction of his work, except that credits for direction and production were not given to the Plaintiff. Furthermore, certain members of the cast testified to have neither worked nor were aware of any TV serial of the Defendants. The Plaintiff contended that the Defendants’ actions were prejudicial to his honour and has affected his reputation with DAE which threatened to cancel the agreement for funds consequent to the telecast.
The Learned Judge faced no difficulty in accepting Plaintiff’s contention considering that the Defendants did not adduce any evidence in their defense. Section 57 of the Copyright Act codifies the right to integrity of the author in a work. Irrespective of assignment of copyrights in any work, the author has (i) a right to claim authorship of work and (ii) a right to restrain or claim damages in event the work is distorted, mutilated or modified in a manner prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author. In the instant case, the Defendants not only failed to credit the Plaintiff for the work but falsely attributed authorship to another person. For this reason, the Learned Judge held that the Defendants’ actions amounted to unauthorized modification of work causing injury to Plaintiff’s reputation.
What about damages?
Instead of imposing exemplary damages for stealing credit for the work, it is unfortunate that the Defendants were let off for a paltry sum of Rs. 1 lakh towards costs. The Learned Judge dismissed Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages and rendition of accounts for lack of evidence. This is strange because, Section 57(1)(b) confers a right to claim damages upon authors for violation of author’s special rights. When a claim for infringement of such rights has been made out, the fact that TV serial was telecasted should suffice to grant damages.