In an order dated 11th April 2016, the Mumbai High Court refused to impose an interim injunction against the screening of the Shahrukh Khan-starrer movie, Fan. The ad-interim application was made in the course of a copyright infringement litigation filed by Mahesh Vaijnathrao Doijode against Yashraj Films Pvt. Ltd. and others.
The contention of the plaintiff herein was that he had created and registered a literary work, titled ‘Abhineta’, in 1997, and that Yashraj Films’ Fan infringed his copyright on the same. The Court did not go into detail regarding the originality or unique of the Plaintiff’s work. In its present ad-interim analysis, the Court focused on two questions: did the Respondents have access to the Plaintiff’s work, and why did the Plaintiff approach the Court so late?
The Court found the Plaintiff’s arguments regarding the first question to be unsatisfactory. The plaintiff stated that he had narrated his script to multiple people after 1998, and that he had specifically narrated it to Aditya Chopra as well. However, the Court found the details provided by the Plaintiff about this meeting to be lacking. Curiously, the Court particularly made note of a ‘well-established protocol of some longevity’ at Yashraj Films of using a defined format to acknowledge receipt of solicited or unsolicited material, and the fact that the Plaintiff lacked such a receipt. However, nothing in the judgment mentions if this receipt procedure was followed in or after 1998, or when it was started.
Finally, the Court questions the fact the Plaintiff approached the Court only in April 2016, as the trailers for Fan released in February 2016. This was especially significant as the scheduled release date for Fan is April 15, 2016. The Court also notes that the Plaintiff is well-established in the movie industry, and consequently finds his claim that he only ‘became aware’ of ‘Fan’ in April 2016 to be doubtful. It further notes multiple pieces of evidence that indicate the contrary, including the postponement of the release of the movie from August 14, 2015 and the pre-publicity material released by Yashraj Films.
On the basis of the above, the Court denied the interim injunction application, and directed all Affidavits in Reply to be filed before April 30, 2016.
The original order is available here.