India: The Magical World Of Animation

Last Updated: 4 April 2014
Article by Pooja Dodd and Meenu Maheswary

Have you ever caught yourself humming Ek Chidiya, Anek Chidiya?  Those who grew up in India in the 70s will have fond memories of Ek Anek Aur Ekta, the short educational animated film released by Doordarshan's Film Division in 1974.  Today, it is hard to find a child in India who does not like 'Chotta Bheem' (an animation character in a series presently being telecast in India). Have you ever wondered how the 9 year old boy named 'Bheem' does all that he does? Welcome to the world of animation.  Nothing is impossible in the magical world of animation and visual effects (VXF).  Animation and VFX are used mainly in areas such as TV, films, advertisements, creation & design of games for PC, Internet, handheld devices and gaming consoles.

The animation industry is often clubbed under the technology sector but the truth is that in addition to technology, a larger percentage falls under the creative industries. The major animation hubs of India include Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Trivandrum. One of the challenges the Indian animation industry faces is lack of proper training and education.  With only two government-run institutes that teach visual design, there is a dearth of training schools in India. And neither offers a full curriculum in animation. 

Lack of a proper organized sector and adequate rules and regulation is another major challenge faced by the Animation industry in India. The industry comes under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting which is responsible for formulation and administration of laws relating to media and entertainment. The sector also has to adhere to the provisions laid down under various laws including the Copyright Act, The Trademarks Act. The Patents Act, Cinema Exhibitions Rules and Entertainment and Tax Regulations.

In the process of promoting the industry and making it more international, the Government of India has entered into a number of co-production treaties with various international jurisdictions such as UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Brazil and New Zealand. The latest to join the list is Canada as of February 24, 2014.

The State of Karnataka introduced a policy for Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics in 2012 in recognition of the potential for this field to grow. The State government has announced that it will extend financial support @ 75% of cost of fee payable to Patent Office (up to a maximum of INR 1.25 lakh) and 50% of cost towards attorney fee (up to a maximum of INR 75,000).

The State of Andhra Pradesh is not far behind. As per the Andhra Pradesh Gaming, Animation, Media and Entertainment Policy 2014-19, the Gaming City complex is to have an incubation centre called Game Towers, which will have a state of the art "walk-to-work" and "plug and play" built up office space which will be rented at subsidised rates.

From a legal standpoint the ownership of intellectual property in the animated work is of prime importance. Under the Indian Copyright Act, the creator is generally the owner and author of the work.  'Work for hire' is an exception to this general rule, where the creator is the author and gets paid a fee for his services while the ownership in the work vests with the company. When entering into a contract with the production companies the creator has to essentially look into the ownership of copyright. If licensing is involved, the terms related to intellectual property has to be clear and flawless.

In India images may qualify as trademarks.  In addition, names of animated characters and tag-lines may also be protected as trademarks.  This gives rise to an opportunity to exploit from merchandising and licensing. Companies must have systems in place to identify, protect and enforce all forms of intellectual property in the works created.

Considering the major boom in the Indian animation industry, the need of the hour is making it into a main stream and more organised entertainment sector. This can be done by spreading awareness, setting up of state of the art training schools and also making more stringent laws and regulations to curb killer diseases like piracy. Lenient taxation will help to avoid tax evasion and this in turn will add to the industry's growth and revenue.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Pooja Dodd
Meenu Maheswary
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