Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Film’s Characters, Dialogues, and Songs from the 1957 Classic Sholay are Now Intellectual Property

Cover of "Sholay"Cover of Sholay

The Delhi high court has ruled that the film’s dialogues, characters and songs are intellectual property of its makers and it is unethical to use them as ringtones and in advertisements without the permission of producers.  Justice V. K. Jain after hearing arguments of the Plaintiff stated that he was “satisfied that the object of seeking injunction may be frustrated if ex parte injunction is not granted. The defendants are restrained, till further orders, from offering ringtones/caller tunes of the film Sholay to its subscribers without prior permission/license from the plaintiffs.” In the ruling, the court directed Universal Music India Pvt Ltd to pay royalty to the film’s producer, Ramesh Sippy for selling the film’s ringtones to Vodafone, which is using the film’s dialogues for marketing its products. Sholay’s makers will now get 25% of the amount earned from selling the rights to telecom operators.

 As per terms of Deed of Assignment dated August 7, 1978 between Polydor Music and Sippy Films. Vodafone has also been directed to pay royalty for use of the sound-recording through digital or mobile media on the network of Vodafone Essar till date from the time the company had started distributing the sound recordings. These arrears are to be paid to the plaintiffs within four weeks. Earlier Sholay Media had obtained an injunction from the Delhi High Court on March 1, 2011 restraining Vodafone from offering any songs and dialogues of the movie as caller tunes or ringtones or ringback tones to their customers or end users on the ground that they owned the rights to music of Sholay and they had only assigned copyright with respect to making of records of the music to Polydor music through an agreement in 1978.The claim was contested by defendants Universal Music, who took over Polydor who claimed that they had all the rights with respect to the music of Sholay, since they were handed over the 'plates' of the music by Sholay media under the agreement.

Initially, the suit was filed against Vodafone Essar, but Universal Music and Phonographic Performance Ltd. (PPL) impleaded themselves as parties to the case on the ground that the rights to the sound recordings were with Universal, who had licensed it out to PPL, who in turn licensed it to Vodafone. Vodafone was paying license fees to PPL for using the sound recordings in digital and mobile media.
On the main dispute between the parties as to whether an absolute right to use the sound track, including songs and music by way of ringtones, truetones, callback, ringback or caller tunes etc were assigned to Polydor of India or the right to use sound track on digital and mobile platform continue to vest in the plaintiff company the court felt that the same would depend on the interpretation of the terms of the assignment deed.

It is pertinent to mention that the Sholay Media & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. has previously been successful in restraining Ram Gopal Verma from releasing a movie titled ‘Sholay’ which is protected by a trademark registration in the company’s name. Verma’s movie was subsequently, as per media reports very unfortunately, released under the title ‘Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag’. However it is also important to mention that the Sippy family was in the problem of a bitter family struggle last year, when Sholay Media & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., which is effectively, controlled by G.P.Sippy’s grandson Sascha Sippy, was claimed all the rights over the sholay.

Court declared that the  defendants have to pay royalty to the palintiffs on a regular basis, as per terms of the deed of assignment and within the stipulated time as mentioned in the deed and the difference, as calculated above, is required to be deposited in the court on quarterly basis and that too within one month from close of each quarter. The court also directed Universal and PPL to refrain from allowing anyone else to use Sholay music on digital or mobile platform except as on the terms set out by the court in the ongoing case.
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1 comment:

  1. This is an eye-opener judgement. It is common to use the music of old films, punch-line dialogues of classic movies as ring tones. Delhi High Judgement is a landmark judgement. The cellular companies cannot use such music or dialogues and just get away with it with impunity.

    V Rajendran