I am not quite sure as to how Bollywood got its name; my favourite theory is that after decades of copying/borrowing
One common thread running through all these industries is their propensity to copy/borrow certain scripts, whole plots and sizeable chunks of screenplays from each other and from
Now to come to the crux of the matter – the law of copyright. The law of copyright as you all must know, does not protect ideas it only protects the expression of those ideas. For example the now run of the mill ‘boy falls in love with girl’ story has been around since the times of Laila-Majnu and Romeo Juliet. The basic idea of this story will not be copyrighted until it is converted into an expression i.e. until it is written down in a particular story line and in a language, which is when it is granted a copyright protection. The question of copyright infringement comes up when the alleged infringer copies the substantial expression of the idea as expressed by the original writer. In a movie it is usually determined as to whether or not a movie has been copied/borrowed frame by frame with similar settings and characters. If the similarities are substantial the Court will hold that copyright infringement has indeed occurred. Therefore every time somebody makes a movie, XYZ, of a ship sinking it cannot be considered a copyright infringement of Titanic unless XYZ has copied for instance the sets, the storyline and the script of Titanic. The idea of a ship hitting an iceberg is for the common knowledge of mankind, the difference between Titanic and XYZ is how, differently, they have expressed this common idea.
The matter however does have its own connotations in the Indian movie industry. A
Larger issues to be discussed are the rationale of copyright itself and whether or not iti serving its purpose. Historically viewed the law of copyright evolved in the 18th Century under the Statute of Anne. At that time the Statue of Anne was revolutionary – a copyright term of perpetuity had been limited to a copyright term of 14 years and for the first time the law, expressly, vested in the author the copyright. The Preamble of the Statute of Anne read
An act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such copies
Clearly copyright was an ends to a means; it was a means to promote innovation and therefore the legislature sought to balance the issue of copyright with the greater good of the mankind by limiting the copyright to a 14 year time period. Today in India Section 26 of the Copyright Act provides a 60 year term for copyright protection of Cinematographic Films. There is a clear shift towards protecting the author’s rights in the current copyright regime. The balance has shifted in favour of the copyright owner.
The question therefore is how do we view the law of copyrights; do we construe these rights in the strictest Lockean notions of property or do we strive to achieve a balance or should we just got for the super-liberal commons based approach where everything is licensed under a creative commons license. We are so used to the dominant narratives of the law of copyright that we very often forget to question its rationale. Does the copyright law in the world fulfill the goals of its parent statute – the Statute of Anne – does it provide an incentive to authors and artists to create and enrich our cultures or does it stifle creativity?
I have no answer but look forward to a discussion on SpicyIP. For those interested in the Myths about Copyright please do read this brilliant paper, by the same name, authored by the venerable Lawrence Liang along with Atrayee Mazumdar and Mayur Suresh, all graduates of NLSIU.