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Court finds prima facie copyright infringement by web-series Singardaan, asks makers to prepare to share profits

Writer Shamoil Ahmed Khan had complained that the copyright of his story, Singardaan, had been violated to produce a web-series of the same name for the OTT platform Ullu.

Our Correspondent

The Bombay high court has found prima facie (at first sight) evidence of copyright infringement by the Ullu web-series Singardaan and asked the makers to prepare to share profits from the show with writer Shamoil Ahmed Khan.

Khan had accused producer Falguni Shah of Dreamzz Images, director Deepak Pandey and OTT platform Ullu CEO Vibhu Aggarwal of violating his copyright for his story, Singardaan (make-up kit), to produce a web-series of the same name and pleaded for an injunction on the show.

The web-series is being aired on Ullu and is also available on YouTube. Khan said the producers had copied the title, narrative and characters of his story.

The producers opposed his stand, claiming that except for the central idea, there was no similarity between their show and Khan's story. They said the treatment, narrative and presentation of their work was very different from Khan's story. But the court was not convinced.

The legal news website, LiveLaw.in, quoted justice SC Gupte as saying in his order on Tuesday 26 May, "The plaintiff's case here is indeed of passing off [the web-series as his work]. It is, however, important to note that for passing off, it is not sufficient for a plaintiff to merely show that his defendant has used an identical or deceptively similar name or title; he has to further show that the title or name of his work has acquired such reputation that the reading public are likely to identify it with the plaintiff alone and none else."

The judge observed that "at any rate, a very substantial part of the web-series is exclusively devoted to, and is a copy of what may be described as the plaintiff's theme, plot and storyline. It is but an actionable copy of the plaintiff's work."

The court observed that Khan was within his rights to plead for an injunction on the show. But it also said that since the series is a completed work and has been on air for more than a year, asking the makers to take it down now would not offer any real benefit to Khan. Therefore, the court directed the defendants to avoid making any further adaptation of the series or showing it on any other platform and to keep a record of revenue earned from it till Khan's case is decided.

The court also directed that the hearing of Khan's case be expedited. The case is likely to go to trial once the courts reopen later this month after the COVID-19 lockdown.

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