Home » News » Delhi High Court Rejects Copyright Infringement Plea Against Yash Raj Films

The Delhi High Court in the case of Bikramjeet Singh Bhullar v. Yash Raj Films Private Limited & Ors.,  dismissed a plea by filmmaker Bikramjeet Singh Bhullar, who sought an interim order to halt the streaming or broadcasting of  ‘Shamshera’ on Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms.

Bhullar had filed a lawsuit against Yash Raj Films and others, alleging that the plot and theme of ‘Shamshera’ were based on his work ‘Kabu Na Chhadein Khet’, thereby infringing on his copyrighted work.

Justice Jyoti Singh rejected the plea, noting that Bhullar had attempted to claim a monopoly over themes such as a period drama, a father-son story where the two look alike, use of children, birds, hot oil, horse, an underground tunnel, and a plot based on the son’s revenge and rebellion against a foreign invasion.

The Court observed that these aspects are common to most Bollywood movies. Agreeing with Bhullar would grant a monopoly over ideas, which contradicts established legal principles.

The High Court concluded that a comparison of Bhullar’s script and that of the film ‘Shamshera’ does not suggest that one is a substantial copy of the other. The Court held, “Plaintiff (Bhullar) has been unable to make out a prima facie case of copyright infringement and thus no relief can be granted in favour of the Plaintiff injuncting the Defendants from continuing with the telecast of their film on the OTT Platforms.”

Bhullar had approached the High Court arguing that he conceived the idea of a period drama set around the 18th century in 2006. In 2009, ‘Kabu Na Chhadein Khet’ was condensed into a short cinematography film with a runtime of 10 minutes. The film was also screened at the Spinning Wheel Film Festival in Toronto, with a voiceover by late actor Om Puri.

Bhullar stated that he was in touch with the writers and directors of the movie ‘Shamshera’ who were interested in his work. However, in January 2017, he was informed that they had no intent to work with him.

When the trailer of the film ‘Shamshera’ was released on YouTube in June 2022, Bhullar claimed that there was substantial imitation/adaptation of his work. Therefore, he approached the Court for relief.

Bhullar’s counsel argued that both stories involve revenge, enslavement, and span two generations of father and son. The antagonists in both are barbaric, foreign invaders who pillage and plunder the village while the protagonists fight for freedom.

The defendants (Yash Raj, the movie’s producers, and writers) argued that there can be no copyright in a story only because it is a period drama and that there cannot be copyright protection in themes, plots, or ideas.

The Court watched the movie ‘Shamshera’, analysed Bhullar’s script, and observed that the dissimilarities between Bhullar’s script and the film outweigh the alleged similarities. The similarities by themselves were not sufficient to raise a presumption of copyright infringement at the present stage, the Court held.

The Court concluded, “Comparison of locations set in North India, as rightly contended by the Defendants, cannot be a ground to hold infringement of copyright and similarly features such as burning oil, water, birds, star for navigation, secret underwater tunnels horses, ghaghra and its unswirling, sensuous scenes etc., have been used in various films and cannot be said to be a copyright of the Plaintiff.”

This ruling reaffirms the principle that copyright protection does not extend to ideas, themes, or plots, but only to the expression of these ideas.

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