The Kerala High Court in its judgement given by Justice Shircy V in the case of Sanjeev Pillai Vs. Venu Kunnapalli and Ors. stated that the author has a right to protect his Intellectual Property even after its assignment. The present case is an appeal from the order given by the II Additional District Court, Ernakulam.

In the present case, the Film director and script-writer Mr. Sanjeev Pillai has written a script for a movie on “Mamankam” which is described in history as grand festival held once in twelve years on the banks of Nila river/ Bharathapuzha at Thirunavaya during the 14th to 19th century. The movie which is based on the Mamankam mainly relates to the story of Perumal, the ruler of the country and chaver pada / warriors (suicide squad). The movie was to be released on 12.12.2019. The Appellant in the present case contended that he has researched on the history of this festival since 1999 and written a script on it, which is his dream project. He was the director of the film for two schedules and then he was terminated and the Respondent’s has completed the shooting of the film by mutilating, distorting and modifying the script of the Appellant. The Respondent contented that the appellant has sold his right of authorship for a consideration of Rs 3,00,000 and therefore is not entitled to get any credit for the film regarding script, screen-play etc.

The Kerala High Court in the present case, referred to the relevant sections of the Copyright Act, 1957. Section 57 of the Copyright Act,1957 states the Author’s special right. The High Court in its judgement stated that, “What is enshrined in Section 57(1) (a) of the Copy Right Act is that even if the copyright has been assigned, the author of a work shall have the special right to claim the authorship of the work. Section 57 (1) (b) consists of two segments. The first part would entitle the author to restrain the opposite party from making any distortion, mutilation or modification or any other act in relation to the said work if it would be prejudicial to his honour or reputation. The second part says that, the author is entitled to claim damages in respect of any distortion, mutilation or other modifications in the said work or any other action, in relation to the copyrighted work which would be prejudicial to his honour or reputation.” The law is therefore, clear that even after assignment the author has legal right to protect his intellectual property.

The Court refrained from staying the release of the movie however it granted a relief to the aggrieved script writer by directing that nobody’s name will be exhibited as the script writer or as writer of the screenplay of the movie ‘Mamankam’ anywhere or in the advertisements till the disposal of the suit by the Trial Court.


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Link to the judgment: Sajeev Pillai v. Venu Kunnapalli & Anr.