The Dirty Picture that won perhaps the most awards last year, appears to have fallen into trouble, in spite of making the “Ooh La La”!!!
The blockbuster song, that had audience’s attention captured, was alleged to be infringing an old song called “Ui Amma Ui Amma”.
Interestingly, the song Ui Amma (an expression originally meaning Oh Mother! ) was composed by Bappi Lahiri, who gave his voice to Ooh La La.
However, to my eyes, this appears to be a case of crying “Wolf!!! Wolf!!!”. The movie all set to be released for television viewing this Sunday, had the plaintiffs moving just in time to perhaps prevent the same.
The Calcutta High Court heard the interim application,and was of the opinion that damages would suffice in this instance to bring about a balance of convenience. In deciding the verdict, the Hon’ble judge heard both the songs and reached a prima facie finding of infringrment.
The court ordered for a deposit of Rs. 2 Crores to be made to the Court and ordered the Registrar to invest the deposit the sum in a short term deposit. Being an interim order, am sure we all appreciate that the order is likely to be overturned, either in appeal to the interim order itself, or during the course of trial.
In the course of hearing, the issue of assignment also came about. The court noted, that in the absence of the term of assignment being absent, the same is construed to be for a period of five years. However, in this case, the court observed that the deed was entered into much before this provision was incorporated into the Act. I am not sure how well this argument would play out, in view of all aspects associated with the case.
The Court to my eyes, however has left a few loose ends, perhaps for the final order to address.
The music for the movie, as the Court order points out, was released on October 21, 2011. The Court does not question why a delay was made in instituting the suit for infringement, especially if such a striking aspect of the song was in question. Further, in the normal course of civil proceedings, the limitation period to institute a suit is three months.
This brings us back to the question, that while no copyright exists in the portion of a work of authorship, would the fact that it forms the substantial and representative bit of a work, be enough to make a finding as to infringement.
Further, while the infringing song was sung by Bappi Lahiri and the infringed song was also his composition, it is unlikely that there could have been an instance where he wouldn’t have recognized a striking similarity between the compositions. Even if he did, perhaps Bappi da thought that being the composer of Ui Amma, his singing Ooh La La was an exercise of implied acquiescence to the use of a similar tune/riff. The Court is absolutely silent on this aspect as well.
With the multifarious questions that appear to have been shoved under the carpet, I just find myself wishing for Pink Floyd’s Let There Be More Light!