PK: A Copyright Violating Farishta!!
Written by: Swasti Panda
The recent outrage against Rajkumar Hirani’s masterpiece ‘PK’ for hurting religious sentiments was struck down as groundless by the Delhi High Court. But just before the Hirani camp could puff out the sigh of relief from its belly, it found itself knocked over by one more legal notice alleging copyright infringement by a Hindi novelist named Kapil Isapuri.
With his usual signature style, Rajkumar Hirani presents PK movie starring the flamboyant Aamir Khan. With a child like curiosity, Aamir Khan was portrayed as an alien with bulging green eyes and Peterpan like ears coupled with his unique expressions that earned the movie “PK” A MUST WATCH! from several film critiques. However, someone had a real bad feeling about it. What makes this outlandish and fun throne movie to fall into the trap of copyright issue is a plagiarism claim by the aforementioned novelist. He has alleged before the Delhi High Court that the movie PK has been stolen and copied from his written novel Farishta. As per the news reports, the petition alleges reproduction of several expressions in form of both scenes and characters directly from his book without taking prior authorization from him.
Reproduction of a work from one form into the other makes it a derivative work and since it carries the protected elements of an original work, permission of the copyright owner’s is necessary. Adaptation of a literary work like a novel into a cinematographic work also falls under this category. From a legal point of view, this kind of scenario portrays a very unique situation wherein courts have to analyze the thin line of difference that drives the Idea-Expression dichotomy. Copyright doesn’t subsists in a mere idea. It subsists in its expression and while comparing a non-literary work with a literary work to figure this out, the task becomes even more difficult. Albeit there is no straightforward formula that can be applied to determine infringement in such cases, the courts generally look for appropriation of ‘substantial portion’ of the original work to determine infringement. Every minute thing like the plot, theme, characters, sequence of events, etc. are compared to establish if there has been an infringement or not. Courts in US and Canada have already started taking expert assistance in such matters and it’s just a matter of time when Indian Courts may also start thinking beyond the Judge’s wisdom to determine infringement in such cases.
Earlier also, book-writer Chetan Bhagat had accused Rajkumar Hirani & co. for not giving him a due credit for adaptation of his novel ‘Five Point Someone’ in the making of movie ‘3 Idiots’. Akshay Kumar’s Namastey London also became subject matter of a copyright infringement case filed by a Bengali producer some time ago. As for now, it’s very premature to comment anything merely on the basis of news reports. Also there are no established precedents because some of these cases are sub-judice before courts, while some of them never reach their conclusion because of settlements between the parties. While it’s one thing to say that directors and producers deliberately do this for publicity, it’s also true that nobody likes to face the trait and dust of courts in anticipation of making a few more bucks. Besides, when the chances are 50-50, like in current case, out of the court settlement is the best way out.
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