Indian high court awards $5 mil in IPR case


NEW DELHI -- India took a big step forward on the IPR front Thursday as Mumbai-based ad jingle composer Ram Sampath claimed a landmark $5 million copyright infringement judgment against Bollywood filmmaker Rakesh Roshan's Filmkraft banner.

In a petition to the Bombay High Court, Sampath had stated that two tracks and their two remixes from Roshan's latest film, "Krazzy 4" (released Friday), were lifted from a jingle Sampath composed last year for a Sony Ericsson mobile ad.

In Thursday's ruling, Justice D. G. Karnik found Roshan and his brother, "Krazzy 4" sountrack composer Rajesh Roshan, guilty of copyright violations and plagiarism. "To my untrained ear, the music (in the two works) appeared to be similar," Karnik said.

The court initially ordered the film's release blocked until the disputed songs were removed, but the case was dismissed after Filmkraft agreed to pay Sampath damages and give due credit.

"This case is historic in the way it sends out a very strong signal to the entertainment industry about respect for intellectual property rights," said Achille Forler, managing director of Mumbai-based music publisher Deep Emotions, Universal Music Publishing's 50-50 joint venture partner in India.

The "Krazzy 4" case also could serve to highlight the much-debated issue of film plagiarism, given that there are regular instances of Bollywood films lifting story lines from Hollywood and elsewhere.

"There was a need for such a landmark judgment because the film and music industry here has never taken IPR seriously," said Chander Lal, the MPA's New Delhi-based India legal counsel. "It was surprising that justice was swift in this case with the damages awarded being quite substantial."

The case arose after the "Krazzy 4" soundtrack was released in late March on leading Mumbai-based label T-Series, which also acquired the film's home video rights.

In the hearing, the Roshans said that they obtained permission from Sony Ericsson to use the jingle's tune. "They could not produce any proof to this effect," Sampath said. "Moreover, in an affidavit Rajesh Roshan said that he had composed the music himself."

Sampath said his agreement with Mumbai-based Big Picture Co., the producer of the Sony Ericsson commercial, clearly returned the copyright to the original jingle, called "I Love My Thump," after one year.

Filmkraft did not reply to requests for comment.

"Krazzy 4" is a comedy directed by Jaideep Sen, and the title refers to four escapees from a mental asylum. The two disputed tracks included the "Krazzy 4" title track and "Break Free."

Meanwhile, industry observers say that the story line of "Krazzy 4" appears similar to the 1989 Hollywood comedy "The Dream Team," which stars Michael Keaton as one of four sanitarium patients on an adventure in New York City.