(Disclaimer: The first 6 paras (about 422 words) are off-topic)
Imagine the plight of a 6 year old having to suffer a burly guy sitting next to him in a movie hall who’s laughing his head off, stopping embarrassingly short of rolling in the aisles. To add to the kid’s woes, his parents care a hoot about his plight and it’s dark all around except for the light from the movie screen and mobile phones.
I don’t know who the kid is and probably he will never ever want to know the burly guy, but I just hope I didn’t give the poor kid a life-long phobia of cinema halls (is there a term for this? Oh yes- Theatrophobia)
The reason for my unintentionally deplorable behaviour was the movie which is obviously the toast of the season- 3 Idiots, reminding each one of us of those notorious days back in college, not too far in the past and yet seemingly distant enough to use the clichéd phrase good ‘ol days. The movie’s so infectious that not a single soul in my circle could resist discussing it for the last week; so much so that I felt like the only idiot who hadn’t seen 3 Idiots.
So yesterday i.e. on New Year’s Eve, I made up my mind and told myself that come what may, Mission 3 Idiots had to be accomplished by the end of the day even if it meant I had to go through hell and high water (which for most people living in the National Capital Region is synonymous with traffic!) to cover a distance of hardly a mile.
And, my friend was late (as usual!), but then this day I was driven by a sense of purpose and the end, on this day of all the days, certainly seemed to justify the means, so I just collected my ticket without a smidgen of compunction (my friend had informed me as I was on my way, that he had booked e-tickets for both of us…) and bull dozed my way into the movie hall.
And then, for the next 3 hours, the poor kid next to me had to sit through a non-stop laugh riot and even if he had been wailing, his desperate cries for help were lost in the all-engulfing din that the audience created. After the movie, I patted myself and said the day was well spent, promising a revisit soon enough. Once back home, I turned on the Idiot box to find almost every channel running news about the movie- needless to say, statistics and plaudits galore. Kudos to the makers of the film for helping us end the year on a cheerful note and for making a fleeting mention of patents in the movie (Spoiler Alert: A character in the movie Phunsuk Wangdu holds 400 patents, ahem…what about commercialization?)
But somewhere in all this celebration, no one had seen the inevitable pinch of hemlock on its way to spoil the film’s party…
Within a matter of hours, from the success of the movie, the attention had dramatically shifted to something much more salivating for the media- public accusations of non-attribution or atleast innocuous attribution hurled by Chetan Bhagat (the author of Five Point Someone, the book on which the movie is allegedly based) at the makers of the movie and ugly scenes of confrontation between Vidhu Vinod Chopra (the producer of the movie) and a journalist at a press conference. Naysayers might say that IP has reared its ugly head once again.
Nay! Lack of awareness and respect, and disdain for IP have reared their grotesque heads is what we would say.
But before we jump to conclusions or prejudge anyone, let’s take a look at the facts:
1. Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone is arguably one of the most popular books written in English by an Indian author and enjoys a cult status among its readers.
2. Though written after Sandipan Deb’s The IITians and the Dilbert series on IITians in the US, Bhagat’s book, although fictionalised, can be credited for single-handedly making the campus life of students at IITs familiar to and popular among the public.
3. Those who have read the book and watched the movie will certainly relate to the setting, specific instances from the book, the characters and the pranks- the standard of the common reader comes into picture.
4. The makers admitted having read the book- access comes in here
5. The director of the movie has reportedly stated that the book could not be replicated in toto in the movie and so the screenplay had to be adapted to suit cinematic and thematic imperatives- adaptation of a copyrighted work/derivative works
In light of these facts, it is strange that some members of the lead cast in the movie have gone to the extent of stating in public that the author’s allegations are mere publicity stunts and there is no truth in his statement about 60-70% of the movie being based on the book.
On the face of it, it seems that lack of prominent credits is the primary issue. But this cannot be seen in isolation because for a work to qualify as a derivative work, it must be substantially based on the original copyrighted work. Prof.Nimmer explains it beautifully where he broadly defines derivative works to include adaptations of the copyrighted work. According to him, if the subsequent work is not substantially based on the original work, then it is not a derivative work.
A test may be applied here: if the subsequent work cannot stand on its own in the absence of the original and it has to necessarily develop on the substratum in the original, then it must be treated as a derivative work.
Creation of a derivative work, as we know, too falls within the bundle of rights vested in the copyright holder. Why is this so? This is because if the derivative work were to be created without the consent of the copyright owner of the original, the derivative could be accused of substantial infringement.
Further, for vestation of copyright in the derivative, it too must satisfy the criterion of originality. Therefore, in addition to consent, the derivative work must be original as well. Absence of even one of these criteria deprives it of a copyright.
Quite a few cases hold that in the absence of consent, the creator of the derivative work is guilty of infringement, however he may prevent others from copying his original contribution to the work.
Consent does not seem to be an issue in the 3 Idiots controversy, but can 3 Idiots be called a derivative of Five Point Someone? Stated otherwise, is the movie substantially based on the book?
We’ll wait for the plot to unravel…(or as Aamir’s chaddi buddy SRK would say “Picture Ab Baaki Hai Mere Dost”)
and by the way, Happy New Year MMX!!!
(Image from here)