In a recent case at the Delhi High Court, the Court decided an important question with regard to the copyright in a cinematograph film “whether the expression “to make a copy of the film” means just to make a physical copy of the film by a process of duplication or does it refer to another work which substantially, fundamentally, essentially and materially resembles the original film.” Read along to find out...
MRF Ltd. and Metro Tyres are companies engaged in manufacturing and selling automobile tyres. As a part of its marketing campaign, MRF produced an ad film which was posted on YouTube in October 2015. Metro Tyres produced and released an ad-film in 2016. According to MRF the 2 ad films were similar and it clearly showed Metro Tyre’s intent of copying MRF’s ad-film. Therefore, MRF filed a suit for copyright infringement against Metro Tyres. It prayed for interim injunction to restrain Metro Tyres from airing the impugned advertisement.
MRF contended that the similarities between the 2 advertisements were fundamental and substantial and the minor differences present were immaterial. According to MRF, the infringing copy need not be an exact copy, but a substantial and material copy of the original cinematograph film. MRF stated that under the International Berne Convention 1908 (‘Berne Convention’), a cinematograph film was provided dual protection: a. as a series of photographs and b. as a “dramatic work” distinct from its script.
Metro Tyres however contended that a cinematograph film is treated differently under Section 13(3) of the Copyright Act, 1957 as all the underlying works that contribute to the making of a film are protected independently. Metro Tyres further contended that to establish copyright infringement in a cinematograph film, it was essential to show that the impugned work was an actual copy of the plaintiff’s advertisement/cinematograph film. It emphasised that the process of duplication for making an actual copy of the copyrighted film had not been proven in this case.
The Court observed that “Copyright subsists in a ‘CINEMATOGRAPH FILM’ as a work independent of underlying works that come together to constitute it. Further, though the copyright subsists in the constituent parts, yet the copyright vests separately and independently in the composite whole – THE FILM. Moreover, a “cinematograph film” may not infringe any of its underlying works, namely, a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, but may nevertheless lack originality because it infringes another cinematograph film. In other words, in terms of Section 13(3)(a), a film must not be a copy of any other work, including any other film.
It also noted that the ordinary, dictionary definition of ‘copy‘ is not confined to an ‘actual‘ copy made by a process of duplication, but includes an imitation or reproduction also.
However, in this case, the Court was of the view that the 2 advertisements were neither substantially nor materially or essentially similar. While MRF’s advertisement was more futuristic and emphasised on the manufacturing process of the tyre and its radial design, Metro Tyres’ advertisement sought to display the durability of its tyres on all terrains. The Court also observed that since the present suit has been filed a year after Metro Tyre’s advertisement was first aired, MRF was not entitled to any interim order.
Consequently, the application for injunction was dismissed.
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