Read Order: Mad Man Film Ventures Pvt. Ltd. vs. Reliance Entertainment Studios Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. 

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, March 21, 2022: Considering that there were antecedent Satellite and Digital Rights created in favour of Star India and Netflix Global which had been acknowledged and accepted by Mad Man Film, the Bombay High Court has opined that Mad Man Film Ventures (Plaintiff) is not entitled to be granted ad-interim injunction restraining either Reliance Entertainment Studios (first defendant) and/or Star India & Netflix (fourth & fifth defendants) from exploiting or using any elements of the subject film “83” through satellite and/or digital media without prior written consent of the Plaintiff.

The Single Judge R.I Chagla observed that the Consent Minutes of Order will amount to an estoppel insofar as the Plaintiff is concerned who is a party to the Consent Minutes of Order as well as Consent Arbitral Award and by virtue of which the Plaintiff cannot challenge the assignment and licence agreements entered into in respect of the subject film with fourth & fifth defendant respectively.

Going by the background of the case, the cause of action arose when Mad Man Film (Plaintiff) learnt of unauthorized delivery of the subject film ‘83’. The real dispute is with regard to the interpretation of the Clauses of the Consent Terms / Consent Minutes of Order entered into between the Plaintiff, Reliance Entertainment Studios (Defendant) in Execution Proceedings, which were for execution of the Consent Arbitration Award in arbitral proceedings between the Plaintiff, one Madhu Mantena as claimants against second & third defendant as well as Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Vikas Bahl. 

In the Consent Award it was directed that all intellectual property rights and exploitation of the subject film shall immediately vest in third defendant subject to the rights already granted to third parties. The Worldwide Satellite Rights as per contract are with Star India and Worldwide digital rights (fourth defendant) as per contract with Netfix Global LLC (fifth respondent). In Commercial Arbitration Petition, the Plaintiff being the Petitioner has not disputed the satellite or digital rights created in favour of fourth & fifth defendant in the subject film “83”. 

The present Suit proceeds on the premise that Plaintiff’s consent was required for delivery of the subject film for exploitation on satellite and / or digital media by Netflix. Under the Consent Terms, it was provided that the exploitation rights of the subject film shall immediately vest exclusively and absolutely in the Plaintiff for the period after the ‘First Cycle’. 

It is accordingly submitted by plaintiff’s counsel that the defendants are required to be restrained by ad-interim injunction from exploiting the subject film through satellite and / or digital media as the subject film has been obtained by Netfilx from Reliance Studios without the prior consent of the Plaintiff. 

After considering the submissions, the High Court noted that the consent agreement which provide for obtaining any and all necessary third party approvals in whose favor any right or interest created in respect of the Film “83”, makes it clear that these clauses would necessarily apply to future agreements entered into between first defendant and third parties for exploitation of Digital and/or Satellite Rights of the subject film. 

Prima facie, the Plaintiff cannot claim any right to intellectual property over and above  antecedent rights already created in favour of Netflix, and as per the Consent Minutes of Order, first defendant shall continue to exploit the film in exercise of its exploitation rights in the manner provided and during the period of the First Cycle”, added the Court. 

Justice Chagla observed that the Plaintiff is vested with the exploitation rights in the subject film only after the period of the First Cycle, and thus, the Plaintiff has made out no case for seeking ad-interim relief by way of injunction restraining first & fifth defendant from exploiting the subject film in accordance with their antecedent rights and particularly, during the period of the First Cycle.

The provision of Section 13 of the Copyright Act, 1957 makes it clear that the prospective owner of copyright in a future work may also assign to any person the copyright in the future work, and though the proviso states that the assignment of copyright in any future work, shall take effect only when the work comes into existence, there is an antecedent assignment right created in favour of the assignee in respect of the future work, added the Single Judge. 

Accordingly, the prayer for ad-interim relief of the Plaintiff stands rejected by the High Court. 

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