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COPYRIGHT CLAIMS IN FILM INDUSTRY

BACKGROUND

When the entire media and entertainment industry are built on “creativity” and always brings something new to the table, copyright protection becomes critical to protect such content and prevent it from being copied. Copyright is a type of Intellectual Property, which refers to intangible property. 

We’ve all noticed a recent trend in the film industry of making classic or popular films a remade. Remaking a film usually necessitates obtaining a license from the original film’s copyright holder. Remakes are sometimes created by taking ‘inspiration’ from or ‘adapting’ the original film.

The copyright holder does not have to grant a license for such remakes. It is critical to comprehend the distinction. The copyright holder does not have to grant a license for such remakes. It’s important to know the difference between drawing inspiration from or adapting an original work and making a direct copy of it. 

COPY: INFRINGEMENT – ALTERNATIVE TERMS 

It’s worth noting that in some instances where a film is discussed in the Copyrights Act, 1957, the term “copy” is used instead of “infringement” (“Act”). From a cursory reading of the Act, it is clear that the term “infringement” of a film refers to the creation of a carbon/physical copy of the film. Section 141 of the Act provides this information. 

Because the term “copy” isn’t defined in the Act, Indian courts have had to interpret it narrowly, which has resulted in years of debate. The case of R.G. Anand v. M/s. Delux Films & Ors., 1978 is a good example of this type of debate.  The Supreme Court in this decision gave the term “copying” a broader meaning and established guiding principles for determining what constituted copying/infringement of copyrights in artistic work.

According to the guiding principles, there can be no copyright in a theme/idea, and similarities may appear in two different works if the same theme/idea is used.

The impact of the copied work on the reader/viewer after watching both works is, however, the ultimate test of whether a work has been copied/ infringed. To this day, these guiding principles are still used in cinematograph films. 

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The Delhi High Court recently established the test for determining whether a remake is an ‘inspiration’ and/or ‘adaptation’ or simply a copy of an original film in the case of MRF Limited vs Metro Tyres Limited, CS(COMM) 753/2017 Delhi HC.

The Delhi High Court discussed section 13 of the Act, which states that a film must be an original work to be copyrighted, and further mentioned that making a “copy” of an original film without the owner’s permission is also considered an infringement.

BOLLYWOOD AND COPYRIGHT

Despite all of India’s laws, copying other people’s work is common, particularly in the Bollywood industry. Bollywood has been accused of plagiarising stories from other films, whether from Hollywood or the South Indian film industry. on numerous occasions, there have even been instances where a Bollywood film has been copied too. 

Did you know that everyone’s favorite movie, Sholay, has a song called “Mehbooba Mehbooba” that is a rip-off of Demis Roussos’ Say You Love Me, and David Dhawan’s Movie Partner is a rip-off of Will Smith’s Hitch, and there are many more examples?

In this blog, we’ll look at some well-known cases of copyright infringement (the legal term for copying something without permission) in Bollywood, as well as what the Indian courts decided.

Allegations on Bollywood:

 In 2016, XYZ Films sued UTV Motion Pictures, alleging that their film, Raid: The Redemption, was copied and compressed into the final twenty minutes of the Bollywood blockbuster Baaghi. The plaintiffs requested a preliminary injunction to prevent the film’s release. The plaintiffs claimed that Baaghi builds its story around the film’s ‘central/main plot/story, screenplay’.

The plaintiff’s copyright does not exist in the movie’s so-called central theme, according to the Bombay High Court. It only exists in one form, and if that form is not copied and the rival work is entirely different, there is no infringement.”

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The idea of a hero fighting a villain on the top floor of a building, it was observed, cannot be protected because it is a very general idea and can be implemented by anyone. 

Allegations by Bollywood: 

Producers in Bollywood have also had the opportunity to sue others for plagiarising their work. In 2009, the makers of the Bengali film ‘Poran Jaye Joliya Rae’ were accused of plagiarising the storyline of the Bollywood blockbuster Namaste London.

The Calcutta High Court ruled that the term “copy” as defined in the R.G Anand case was more acceptable and that the Bengali film is substantial, if not a verbatim copy of the Hindi film as a whole.  

ABSOLUTE RIGHTS TO MORE THAN ONE INDIVIDUAL

Section 18 of the Copyright Act is meant to deal with the assignment of copyright. It states that any owner of a copyright of an existing work or the prospective owner of the copyright of future work or good may assign to any person the copyright, wholly or partially, and either subjected to limitations or freely accessible for the whole term of the copyright or any part of it thereof, which means that a copyright can be filed to a single individual.

But the ambiguity of whether the absolute rights could be provided to two people under the scope of section 18 and the same remains unanswered but has still been in practice in old movies. 

INSPIRED BY: A MYTH? 

In many cases, the Indian film industry has used the term “inspired by” to serve completely plagiarised content to the audience. Due to a lack of strict copyright enforcement, cases of plagiarism have increased, depriving audiences of new, original, and creative experiences in the form of film stories, music, and other creative content.

There have been numerous instances where the issue of copied content was brought to light after the release of the music or film. The copied material ranges from a few scenes from Hollywood films to entire plots being rewritten in Hindi.

DUTIES TO BE FURNISHED BY JUDICIARY: 

There has also been a case where the original creators of a plagiarised film have embraced it. In Kaante, a film based on Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, such an incident occurred. Reservoir Dogs is a film about six bank robbers who pull off a heist. There were no legal proceedings in either case, and both films were screened together in April of 2017.

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It’s difficult to say whether a film infringes on another’s copyright. On the one hand, an idea could be implemented in two different films, as in the case of Raabta, and it would not be considered an infringement.

on the other hand, where certain aspects of the films are similar, the judiciary must determine whether there is an infringement. Also, the judiciary needs to provide a better clarification over section 18 of the Copyright Act,1957 to protect against any further dilemmas and conflicts. 

And the same is the need for the hour because, there are a variety of consequences of copyright infringement, including financial consequences, as unauthorized remakes result in original creators receiving no royalties.

other consequences such as a lack of creative content production and no investment in the hard work of people creating original content.

As a result, Bollywood suffers reputational and financial consequences as a result of this. To address these issues, the Indian government must enact new copyright legislation that will enforce strict laws in such cases and promote creative talent in the industry.  

Reference

Fair Use of Copyright: An Overview of» The Legal Lock

Infringement Of Copyright In Films – Copyright – India (mondaq.com)

The above blog had been edited by Vidhya Sri Theresa.k

Author/Editor

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