US media giants, Warner Bros, have warned Bollywood against any attempts at remaking one of their latest hits “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” through a public notice in the Times of India newspaper and various Trade Magazines.
“Recent press reports have indicated that certain parties are in the process of producing a film in Hindi based upon the aforementioned film,”
A lawsuit will be slapped on anyone producing a film “either in English or Hindi or other language, having a similar script, screenplay or story line or character sketches or interplay of characters or sequence of events,” the public notice said. This notice comes in the light of reports that a Hindi remake of the Hollywood hit are in the pipelines. Called “Action Replay’, starring Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai, the movie is about a man who ages in reverse, similar to “Benjamin Button” where Brad Pitt stars as a man who also ages in reverse.
This broad inclusion of potential infringements by Warner Bros represents a much more aggressive and pro-IP enforcement stance than has been seen so far with regards to a Bollywood industry where rip-offs and remakes abound in plenty (with a bit of song and dance strewn in for good measure).
Lawyer Chandel Lall told the AFP that it is becoming a concern since Bollywood is becoming a competing industry. As per TOI, UTV Motion Pictures CEO Siddharth Roy Kapur says “Many Hollywood studios themselves have plans for the Indian market. They’re probably planning to remake some of their own films in India. So, they feel it is best to warn those who may cross the line.”
Last year, Warner Bros had also filed a copyright and trademark infringement case for the protection of their Harry Potter series of movies after “Hari Puttar: A Comedy of Terrors” was released. The case was subsequently dismissed though. However, there isn’t much similarity between these two cases and the fact that Warner Bros have, in this case, issued a pre-emptive notice will also be considered in the event of a suit being filed. Of course, the success of the suit will depend on how exactly the Indian producers go about the movie, as copying of expression is what is not permitted, while copying of ideas is permitted.
Though there have been countless times of border line instances of copying of movies, if not outright lifting of plots/storyline/characters/script, there have been very few actual cases coming before the court. Even if it does come before the court, Warner Bros will have to prove that it is not just the idea which is being copied, but also the expression. The difficulty in this lies in the fact that an Indian remake of a western movie is bound to be “Indianised”, which automatically means a lot of the scenes, though possibly copied, will be heavily clothed in the Indian cultural requirements. It will be interesting to see how this new more aggresive stance of Hollywood affects its Indian counterpart, notorious for its remakes and rip-offs.