Case Note: You Should Make Your Own TV Series, You Zee?

Aishwarya V. Bedekar, IV BSL LLB, ILS Law College, Pune

Ever wondered why the telecast of a the TV Series named “Badi Devrani” was stopped abruptly? Maybe that is because the Bombay High Court has recently granted an ad interim injunction against Zee Telefilms to stop its telecast.

The Plaintiff, Beyond Dreams Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. is engaged in production of Television Series and other entertainment content. In March 2011, the Plaintiff developed a concept for a TV Show. The same was reduced into a concept note and registered with the Writers Association in June 2013, which was developed into a full- fledged TV Series.

The Plaintiff shared the various versions of the concept note with the Defendant, i.e. Zee Entertainment, which included the basic concept, theme, family, characters, plot, and pitchline. The information was shared in confidentiality on the basis that the Defendant would telecast the TV Series, the production of which will be entrusted with Plaintiff.

When the TV Series was ready to be launched, the Defendants urged the Plaintiffs to take on a co-producer. The Plaintiffs denied the proposal and instead asked to withdraw the concept notes completely. The Defendants offered to buy the concept of the Plaintiffs and agreed to pay royalty on a per-episode basis. The Plaintiffs denied this alternative as well and insisted on a total withdrawal of the concept notes shared with the Defendants.

Subsequently, the Defendants announced the launch of a new TV Series on their new TV channel named ‘Badi Devrani’, which, the Plaintiffs contend is entirely based on the concept shared by the Plaintiffs with the Defendants. The Plaintiffs contented that the concept notes shared in confidence and the acts of the Defendants amount to breach of confidence. They also contended that the concept notes are completed literary works capable of being protected under the Copyright law. Therefore, the launch of the TV Series by the Defendants amounts to copyright infringement.

The Court, while considering the contention of confidentiality observed that there are three main elements for a claim of confidentiality.

Firstly, it must be shown that the information is confidential in nature.

Secondly, it must be communicated with the Defendants.

Thirdly, the said information is used or threatened to be used unauthorizedly by the Defendants.

The Bombay High Court observed that “for information to have confidential value, it must have an element of originality.  That the maker of the information has applied his mind and even while using any information that is already in public domain, has produced a result which anyone would produce if he was to go through such process.”

Thus, the Court concluded that the concept notes possess(ed) confidential value and the same were communicated to the Defendants. The Court, after comparing the concept notes and the evidence produced by Defendants of the TV Series, held that the Defendants used the concept notes while making the TV Series.

On copyright infringement, the Court observed that the material in the concept notes was sufficiently developed into concrete literary works which can be copyrightable. The Court concluded that the TV Series is a substantial copy of the Plaintiffs’ concept notes.

This judgment broadly discusses the nexus between copyright law and the protection of confidential information. The test of confidentiality applied by the Court clarifies the three major elements to be complied with and also discusses the novelty attached to the information that makes it worthy of being protected.

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