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Delhi HC issues summons to Karan Johar’s Dharma Production over allegations of copyright infringement in movie Gunjan Saxena

ISRA has alleged that in the movie Gunjan Saxena- The Kargil Girl, performances of its members in songs 'Ae Ji O Ji' from 'Ram Lakhan', 'Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai' from 'Khalnayak' and 'Saajan Ji Ghar Aaye' from Johar's own movie 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' were exploited

After being accused of misrepresenting the Indian Air Force, the movie ‘Gunjan Saxena- The Kargil Girl’ has faced another challenge now. The makers of the movie have now accused of copyright infringement by using three old Bollywood songs in the movie. Summons have been issued to filmmaker Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions by Delhi High Court in a suit filed by Indian Singers Rights Association (ISRA) seeking royalty for the commercial exploitation of their performance in the movie based on IAF pilot Gunjan Saxena.

ISRA alleged Dharma Productions commercially utilised performances of its members

ISRA has alleged that in the movie Gunjan Saxena- The Kargil Girl, Karan Johar’s production house had commercially utilised three performances of its members in three songs viz. ‘Ae Ji O Ji’ from the movie ‘Ram Lakhan’, ‘Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai’ from ‘Khalnayak’ and ‘Saajan Ji Ghar Aaye’ from Johar’s own movie ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. ISRA had sought the enforcement of its performers’ rights under sections 38 and 38 B of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012. The Singers’ Association claimed that all the performances of its members were originally part of the said cinematograph films. It stated that the tariff for the performers’ rights was fixed and the defendant was bound to deposit it before the Court pending the final decision.

Dharma Productions said no claim arose as the performances were not live

Johar’s production house rejected ISRA’s claim saying that studio performances are not live performances and therefore these not qualify for payment of royalty. Dharma Productions said that the license for the songs in question had been taken from the labels concerned. In view of precedents, the court noted that the definition of ‘performer’ under section 2(qq) of the Copyright Act included a singer and the performer’s right meant any visual or acoustic presentation made live by one or more performers. The court said that every performance has to be live whether before an audience or in a studio and the issue of performers’ right raised by ISRA was seriously triable.

Therefore, the court deferred the order on payment of deposit till the next date of hearing and asked the parties to complete their pleadings till then. “Considering the fact that the rival contentions and the underlying agreements are yet to be considered by this Court, this Court, at this stage, is deferring passing any order/directions to the defendant to deposit the amount till the next date of hearing before which date parties will complete their pleadings”, the court said. The next hearing of the matter will be on March 12 next year.

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