The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused to stay the release of the film The White Tiger on streaming platform Netflix on a plea by American producer John Hart Jr, alleging copyright violation, reported PTI.
In an urgent hearing, Justice C Hari Shankar dismissed the stay application, saying that not a single reason was shown to approach the court less than 24 hours before release of the film. The court, however, issued summons to Netflix and the film’s producer Mukul Deora. It listed the matter for completion of pleadings before the joint registrar on March 22.
The White Tiger is based on a book by the same name, authored by Aravind Adiga, and is scheduled to release on Netflix on Thursday night. The book was released in March 2008 and Adiga won a Man Booker Prize for it.
Advocate Kapil Sankhla, representing Hart Jr, said that a literary auction agreement was reached between him and Adiga in March 2009, under which the producer had to make an “Oscar-worthy film”, based on the book, to be released in Hollywood. However, he came to know in October 2019 that Netflix was in the process of making and releasing the film, following which he sent a legal notice to Deora and Netflix to seize and desist from any such act, PTI reported.
Sankhla also represented Sonia Mudbhatkal, who runs a US-based production company. The lawyer said that his clients were never given an impression that shooting of a film was going on in 2020 as all such activities were put on hold abroad due to the pandemic.
Submitting that these amounted to copyright infringement, Sankhla sought to stay the release of the film. He said it will not cause any serious financial ramifications to the defendants as the movie is to be released on an Over The Top platform, and not in theatres.
Meanwhile, Senior Advocate Sandeep Sethi, representing Deora, opposed the plea, pointing out that the cause of action arose in October 2019 itself, but the applicants approached the court at the last moment before release, which was not permissible. He further claimed that Hart Jr had concealed various relevant documents from the court and placed a one-sided story.
Advocate Saikrishna Rajagopal, representing Netflix, argued that the OTT film release involves huge finances and goodwill.
The court held that that it will cause serious and irreparable consequences to the defendants if the release of the film was stalled at this stage and that it could not arrive at a prima facie view that copyright was infringed. It allowed Deora and Netflix to release the film, but asked them to keep detailed accounts so that, if copyright violation was proved at a later stage, the court can determine the monetary compensation.