In an urgent hearing, Justice C Hari Shankar dismissed the stay application, not without mentioning that no relevant reason was stated in the plea or has been argued in the Court which proves the ‘urgency’ of approaching the court less than 24 hours before the release of the film.
However, summons have been issued by the court for the film’s producer, Mukul Deora and Netflix and listed the matter for completion of pleadings before the joint registrar on March 22’ 2021.
Facts and Trial of the Case:
The movie, “The White Tiger” is based on a book which has been authored by Aravind Adiga and is scheduled to release on Thursday.
The book was released in March and also fetch Adiga a Man Booker Prize.
Advocate Kapil Sankhla, representing Hart Jr, said that a literary auction agreement was reached between him and Adiga in March 2009, under which the producer had to make an “Oscar-worthy film”, based on the book, to be released in Hollywood. However, he came to know in October 2019 that Netflix was in the process of making and releasing the film, following which he sent a legal notice to Deora and Netflix to cease and desist from any such act.
Mr. Sankhla submitted that the acts by the respondents amounted to copyright infringement and sought to stay the release of the movie. He also mentioned that the order will not cause any serious financial ramifications to the respondents since the movie was scheduled to be released on an OTP Platform, and not in movie theatres.
Advocate Sandeep Sethi, who was the senior counsel representing Deora in the court, pointed out that the cause of action arose in October 2019 itself, but the applicants approached the court at the very last moment before the release of the movie which was not permissible. He also claimed that Hart Jr had concealed various documents from the court and placed a one-sided story.
As opposed to the petitioners’ argument, Advocate Saikrishna Rajgopal, who represented Netflix, said that the OTT film release involves huge finances as well as goodwill.
Delhi High Court’s Decision
The court held that it will cause serious and irreparable consequences to the defendants if the release of the film was stalled at this stage and that it could not arrive at a prima facie view that copyright was infringed. It allowed Deora and Netflix to release the film but asked them to keep detailed accounts so that, if copyright violation was proved at a later stage, the court can determine the monetary compensation.
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