Sunday, February 26, 2012

Phone Booth rings a Bell- A Knock Out Punch at Mumbai High Court!

A few weeks back, I expressed my worry about “Inspirational Plagiarism”. To my delight, I was turned to a decision of the Mumbai High Court rendered in 2010, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation vs. Sohail Maklai Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., discussing a similar issue, albeit in the context of film scripts.

The extremely popular “Phone Booth”, produced by Twentieth Century Fox moved a suit against the producers of Bollywood flick Knock-Out, alleging infringement and praying for an injunction against the release of the movie and distribution of copies of the movie, in any manner. The decision reveals that several letters had been exchanged between Twentieth Century Fox and Sohail Maklai Entertainment Ltd., even before the matter moved to Court.

The producers of Knock-Out claim that the only similarity between the scripts is that “the guy is trapped in a phone booth”.

For our readers who have seen the English movie, will agree when I say that such “Entrapment” (and what a movie that was!) is central to the Twentieth Century Fox production. The judge, in cognizance of this fact, states, amongst other points of comparison:

"The conversation between the caller and the protagonist are rather similar; such similarity cannot be co-incidental. Its style as well as the content of the conversation and the design in bringing out the conduct of the man would leave an unmistakable impression that one was copied from the other. That is the basic concept of the two films.”

Further the Judge taking note of the differences between film making styles in Hollywood and Bollywood says:

“It is seen that the duration of both the films is rather different; though the first is long enough the second is far longer for the message it conveys. Consequently and naturally, the second has further and other aspects to convey and portray more specially the political drama with several more characters and scenes which are essentially embellishment and ornamentation in developing the expression of the idea or the prime thought of the first film.”
In the paragraphs that follow, the judge makes a rather interesting comparative:

These ideas can be understood by the distinction of a discovery and an invention. Whatever is there but not brought out would be discovered; but whatever is not there is invented for the first time. The inventor would, therefore, alone have copyright in the expression of that invention which is the artistic work. Hence copyright is contained in the original expression of the idea. It is expressed in the frame of the product. It is the thought that is sought to be portrayed and conveyed which carries a copyright and not the original idea. Hence whilst the idea may not be unique to the author, the image portrayed or the expression made is essentially unique to the author. If such an expression in the shots of a film is copied, lifted from an earlier film, the infringement is complete.

I think this paragraph sums up the view that the judge takes, rather succinctly and drawing an interesting comparative, while doing that! For those who worry about the rampant Inspirational Plagiarism like me.. Here Comes the Sun!

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