Satyajit Ray first proprietor of copyright for ‘Nayak’, proper to novelize 1966 movie additionally vests with him: HC

The Delhi High Court Tuesday held that Satyajit Ray who wrote the screenplay of the 1966 movie Nayak was the “first owner” of the copyright for the movie, including that the “right to novelize” the screenplay additionally vested with the late filmmaker.

A single-judge bench of Justice C Hari Shankar held that because the “first owner of the copyright in the screenplay of the film…therefore, the right to novelize the screenplay also vested in Satyajit Ray. That right could be assigned by him – and, consequent on his demise, by his son and others on whom the right devolved – on any other person, under…the Copyright Act. The assignment of the right to novelize the screenplay of the film…by Sandip Ray and the SPSRA, in favour of the defendant is, therefore, wholly in order and in accordance with the provisions of the Act”. SPSRA stands for Society for Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives.

In its lawsuit, the plaintiff – RDB and Co HUF – asserted that R D Bansal had commissioned Ray to put in writing the screenplay and direct the movie. Claiming to be the “successor in title” to Bansal, the swimsuit acknowledged that the copyright for the movie vested with the producer always. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed that the novelisation of the screenplay of the movie by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay, and its publication by the defendant HarperCollins Publishers India Private Limited, constitutes infringement of the plaintiff‘s copyright.

“Copyright in the screenplay of the film ‘Nayak’ vested, therefore, consequent on the demise of Satyajit Ray, on his son Sandip Ray and the SPSRA. The conferment of the right to novelize the screenplay, by Sandip Ray and the SPSRA on the defendant, therefore, is wholly in order,” the HC stated.

Dismissing the swimsuit, the courtroom famous that the plaintiff had not “chosen to discredit the grant of the right to novelize” the screenplay of the movie to the HarperCollins on any floor aside from the competition that the “copyright in the screenplay vested, not in Sandip Ray and the SPSRA, but in the plaintiff”.

“That contention, I have already found, is completely without merit,” Justice Shankar stated.

The courtroom additionally famous that it was unable to search out, within the communications between the events, any “unequivocal acknowledgment” by HarperCollins of the plaintiff‘s copyright within the screenplay of the movie.

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