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Bombay HC refuses stay on streaming of webseries 'BETAAL' by Netflix

The Bombay High Court on 22 May, 2020 {Sameer Wadekar & Anr. vs Netflix Entertainment Services Pvt. Ltd.} dismissed interim application seeking ad-interim injunction from streaming webseries BETAAL by Netflix, alleging copyright infringement of the plaintiff (alleged author) by the defendants.

It was held by the Single Judge Bench of Bombay High Court comprising, Justice K.R. SHRIRAM, that if plaintiffs’ story was fictional and absolutely original, how would the defendants have come to know particularly defendant no. 3 who is the author of the webseries BETAAL, about this story and that too have so many similarities according to plaintiff.

It was the case of the plaintiff in HC that since 2015 plaintiff no.1 has shared his copyright work with many known and established producers one of whom was a film maker/director Wilson Louis with whom plaintiff no.1 was in regular touch. According to plaintiff, Wilson Louis strongly believed in the story and was determined to make the film happen and he had few contacts in Netflix and elsewhere.Plaintiff stated in his case that defendants have infringed their registered copyright work VETAAL and therefore, should be restrained by an ad-interim order from going ahead with the release on 24.5.2020.

The HC, while refusing interim injunction, held that emails do not show any link between Wilson Louis and Netflix. It was held that except for plaintiff saying that Wilson Louis told plaintiff no.1 that he has some contacts in Netflix, there is nothing else to show any link with defendant. Therefore, the HC held that it is difficult to believe that so called original story written by plaintiff, can be copied by somebody else. It was held that this is one point which is against plaintiff getting any ad-interim  relief as prayed for. It was further held that the 2nd point is delay and laches.

The HC further held that 3rd point which is not in favour of plaintiff for granting an ad-interim relief as prayed for is word `Betaal’ originates from `Vetalam’ relevant in Hindu Methodology. It was held that everybody would have read the stories of Vikramaditya where a Vetaal would ask him a question and also tell him if he opens his mouth to speak, VETAAL will fly away and that if he does not answer despite knowing the answer, his head will explode. It was observed that the beliefs associated with VETAAL is that it has super natural powers with great prowess.

In view of these above points, it was held by the Bombay HC that it is not inclined to grant any  interim relief as prayed for. Interim Application was accordingly dismissed by HC.

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