Piracy in Indian Cinema and The Case of ‘BRAHMASTRA’

India the world’s largest producer of films has a record of 9 million annual visits to pirate sites for viewing movies and other content online. The business of piracy began in late 90s and was further catalyzed through the mediums of dissemination through CDs and DVDs and rising as high as rising as high as 62% in the mid of year 2020. According to a research conducted by the US- India Business Council (USIBC), piracy is the cause of approximately 12% unemployment in the global film industry.

What is Piracy? It refers to the act of viewing, selling, purchasing original work without qualifying for authorization from its original owner1 . Presence of a large number of distinct factors empower piracy business in India however, cheap pricing, geographical barriers and accessibility of easy internet are some of the foundation stones of piracy success in the world.

Section 65 of the Copyright Act, 1957 provides for the legal mechanism to deal with piracy related matters in India prescribing possession of plates for purpose of making infringing copies, protection of technological measures & protection of Rights Management Information.

In reference to a recent case titled, Star India Private Limited (Disney) vs. 7Movierulz.TC & Ors2 ., the Hon’ble Delhi High Court granted an ex- parte ad- interim relief in favor of Disney, recognizing any hosting, streaming, reproduction, distribution or communication of the film to the general audience without prior consent from the creator shall amount to infringement of Copyright of its owner.

Contentions were raised linking the engagement of Defendant in illegal streaming and hosting of content on websites infringing Copyrights of the upcoming film ‘Brashmastra Part One: Shiva’ on different platforms. Being the exclusive owner of rights for production, Disney demanded for a theatrical exhibition of the film followed by its availability on different platforms. The film was submitted to release nationwide on September 9, 2022 and has received appreciation from across the country making it the ‘first of its kind’ in the Indian Cinema.

It was also observed by the Hon’ble Court that,
There is no gain saying that piracy has to be curbed and needs to be dealt with a heavy hand and injunction against screening of copyrighted content by rogue websites ought to be granted.

It is important for the content to be viewed on its original platform to maintain and protect the rights of their creators and the State. Stricter supervision for distribution and channelizing of these malpractices has to be eliminated before it becomes a threatening disappointment for the creators to create.

Fox Sports Settles Trademark Dispute with United States Football League (USFL)

Background of the case: United States Football League (USFL), a professional league in practice from 1983 to 1985 included popular players such as Reggie White, Steve Young and Doug Flutie. However, the league had to shut down in 1986 due to monetary indifferences shattering the sports industry of US for a significant period of time.

In 2021, ‘Fox Sports’, a sports programming division announced the comeback of USFL along with its team names and logos denying any linked connections with the Real USFL.

However, in February, 2022 a cause of action for trademark infringement was issued by the Real USFL in the United States District Court Central District of California against Fox Sports for involvement in unfair competition under the Lanham Act. Demand for interim injunction was raised to prevent the inaugural game of defendants on April 16, 2022. The motion was denied claiming no material significance to preliminary injunction.

A strong demonstration from the side of Real USFL was presented where a licensing agreement under the name and seal of the Real USFL was put forward to showcase the authorization of an abandoned trademark in favor of the former.

Indian Perspective: Trademark Abandonment refers to the lack of steps taken in favor of securing the registration of a trademark. According to the Indian Trade Marks Act, 1999, abandonment of a Trade Mark has been recognized as a trademark having no validation by any national, regional or trademark registry.

Further, Rule 38 of the Trade Marks Rules, 2002 states- failure of response to the Registrar regarding trademark application within one month of the date of communication, an application shall be considered as an abandoned trademark. For registration or renewal of an abandoned trademark, establishment of the non- use for not less than 5 years to be displayed for evidence and further verification.

On the other hand, a dead/abandoned trademark is called for following factors:

• Delay in renewal of Trade Mark after the expiration of the additional grace period;
• Delay in response to Trade Mark opposition within 60 days of the objection of opposition;
• Delay in responding to examination report within 30 days of receipt.

Trade Mark registration is a crucial step and protection of registration is even more important for an IP Registry to prevent speculations and objections in time ahead. In reference to the case of The Real USFL LLC vs. Fox Sports Inc., emphasis on the licensing part has been put forward for a continuing ownership of a trade mark.

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