Khaitan & Co represents Trimurti Films in copyright dispute

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Khaitan & Co successfully represented Trimurti Films in the Bombay High Court to prevent Super Cassette Industries (T-series) and Vertex Motion Pictures (Milan Luthria) from using a remixed song in their recently released film Baadshaho.

“The legal position has always been that independent rights exist in the lyrics and musical work. This is probably the first time that these rights have been enforced successfully in the course of legal proceedings,” said partner Adheesh Nargolkar. “The infringement was under section 51 of the Copyrights Act. The violation was of the exclusive rights conferred on the owner of a copyright in a literary work (lyrics) and musical work (tune) granted under section 14(a).”

The division bench of the court rejected an appeal against the order by a single judge. The court restrained the film makers from selling or distributing copies of the song through physical or non-physical medium.

Nargolkar said T-Series sought to create a new version of the song Keh Doon Tumhe of the 1975 film Deewar using the original lyrics and tune without seeking permission from Trimurti Films. The firm’s client had an agreement with Universal Music India for mechanical reproduction rights and manufacture and sale of gramophone records in 1974. However, T-series acquired remix rights from Universal.

“Trimurti’s contention was that there was no grant of rights to Universal in respect of the underlying works i.e. the lyrics and music. Accordingly, if any new song was to be created using the same lyrics or the same tune or both, it is Trimurti has to be approached for permission and not Universal,” said Nargolkar.

Nargolkar said the case highlights the importance of clearly defining rights that are being granted under copyright assignments and undertaking a due diligence exercise in respect of any rights for which a license is being obtained.

The firm was led by Nargolkar and supported by associate partner Nishad Nadkarni and senior associate Vaibhav Keni. Khaitan & Co advised the client on copyright issues and represented them in court.