What You Should Know About The Shraddha Sharma-Culture Machine Court Case

Culture Machine has filed a case against YouTube India star Shraddha Sharma for breach of contract. The article looks at the case and who is at fault in the relationship gone wrong.

Update[18/09/2021]: Shraddha Sharma - Culture Machine court case has new interesting developments, click here to read about it.

Putting creative thinkers and business minds inside a bottle for long isn’t easy. It is tough to bring a synergy between the right and left brains, as seen in the recent controversy of Culture Machine, a YouTube certified premium Multi Channel Network, filing a court case against YouTube India star Shraddha Sharma.

It was a lazy Sunday yesterday when I came across a Facebook update shared by Shraddha Sharma on 13th September. The Facebook update which has now been shared by more than 592 users, asked fans to click on the video with a message to support her in this new fight. (The video and Facebook post have been deleted.)

Shraddha talks about the case filed by Culture Machine, India’s leading YouTube certified premium Multi Channel Network (MCN), headquartered in Singapore with an office in Mumbai. The firm that was managing Shraddha’s YouTube presence, has filed a case against her since the artist has not renewed the contract. The video has got more than 3K views.

This has also led Shraddha to start a new YouTube channel under the name of Shraddha Supagirl. In other words, Shraddha Rockin her original channel is no more with the artist. Looks like it is being controlled by Culture Machine now. Not only the videos, the artist has lost views (12 million plus) and 155K subscribers too.

Culture Machine’s statement on the case

Lighthouse Insights spoke to Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO at Culture Machine about the case and he emphasized that the artist has breached the contract. He further states:

The matter is sub judice. However, we have a signed contract with Shraddha which she has breached. We have acted well within our rights and it’s up to the courts to decide the outcome. Our intention isn’t to malign any artist, given that they form the bed rock of our business, but to ensure the integrity of our contractual obligations are maintained.

We have grown the viewership and monetisation of many artists and continue to build on those relationships, as is evident by the strength of our network. Depending on their stature, different artists have different contracts and commitments, and in this case, these commitments have been breached and we had no recourse except legal.”

Since the matter is in court, Culture Machine has declined to disclose any further details. 

Shraddha Sharma and Culture Machine contract

The Dheradun girl, Shraddha Sharma is an Indian singing star made on YouTube. She uploaded her first video in April 2011 and since then her popularity has been growing. With her music reaching new corners, the YouTube girl was roped in by Hair and Care and later she was also associated with MTS India in 2012.

The big break for her was in the last quarter of 2013, when she was signed for a long-term contract with Universal Music, for producing her first album. While there was no information on the deal, it was just stated to be a 360 degree long term contract.

During the same time, speaking to MediaNama, Pitalwalla shared that his MCN has been managing her entire YouTube and social media presence. “She’s a star because of her digital presence. We grew Shraddha’s viewership four times from the time she joined the Culture Machine Network. Her subscriber base grew from 40,000 to 1,30,000 on YouTube, and on Facebook from 100,000 to 1.5 million likes.”

In fact, Shraddha had gone on record and repeatedly thanked Culture Machine for the work done for her videos.

Looks like the relationship has now turned bitter.

What went wrong and who is to be blamed?

According to our sources, the YouTube star has already ended her contract and was pushing this for quite some time now. While it is still unclear whether Shraddha was not finding any value in the services offered by Culture Machine, can the firm hold on to eternity?

It’s like I give my home to someone for managing and making it beautiful but tomorrow he says that I don’t own the house anymore just because of a contract!

The tricky part is the contract; while Culture Machine stands by the word that every artist has a specific contract but the word in the market is that these contracts are pretty much one-sided.

The other question which is lingering is - who owns the content; was it not mentioned in the contract when Shraddha signed it?

In February 2008, actor Pulkit Samrat, who played Lakshya in Balaji Telefilms’ Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, had taken his mentor Ekta Kapoor to court on a similar issue. Samrat, who had been working with Balaji since June 2006, stated in his case that after the initial few months his meaty role was whittled down to a few lines, leaving him with little work.

When he complained, and wished to work outside Balaji, he was shown the contract, the fine-print of which read that he was beholden to the serial and to the production house for “three years.” Besides the actor was also not being paid his dues for several months.

The court in this case instructed Ekta Kapoor not to “arm-twist” the actor and stop him from working for other producers outside Balaji.

A similar incident happened with Indian cricketer Zaheer Khan in 2006. Supreme Court had given the go ahead to Zaheer to sign up Adidas after an appeal filed by celebrity management firm Percept D’Mark (India) Pvt Ltd against a Bombay High Court judgement, which allowed the cricketer’s plea that he did not wish to renew his contract with the firm.

Zaheer had signed a contract with the company in the year 2000 for a period of three years with the contract ending in October 2003. In July 2003 the company sent him a draft agreement for extending the contract for another five years. Zaheer turned it down saying he was not interested.

Percept D’Mark then filed a case in Bombay High Court on the grounds that Zaheer had been paid huge amounts of guarantee money every year under the contract and asked for an injunction on his signing a contract with a third party before fulfilling his obligations under their agreement.

The company had also asked Zaheer to provide all the details of any contract he intended to sign with a third party and demanded that it get the first opportunity to offer the contract.

Finally, the SC bench ruled out the case but it however gave the liberty to Percept D’Mark to proceed against Zaheer for breach of contractual terms.

In Shraddha’s case if the contract is over and if she doesn’t want to carry on the engagement, one fails to understand how an MCN can own the content. If the contract is not over and Shraddha wants to break it then Culture Machine is free to chase a breach of contract but owning the content is still not acceptable.

We will have to wait for the court’s order on the case to understand what really has happened and who owns the content.