Under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, copyright protection is available to the expression of an idea but not the idea itself. Even though an idea is not protected per se, an idea disclosed in confidence is protected under law. A prerequisite for such protection is to prove originality of the idea.

The word "original" means something that is novel or has certain characteristics that differentiate it from all other ideas available in the public domain. Therefore, even if an idea is available in the public domain but it has "significant twists or slants to a well-known concept", it will be considered as original.

What is required is that the creator of the work has used his brain even though he/she is using an idea that is already in the public domain so for e.g., the setting in which the story is cast, the backdrop of the family, the characterization of characters, the trigger points leading to different dramatic situations and the handling of these situations with accompanying dramatic elements is what matters, and is what lends a certain uniqueness to the idea. It is these elements that make the idea unique and subject to confidence.

In case an idea has been disclosed in confidence, and the recipient betrays the confidence reposed in him/her and works upon the idea to the extent that the changes are just 'superficial dissimilarity' or 'superficial changes', such work would be considered as an infringement of the idea given in confidence.

To qualify for protection, the idea must be sufficiently developed so that it is capable of being realized as an original. The idea must have some significant element of originality not already in the realm of public knowledge and as stated above, the originality should consist of a significant twist or slant to a well-known concept.

Generally speaking, the courts determine if infringement has taken place based on the following (a) impression that the work leaves on the mind of an average viewer, and (b) if the second work becomes meaningless after removal of infringing parts from it.

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.