On 28th July 2016, Mr. Akashaditya Lama filed an infringement claim in the Bombay High Court and asked for an injunction preventing the release of Ashutosh Gowariker’s 150 crore movie starring surprisingly acrobatic crocodiles and a couple of fairly well-known actors, such as Hrithik Roshan. It was scheduled to release on 12th of August, 2016.
Lama lost it largely due to two reasons:
- Inability to provide sufficient evidence to satisfy the standard for infringement.
a. Proof of existence of a prior work needs to be shown.
b. Proof of disclosure to the alleged infringer needs to be shown.
- His inappropriate and suspicious dealings.
Lama alleged that he wrote the script in 1995 when he was a student in Gwalior. He was doing theater workshops with National School of Drama during the time.He conceived the idea of the fiction from his own life experiences, especially the conflict between his parents who were from different sub-castes. In 1997, he moved to Mumbai in expectation of finding a career in film industry. While searching for a career, Lama narrated many stories including ‘Mohenjo Daro’ to many filmmakers. One of them had worked with Ashutosh Gowariker in many films, including Lagaan, Swades, and Jodhaa Akbar. Though Lama approached Gowariker in 2002 with the script of ‘Mohenjo Daro,’ the director rejected it saying that he was not interested in a period film right after ‘Lagaan.’ Later in 2010, Lama sent an email to Gowariker seeking explanation when reports came up saying the director was working on a movie based on Indus Valley civilization. But didn’t get any reply. When a judge starts off on such a note, it becomes quite evident that it is not going to go too well for the plaintiff. To make matters worse for Lama, J. Patel wasn’t too pleased with him for fuelling a media trial. But as we shall see, the most caustic of J. Patel’s words were reserved for the end. Finally, Lama filed a suit in the Bombay High Court after one more failed attempt to contact Gowariker through email in 2014. The hearing of the case started on July 12 and the second one is on July 26. A major issue that J. Patel had was with the inconsistency in reference to the allegedly infringed document. Lama had referred to it as a “concept”, “story”, “script of a play” (none furnished) and finally, “script of a film”. It is, essentially, on this ground that J. Patel discredited Lama’s story.
Patel goes as far as to state that Lama’s actions were akin to “blackmail” through the judicial apparatus. In his conclusion, J. Patel puts his thesaurus to good use by stating that this case was one of “suppression, speculation, contradiction, prevarication and evasion”.As far as legal significance goes, this judgment has only reiterated well established principles:
A title cannot be copyrighted.
A concept cannot be copyrighted. Idea/Expression divide.
Same old. Same old.
We applaud the justice system for resolving the matter swiftly, and hope it serves as a deterrent in future to those looking for a quick buck or cheap publicity on the eve of the release of a big film.
KEYWORDS: copyright, infringement, plaintiff, disclosure, suspicious dealings,injunction.