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Bombay HC admits Shemaroo’s contempt petition against GTPL Hathway

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court has admitted Shemaroo Entertainment’s contempt petition against multi-system operator (MSO) GTPL Hathway for airing movies without obtaining licence for the same.

Last year, the high court had passed an interim order directing GTPL Hathway not to screen Shemaroo Entertainment’s films on its cable TV platform without permission until the final disposition of the petition.

However, the content house alleged that the MSO was still showcasing its content on its network without permission.

In a brief order on 17 February, the high court admitted the petition stating that “prima facie case of contempt is made out”. It has issued notice to GTPL, which is returnable on 31 March.

In the original order, the HC had asked GTPL to give a proper account of the revenue earned since 1 April 2014 by airing films owned by Shemaroo. After disclosing the revenue earned, GTPL will have to deposit such amount with the court.

The MSO was ordered to submit the details with documents pertaining to the exploitation of the programmes and films since 1 April 2013. The HC had said that the court receiver will take possession of all hard disks, CDs, VCDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs and other material containing the petitioner’s films.

GTPL was also directed to deliver to the court receiver all such audio-visual material and any other copies, along with all documents pertaining to the exploitation of the programmes and films mentioned by Shemaroo in the petition.

Shemaroo had filed a petition against copyright infringement of its content by GTPL.

In 2012, the MSO had sought a licence from Shemaroo for broadcasting films owned by the content company in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam and West Bengal.

Shemaroo forwarded a draft agreement licence to GTPL for the period 1 April 2012–31 March 2013. Without executing the agreement, the MSO allegedly went ahead and broadcast Shemaroo’s copyrighted works.

On 3 April 2013, Shemaroo granted a non-exclusive broadcast licence to the MSO for these territories for the period 1 April 2013–31 March 2014. Pursuant to this licence, Shemaroo delivered the films and other broadcast materials to the MSO on a hard disk.

The company did not press GTPL for licence fees for the previous period. GTPL was required to pay a licence fee of 25% on signing and the balance 75% within 90 days.

After GTPL failed to make the payments, Shemaroo sent two letters to the MSO demanding full payment of its invoices and for delivery and transfer charges.

However, GTPL failed to respond to the letters. Subsequently, the licence agreement between the two parties expired. Despite this, GTPL continued to broadcast Shemaroo’s copyright-protected works.

This prompted Shemaroo to send a notice to GTPL on 26 December 2014 demanding outstanding dues and damages to the tune of Rs 3 crore.

On 20 January 2015, GTPL’s advocate stated that the company did not have a copy of the licence agreement, and much to Shemaroo’s curiosity, it also demanded carriage fee from the company. GTPL’s assertions did not find much favour with the HC.

With GTPL continuing to use its copyrighted content without licence, Shemaroo had even filed criminal complaints with the police in Ahmedabad and proceedings in the Ahmedabad High Court to direct the police to investigate the matter.