The Delhi High Court on Tuesday recognised the copyright held by Indian cinema legend Satyajit Ray to the screenplay written by him for his film “Nayak”.
Justice C Hari Shankar rejected an assertion by the family of film’s producer RD Bansal that the copyright to the film as well as the screenplay belonged to them, and said they have no right to injunct the “novelization of the screenplay” by third parties on the basis of a licence granted by Satyajit Ray’s son Sandip Ray and the Society for Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives (SPSRA).
The plaintiff family, in its lawsuit, said Satyajit Ray was commissioned by RD Bansal to write the screenplay of and to direct the film ‘Nayak’ and the “novelization of the screenplay” by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay and its publication by the defendant HarperCollins Publishers India was contrary to the Copyrights Act.
The court said being the author, Ray was the first owner of the copyright to the screenplay and the right to novelise it is also vested in him and the later conferment of this right by his son and SPSRA on the third party was “wholly in order”.
“Inexorably, the conclusion is that under Section 17 of the Copyright Act, Satyajit Ray, as the author of the screenplay of the film Nayak, was the first owner of the copyright.. The contention that plaintiff is the owner of the copyright in the screenplay in the film Nayak, therefore, cannot be accepted and is accordingly, rejected,” said the court.
“Copyright in the screenplay of the film ‘Nayak’ vested, therefore, consequent on the demise of Satyajit Ray, on his son Sandip Ray and the SPSRA. The conferment of the right to novelize the screenplay, by Sandip Ray and the SPSRA on the defendant, therefore, is wholly in order,” ruled the court.
The court observed there is no dispute that the screenplay of the film was “entirely the work of Satyajit Ray” and the producer “has contributed no part”.
It said the Copyright Act clearly envisages that a copyright in a cinematograph film is distinct and different from copyright in any literary work which may be a part of the film.
“The assignment of the right to novelize the screenplay of the film ‘Nayak’ by Sandip Ray and the SPSRA, in favour of the defendant is, therefore, wholly in order and in accordance with the provisions of the Act. On the other hand, the assertion, by the plaintiff, of the copyright in the screenplay of the film ‘Nayak’ is unsupported by any provision in the Act,” stated the court.
“For the aforesaid discussion, the plaintiff has no right whatsoever, in law, to injunct the defendant from novelizing the screenplay of the film ‘Nayak’. Accordingly, prayer (a) in para 34 of the plaint (to injunct the novelization) cannot be granted. It is accordingly, dismissed,” the court ordered.