Justice KR Shriram of Bombay High Court in a plea against Netflix and Red Chillies Entertainment declined to grant interim relief in a copyright infringement plea claiming that the “Betaal” series was allegedly based on an original screenplay “Vetaal” seeking to stay the worldwide release of Netflix horror series “Betaal” on May 24 .
The plea, filed by screenwriters Sameer Wadekar and Mahesh Gosavi (the plaintiffs) through advocate Viraj Kadam, submitted that the screenplay Vetaal had been copyrighted in 2015 with the Copyright Office in Delhi and also registered with the Screenwriters’ Association.
The plaintiffs claimed that from a viewing of the 146 seconds “Betaal” trailer on YouTube of Netflix series , it could be discerned that the show was a copy of the plaintiff’s copyrighted “Vetaal”, with atleast 13 similarities.
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Senior Advocate Sharan Jagtiani argued for Netflix that the similarities highlighted by the screenwriters were mere ideas which are generic and that they do not have any copyrightable elements.
Advocate Hiren Kamod submitted for Red Chillies Entertainment that the Betaal web series can, by no stretch of imagination, be termed as either an adaption or a reproduction of the plaintiffs’ work or its substantial parts.
The Court was unconvinced of these submissions given that the emails exchanged back in 2016 did not show any link between the director approached by the plaintiffs and Netflix, contrary to claims by the plaintiffs.
The Court has held,
“Therefore, I find it difficult to believe that so called original story written by plaintiff, can be copied by somebody else. This is one point which is against plaintiff getting any ad-interim relief as prayed for.”
The plaintiffs had submitted that they were not aware of press releases concerning Betaal’s release made as early as July 2019. While declining to accept this as an excuse, the Court pointed out that these press releases were in the public domain
Moreover, the Court took note that the conception of the story was rooted in a common tale part of Hindu mythology i.e. the stories of Vikramaditya and Vetaal.
With these observations, the Court proceeded to dismiss the plea to stay the release of he show. However, the Court has granted the plaintiffs the liberty to amend their application to include a claim and damages.
Read the petition: