The concept of copyright is very clear concerning its applicability. The copyright provides the author a monopoly over his work. The copyright act provides all sorts of rights with the author which can be used to commercially exploit the work. The rights include the right to reproduce, adapt, translate, perform, etc. It is highly important to understand that the copyright always subsists over the expression and not the idea. There are many cases in which Courts have reiterated a similar proposition. The difficult part over this is to understand what exactly constitutes the idea and expression. The expression is something over which the author has the right to exploit but due to its nature, it becomes the question to analyze regarding what constitutes expression and how it differs from an idea. The Delhi High court in the recent case of Vinay Vats vs. Fox Star Studios tries to delve into the same question of idea and expression, relying on similar precedents.
The plaintiff, Vinay Vats approached the Delhi High Court regarding the copyright infringement of his script in the film Lootcase, produced by Fox Star Studios. The plaintiff sought injunctions restraining the film to be released. The plaintiff contends that the script has been taken from "Tukka Fitt", on which the plaintiff has the copyright since 2011. He also contends that the script has been registered at the Film Writer's Association, Mumbai, but was not released due to the death of the producer. The defendant claims that the promo had already been released in 2019 June and the plaintiff cannot claim his ignorance.
The court while delving into this case analyzes two main issues. First, the copyright infringement contended by the plaintiff and secondly, the last moment filing of the application of the plaintiff without providing any time to the defendant or the court to decide.
The court while observing the copyright infringement of the plaintiff work, referred to the landmark decision of RG Anand vs. Delux Films where the court noted as follows: "There can be no copyright in an idea, subject matter, themes, plots or historical or legendary facts and violation of the copyright in such cases is confined to the form, manner and arrangement and expression of the idea by the author of the copyrighted work." Also, it was explained that "if the theme is same but is presented and treated differently so that the subsequent work becomes a completely new work, no question of violation of copyright arises.... Where the theme is the same, however, apart from the similarities appearing in the two works there are also material and broad dissimilarities which negative the intention to copy the original and the coincidences appearing in the two works are incidental no infringement of the copyright comes into existence..."(RG Anand).
Relying on to this, the court reiterated the same finding that the copyright cannot subsist in idea, theme, or plot. The plot and the theme of the two works can be the same still there cannot be any such infringement being intended. The main crux lies with the expression in which the same theme and plot are being put into play. Therefore the plaintiff cannot have the monopoly over the work with regards to the theme and plot since the expression done by the defendant was different.
The court moved to the next issue of filing at the last moment. The court acknowledged the fact that the plaintiff has seen the trailer of the film which was released in 2020 and the promo was in the public domain from June. This provides ample time for the plaintiff to bring the case within due time. Why the plaintiff approached the court at the eve of the release of the film finds no justification. A case requires a lot of time and the court needs time to decide and pass an order, bringing it at the last moment affects the functioning. This last-minute pressurize the defendant and the court to pass hurried judgement. The court finally dismissed the plaintiff's request to stay the release of the film.
The decision of the Court again brings us to the well-established proposition of the copyright law regarding the idea and expression debate. The idea cannot be given to an author solely because it will unnecessarily provide a monopoly over something which is in the air or rather in the public domain. On the other hand, the court reiteration to the last-minute filing is also important to note. The last-minute filing refrains to provide ample time for hearing and courts to decide.
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