Freeths wins copyright battle for Bollywood record labels in UK High Court

UK-based record labels and well-known Pakistani performer Akram Rahi in copyright tussle for 12 songs used on YouTube channel in Birmingham-based court

Record labels victorious in copyright infringement battle PixieMe; Shutterstock

Bollywood and Lollywood record labels Moviebox and Oriental Star Agencies have prevailed in a copyright infringement battle with renowned Pakistani singer Akram Rahi.

Rahi alleged that he owned the copyright in the lyrics for 12 songs that the UK-based claimants had used in music videos uploaded onto their YouTube platforms.

His Honour Judge Rawlings, sitting in the Birmingham Business & Property Courts, ruled that none of the evidence given by Rahi to the England and Wales High Court was an ‘honest recollection of events’.

The judge said he was also satisfied that Rahi altered digital images of cassette sleeves of albums on which he sang the songs, to wrongly credit himself as the author of the songs on those cassette sleeves, including most of the 12 songs in dispute.

He said: ’I have come to the conclusion that I can attribute no evidential weight to Mr Rahi's bare assertions, in support of his case and that, where there is other evidence to support Mr Rahi's case (other than Mr Rahi's bare assertions) in weighing that evidence against the evidence relied upon by the claimants, I can attribute no weight to Mr Rahi's assertions.’

The judgment was issued on the 8 March and followed a nine-day trial in December last year, some two years after proceedings were first issued.

The first defendant, Akram Rahi instructed Ansari Law Solicitors (Manchester) and used Chris Pearson of London-based set Lamb Chambers as counsel. The second and third defendants, performer Shazia Manzoor and her manager Azeem Ud Din Qureshi, did not attend and were not represented at trial. The claimants used  full service UK law firm Freeths and it used Jonathan Gale of Birmingham- and Leeds-based set St Philips as counsel.

Intellectual property and media partner at Freeths Martin Noble said: “It is quite unusual in a civil case for a judge to come to the conclusion that a defendant has been dishonest on so many levels and I am so pleased that I was able to help our clients achieve this hugely significant result.”

Rahi obtained copyright certificates in Pakistan to support his position, found by the judge to carry no weight having been based on self-serving declarations. Those declarations were then used in order to obtain various interim injunctions orders against the claimants in Pakistan, which in turn were used to support the ‘strikes’ issued using the YouTube takedown procedure.

That led to one of the claimants’ main accounts being shut down, with the remainder having a threat of closure hanging over them.

The judge found that Rahi went to “extraordinary lengths” to put himself in a position to issue the various YouTube strikes, including trying to hide behind another well-known singer, Shazia Manzoor, and her manager Qureshi, in order to issue further strikes.

In total, the claimants were forced to take out three separate injunctions against Rahi and his co-conspirators in order to avoid further strikes against their social media accounts while the underlying copyright claims were being sorted out in the High Court.

The judge also agreed that Rahi acted as co-conspirators with performer Manzoor and her manager Qureshi. He said: 'All three defendants were involved in a common design and conspiracy to injure the economic interests of the First Claimant and the Third Claimant, in that they combined to take unlawful action in order to cause damage to the First Claimant and Second Claimant.’

Noble added: "Our clients were able to obtain a permanent injunction order against Mr Rahi along with an order for indemnity costs because his behaviour falls outside of the norm."

The judge also made an order that Mr Rahi has to pay £150,000 on account of claimants’ costs by 3 April 2023.

In a joint statement, the claimants, Kamraan Ahmed director of Moviebox and Mohammed Twaseen director of Oriental Star Agencies, added: “This judgment has highlighted how the actions of Mr Rahi were incredibly fraudulent and were carried out with malice.

“Mr Rahi showed no regard for our rights, and he lacked decency by targeting us based on false claims of being an author for works which he did not author or control. Despite having an interim injunction in place, he then went to extraordinary lengths to cause our business harm by conspiring with the artist Shazia Manzoor.”

The court will now hold a further enquiry to determine the amount of compensation to be paid to Moviebox and Oriental Star Agencies.

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