Satyajit Ray's family welcomes Delhi High Court order on copyright

The court observed that there was no dispute that the screenplay of the film Nayak was “entirely the work of Satyajit Ray”

Updated - May 25, 2023 02:28 am IST

Published - May 25, 2023 12:17 am IST - Kolkata

Filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

Filmmaker Satyajit Ray. | Photo Credit: File photo

The family of Satyajit Ray on Wednesday hailed the Delhi High Court order recognising the film maestro as the first copyright owner for his film Nayak as a “welcome development” in the field of rights over creative content.

Ray’s filmmaker son Sandip Ray said that he considered the verdict as a vindication of his father’s rights over his own creative content. “The court’s order is a welcome development,” he said.

The order, he said, would help in bolstering the creative rights of a filmmaker or a writer on his/her works and help in resolving future disputes.

Ray, a master storyteller, had written and directed the 1966 Bengali film, which was produced by R.D. Bansal. It was his second entirely original screenplay after Kanchenjungha.

Lolita Ray, daughter-in-law of the legendary filmmaker and a member of Sandip Ray’s production unit, said that the family was happy with the court’s order that the right of screenplay be vested in the late maestro’s son.

Justice C. Hari Shankar of the Delhi High Court, in his order on Tuesday, said Ray was the first owner of the copyright to the screenplay and the right to novelise it is also vested in him.

The later conferment of this right by his son and the Society for Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives on a third party was “wholly in order”, it said.

The court rejected an assertion by the family of the film’s producer Bansal that the copyright of the film as well as the screenplay belonged to them and said they had no right to injunct the “novelisation of the screenplay” by third parties.

The plaintiff had maintained that Satyajit Ray was commissioned by Bansal to write the screenplay of Nayak and to direct the film. The “novelisation of the screenplay” by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay and its publication by the defendant HarperCollins Publishers India was contrary to the Copyrights Act, the plaintiff said.

The court observed that there was no dispute that the screenplay of the film was “entirely the work of Satyajit Ray” and the producer “has contributed no part”.

Harper Collins brought out the English paperback edition of Nayak The Hero in 2018 based on the screenplay of the classic Bengali film.

The court order said the Copyright Act clearly envisages that a copyright in a cinematograph film is distinct and different from a copyright in any literary work which may be a part of the film. “The assignment of the right to novelise the screenplay of the film Nayak by Sandip Ray and the SPSRA, in favour of the defendant is, therefore, wholly in order and in accordance with the provisions of the Act. On the other hand, the assertion, by the plaintiff, of the copyright in the screenplay of the film Nayak is unsupported by any provision in the Act,” the court ruled.

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