• Neetika Gandhi

Court refuses interim injunction against Netflix web-series 'BETAAL'


The Bombay High Court refused to grant an interim injunction in a copyright infringement in a case against the Netflix web-series ‘BETAAL’ while deciding upon the interim Applications in the case of Sameer Wadekar & Anr. Vs Netflix Entertainment Services Pvt. Ltd [1].


The Plaintiff was the registered owner of his original literary work titled ‘VETAAL’, which was created by the Plaintiff in 2013-2015 and registered in 2015. According to the Plaintiff, he came across the trailer of the web-series ‘BETAAL’ on YouTube on May 07, 2020 and upon seeing the trailer he was convinced that it was a copy of his copyrighted work. The Plaintiff approached the High Court contending that the Defendants had infringed the copyright in his work ‘VETAAL’ and that it was also the case of plagiarism.


The Bombay High Court denied the ad- interim injunction to restrain the release of the Defendants’ web-series on three grounds:


1. Defendants’ inaccessibility to the Plaintiff’s work: In a copyright infringement suit it is necessary to establish that the Defendants had the means to copy the Plaintiff’s original work, which the Plaintiff was unable to establish in the instant case. The Plaintiff contended that he had shared his copyrighted work with several other filmmakers and one of them i.e. Wilson Louis had a few connections in Netflix and that is how Netflix got hold of his original work. In order to support his contention, the Plaintiff produced the emails exchanged between him and Wilson Louis. However, the Court was not convinced that the emails exchanged showed any link with Netflix so much so that Netflix could have copied the Plaintiff’s work in such detail.


2. Delay and latches: The Court was of the view that the Plaintiff’s approach to the Court was riddled with delay and latches as there were several online and print publications available since July 2019 that talked about the release of the web-series ‘BETAAL’ along with the story- line. The Court held that these press releases/publications were in public domain, therefore the Plaintiff ought to have been aware of the same and should have approached the Court earlier rather than a few days before the release of the web-series.


3. The term ‘BETAAL’ originating from Hindu mythology: The Court held that the word `Betaal’ originates from `Vetalam’ relevant in Hindu mythology referring to the stories of King Vikramaditya and Betaal which are widely available in the public domain.


Thus, on the grounds above the Court dismissed the interim Applications and denied any reliefs that were prayed for by the Plaintiff.


Comments


The rejection of the interim injunction on the first two grounds seems to be on point. It also reflects upon the tendency of the Courts to not grant an injunction de facto in a copyright infringement suit where the action has been brought just a few days before the release of a film/ web-series, unless proved otherwise. The third ground did not seem rational as copyright infringement had not been alleged on the basis of the title of the work. Further, the story of the web-series ‘BETAAL’ bore no resemblance with the mythological stories of Vikram and Betaal.





[1] LD-VC-70 OF 2020

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