Reasons Behind the Denial of John Doe for Dishoom Movie

The judiciary has devised many ways to safeguard the individual expression like copyrights and other intellectual property rights, one of those many ways is a John Doe order. Every copyright owner has faced the threat of piracy and in this modern era, the threat of piracy is a nightmare for copyright owners. Hence a John Doe order is like a lifesaver for them copyright owners as it aims to protect copyright owners from infringement by both known and unknown offenders, in a timely manner. India borrowed the idea of John Doe’s order from international jurisdictions (e.g. US, English, Canadian and Australian courts).

An order by John Doe shall mean an injunction against an individual or persons whose identity is unknown when the order was issued. John Doe originated from the regime King Edward III of England when those orders applied to non-identifiable defendants. This article talks about the case of Dishoom movie where the court denied giving a John Doe order to the plaintiffs as the grounds for such demands of such were unreasonable.

Introduction

Illegal copying and downloading of copyrighted work over the Internet has been a custom for people for pretty some time now and they do not see anything erroneous with such accessibility, therefore, making internet piracy all the more rampant. Both national and international organizations have been determined to curb this hazard; however, its persistence is inevitable. 

‘John Doe Order’ is one such weapon developed by judicial systems of countries to detriment the potential infringers of the copyright and creates a robust intellectual property infrastructure. John Doe Orders are nothing but a mechanism to protect the exclusive right of the copyright holder. The underlying aim behind grating John Doe Orders is to stop the defendant from committing piracy thereby suggesting a relationship between piracy and John Doe Orders. Thus, considering this inexorable relationship between piracy and John Doe Orders, it can be asserted that the curtailment of piracy would eliminate or diminish the need for granting John Doe Orders. Therefore, in order to safeguard the interest of innocent websites, it is imperative to protect the work of producers.

What are Injunctions?

An injunction is a legal procedure by which a party is compelled to comply or refrain to do a certain act. It is of the essence of the litigant’s preventive relief to avoid any potential losses. This means that the court exercising authority to issue an ad interim injunction must retain the subject of the suit in the status quo for the moment. It can be used by both the plaintiff and the defendant.

It is a well-settled principle of law that a temporary relief should always be provided for and supplemental to the principal relief available to the party upon recognition of its litigation rights or some other method. Consequently, a court is unquestionably allowed to grant temporary relief during litigation. The primary objective of granting temporary relief is to retain property in dispute until the parties’ legal rights and competing claims are adjudicated before the court. (Shiv Kumar V. Municipal Corporation Delhi).

Two types of injunctions are temporary and permanent. A permanent order forbids one party from conducting the specified Act indefinitely and can only be issued on merits after both parties have heard the case. It is subject to sections 38 to 42 of the 1963 Special Relief Act. A provisional or conditional order forbids a party from carrying out the act in question for time and may only be extended until the litigation continues or until other orders from the court have been given. It is governed pursuant to the C.P.C. Order 39, which may be granted at any stage of the trial.

Injunctions are either I preventive, prohibitive or restrictive, i.e. when stopping, restricting or limiting someone from doing something, or (ii) compulsory, i.e. when forcing, requiring or requiring someone to do something.

An injunction can only be enforced against a party and not against an alien or a third party. It cannot be served against a judge or court officer, either (Varanasaya Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya v Rajkishore)

What is a John Doe Order?

John Doe Order is a pre-trial injunction to preserve the intellectual property rights of the artist created works, such as movies, songs, etc. John Doe is also known as the Order of Rolling Anton Pillar, Anton Pillar, or Ashok Kumar. The United Kingdom Court of Queen’s Bench established the John Doe principle as a super ordinary equal remedy, when an order of injunction against an unknown defendant is issued; thus enabling the plaintiff to search and confiscate the infringer ‘s premises to prevent potential destruction of the proof.

Prime facie John Doe orders can safely be regarded as an ingenious and judicious approach to copyright protection. It serves the rights of copyright owners and alleged infringers as it functions as a protection that provides the former with a precautionary and expeditious solution that can only be implemented against the latter when infringing actions are finally committed and the offender has established the respective John Does. It is necessary for copyright owners not to stay under ‘wait and watch game’ but rather to help avoid delays in the indeterminacy and anonymity of the violators and attempt to secure their rights in time.

John Doe in India

India borrowed from international jurisdictions (e.g. US, English, Canadian and Australian courts) the idea of the John Doe Order. It is mainly because these jurisdictions have used the John Doe Orders case law and have contributed to its development and are similar to the Indian legal system. In the Indian scenario it was therefore easy for Indian courts to apply the same concept. An order by John Doe shall mean an injunction against an individual or persons whose identity is unknown when the order was issued. John Doe originated from the regime King Edward III of England when those orders applied to non-identifiable defendants.

The jurisprudence of John Doe in India is still taken into account in its evolving process in which the Indian judiciary and political system make a deliberate effort to update and improve their legislation through technology. John Doe orders in India are governed by Orders 39, Articles 1 and 2 of the 1908 Civil Procedure Code (CPC), read in conjunction with section 151 of the CPC and the provisions of the 1963 Specific Relief Act relating to permanent injunction.

Before granting of the John Doe order, the following conditions are required to be satisfied, namely:-

  1. Prima facie the case is in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendant.
  2. Irreparable injury is likely to be caused to the plaintiff which cannot be compensated for in terms of money.
  3. Balance of convenience lies in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendant.
  4. The conduct of the plaintiff should be fair and honest.

Why was John Doe denied for Dishoom movie?

In various sectors of the media industry, the issue of piracy has increased. The loss of investors is caused by Piracy because those who upload a film or a video through the Internet nor offer any kind of royalty to investors neither pay the government the appropriate duty. That is why both the government and investors incur losses.

The movie ‘Dishoom’ (starring John Abraham, Varun Dhawan and Jacqueline Fernandez) was denied a John Doe order by the Bombay High Court in “Eros International and Another Vs BSNL and Others”

The plaintiff had sought a John Doe order seeking the court to block several 100 websites and URLs that made available and permitted illegal download of the cinematographed movies (on which plaintiff has a copyright) on various unauthorised web-links. 

The court noted that some of the websites alleged by the plaintiff contained only advertisements for DVDs or just trailers. It initially unwilling to grant clearing, denied the same, and said that “an injunction will not be ordered to block URLs that point to a website, unless the plaintiff demonstrates with an evidence that the entirety of the website contains, and contains only illicit material”. 

The judge however, also stated that the Plaintiffs could reappear to the court with a fresh application that was better researched, duly verified and authenticated. Within a span of three days, the Plaintiff again re-filed the application on the same issue. The same resulted in the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay passing an order which allowed blocking of certain 100 web-links listed out (by the ISP’s marked as defendants in the authenticated affidavit). It was also ordered that the ISP’s to block access for 21 days, barring the future extension. The blocked page/URLs were asked clearly as to why they were blocked and also to list out details of the case and order pursuant to which they were being blocked.

Conclusion

Over the years John Doe orders played a crucial role in protection of copyrights and other intangible rights. However, in this case the court refused to pass a John Doe order as the plaintiffs were merely anxious about their copyright and the court just cannot grant orders of blocking several websites because the plaintiffs are paranoid that their copyright may get infringed. The plaintiffs cited few websites and prayed before the court for blocking them as they believed that those websites contain unauthorised clips of their movie and other illicit content which may infringe their copyright. All these allegations were made without an authentic evidence which in turn were unsatisfactory for the court. Further, the court held that they cannot block these websites just because the plaintiffs suspect or apprehend something; and granting a John Doe order on these grounds will infringe the rights of the public at large. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Explain Temporary Injunctions and its types.
  • How did the John Doe order originate in India?
  • Conditions to get John Doe order?
  • Why did the Bombay High Court deny John Doe for ‘Dishoom’?

References

Books-

  • Civil Procedure by C.K. Takwani, Eastern Book Company.
  • Code of Civil Procedure by Dr. Ashok Jain, Ascent Publications.

Websites-

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