Bombay HC clears way for Netflix series Betaal's release

Bombay HC clears way for Netflix series Betaal's release
Betaal will stream on Netflix from May 24. (Photo: Netflix)

The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed a copyright infringement plea against Neflix and Red Chillies Entertainment seeking to hold Netflix horror series Betaal’s May 24 worldwide release, following a plea claiming the series was allegedly based on an original screenplay Vetaal.

The plea, filed by screenwriters Sameer Wadekar and Mahesh Gosavi through advocate Viraj Kadam, claimed that the screenplay Vetaal was intended as a Marathi feature film and they had copyrighted the story in 2015 with Copyright Office in Delhi. The plea further claimed that the script was registered with Screenwriters’ Association in March 2018.

“When Betaal’s trailer was released on May 7, we found glaring similarities with our script and synopsis posted on Netflix website gave us further indication,” the plea stated.

Viraj Kadam submitted that the story Vetaal was an original script of his client which was based on a fictional story created with his imagination which included characters, locations etc.

Betaal co-producer Red Chillies Entertainment through advocate Hiren Kamod opposed the plea and stated in its response that Betaal web series can by no stretch of imagination be termed as either adaption or reproduction of the plaintiffs (Sameer Wadekar and Mahesh Gosavi) work or its substantial parts and that there was no similarity either in the concept, narration, arrangement, characters, properties etc. as alleged.

Moreover, Netflix through senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani submitted that its web series was originally created without any reference or knowledge of plaintiff’s screenplay or concept note. The OTT platform argued that similarities highlighted by the writers are mere ideas which are generic and do not have any copyright-able elements.

The respondent Netflix also submitted that several publications carried reports with the description in July last year about the platform airing original web series Betaal and hence the plea should be dismissed on the grounds of delay and latches. However, advocate Viraj Kadam submitted that his client was unaware of it, to which the court said that the submission was not sufficient since the reports were in the public domain.

After hearing submissions, a single judge bench of Justice K R Shriram refused to grant interim relief to stay May 24 release of Betaal and granted liberty to the plaintiffs to amend the plea to include claim and damages. The court posted further hearing after eight weeks.

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