Freeths wins copyright battle for Birmingham-based record labels MOVIEBOX & OSA
National law firm Freeths has won a hard-fought intellectual property case on behalf of Moviebox Megastores (International) and Oriental Star Agencies, who were targeted with malicious copyright claims against their YouTube channels.
The judge (His Honour Judge Rawlings, sitting in the Birmingham Business & Property Courts) ruled that none of the evidence given to the High Court by the renowned Pakistani singer, Akram Rahi was his honest recollection of events. The March judgment followed a 9-day trial in December last year, some two years after proceedings were first issued.
Mr Rahi alleged that he owned the copyright in the lyrics for twelve songs that the claimants had used in music videos uploaded onto their YouTube platforms. He 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.
To tarnish the name of Moviebox, Mr Rahi posted videos on Facebook with his lawyer, boasting of the YouTube account closure whilst referring to the claimants and others as the “mafia”. The judge found that Mr 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, Mr Qureshi, in order to issue further strikes.
In total, the claimants were forced to take out three separate injunctions against Mr Rahi and his co-conspirators in order to avoid further strikes against their social media accounts whilst the underlying copyright claims were being sorted out in the High Court.
In a damaging verdict of Mr Rahi’s credibility, the judge found that not only had he lied in his court papers and evidence (including cross-examination), but had been involved with altering digital images of his album covers, falsely crediting himself as the author. The judge concluded that there could be no evidential weight attributed to Mr Rahi’s bare assertions.
With their history going as far back as 1970, Moviebox and Oriental Star Agencies are leading labels in the UK for recordings and music videos featuring Indian and Pakistani songs and films, including original Lollywood and Bollywood movies.
Martin Noble, Intellectual Property and Media Partner at Freeths, who brought the case for Moviebox and Oriental Star Agencies, said: “The judgment allows our clients the opportunity to undo some of the damage caused by Akram Rahi’s YouTube strikes and the extraordinary Facebook videos that followed.
“Over the last few years, we had to go to great lengths to demonstrate that Mr Rahi’s claims were fraudulent and that he conspired with others to try and take down their YouTube channels. This included producing items such as original cassettes, album sleeves and documents bearing Mr Rahi’s thumbprints to the court, as well as having them forensically examined. All that Mr Rahi produced was a number of self-serving recording studio letters and digital versions of what he claimed were his own authentic album sleeves. 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”.
“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. An order for indemnity costs is a way of showing the court’s displeasure at a party’s conduct and serves as a warning to anyone who is found to have misled the court. The judge also made an order that Mr Rahi has to pay £150,000 on account of our clients’ costs by 3 April 2023.”
In a joint statement Mr Kamraan Ahmed director of Moviebox & Mr Mohammed Twaseen director of Oriental Star Agencies, who are the claimants 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.”
“His campaign was to falsely tarnish the goodwill and reputation of our companies and this judgment shows just how businesses should vigorously pursue justice against any party who engages in such conduct.”
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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