Copyright

Indian cinema inspiring Hollywood?


Recently, IBNLive carried an interesting article on certain Hollywood movies that were potentially copies of Indian films. The article has gathered several critical comments from readers. Though I haven’t seen all the movies on the list, movie aficionados are welcome to comment. Shouvik and Swaraj have written interesting posts about movies and IP here and here.

The author lists ten Hollywood movies that have been ‘inspired’/ ‘copied’ from Indian films (not only Bollywood). The article uses the words ‘copy’ and ‘remake’ loosely and not in the intellectual property rights sense. Many times these words seem to be misplaced. Though some movies may officially qualify as ‘remakes’ (the Hollywood movie a ‘Common man’ was a remake of ‘A Wednesday!’), many Hollywood movies on the list only bear certain similarities with their Bollywood counterparts.

In copyright law, themes or plots are not protected in themselves and it is only the expression of these themes/plots that are amenable to copyright protection. So, a ‘love story’ is theme and a ‘love triangle’ within the love story is the plot. A movie maker cannot monopolize either this theme or the plot, but he can claim copyright over his expression of the same. The author claims that Pearl Harbour (2001) is markedly similar to Sangam (1964) since both the movies are love triangles set in a war torn background. These seem like lose connections because there are many movies based on love stories in war regions. Though both the movies may be based on the same theme, Pearl Harbour may not be a ‘copy’, as per copyright law, as it may have been expressed differently.  Another example, the author gives, of an apparent ‘copy’ of a theme is Hitch (2005) and Chhoti Si Bat (1975), movies based on love and matchmakers.

Moreover, a theme or a plot may be developed in a different manner and only if the stories are substantially similar can a claim of copyright infringement be made. Trivial similarities may not amount to a ‘copy’. Also, despite similarities, if there are broad and obvious dissimilarities, a copyright infringement claim may not succeed. So, the author says that Fear is a ‘remake’ of Darr just because both the movies are based on a love story with a stalker and in both the movies the stalker carves the girl’s name on his chest. Such a similarity is not significant and does not appear to be of substantial nature.

Apparently, a famous action sequence in Kill Bill was inspired by an action sequence in a Tamil movie Aalavanthan (2001)! The author is certain the Leap Year is a copy of Jab We Met (which apparently has the exact story line).

Indian cinema, with its complicated love stories, action, drama, music and dance, is undoubtedly attractive and has a huge fan base worldwide. The Indian film industry also produces the most number of films per year. Therefore, though these Hollywood movies may or may not be ‘copies’ in the true sense of the word, Indian cinema, with its mammoth size and glamorous lure, has surely reached a level where it ‘inspires’ other movie industries.

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Aparajita Lath

Aparajita graduated from the WB National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. She was formerly an editor of the NUJS Law Review. She is a lawyer based in Bangalore. All views expressed by her on the blog are her personal views.

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