5 Dec 2010

Can Hollywood by suing save Bollyood?

There are no branches of law which we do not deal on the platform of this blog. From the most traditional ones to the latest developments, all of them are discussed on this platform. This recent paper on SSRN seems to be of the most peculiar ones in as much as it advocates suing of an industry (which does not have a legal identity) by another industry, both indisputably in the same field, and the suit is for the benefit of the former i.e. the defendant. In the paper titled "How Hollywood Can Sue Bollywood for Copyright Infringement and Save Indian Cinema", published in the European Intellectual Property Review, Arpan Banerjee recommends Hollywood suing Bollywood such that Bollywood is benefited.  
The abstract of the paper speaks the underlying idea when it states as under;
Bollywood directors have forever aped Hollywood storylines. Western studios have belatedly woken up to this trend and started threatening Bollywood directors with copyright infringement lawsuits. This article refers to English and Indian law and examines the ways in which filmmakers who copy storylines can be sued for copyright infringement. The author argues that copyright lawsuits against Bollywood could indirectly benefit the gifted yet neglected Indian directors outside the Bollywood genre.
The underlying theme of the paper is that it "favours copyright lawsuits against Bollywood filmmakers by prospective foreign litigants" on account of fact of "its blatant copying of Hollywood storylines".  And as the author puts it, it is for the welfare of both the Bollywood and those related with Indian cinema in as much as it is expected that "such lawsuits could indirectly give a fillip to non-Bollywood Indian directors who create outstanding, innovative works but remain unheralded because of their lack of financial clout".

Most part of the paper deals with two key issues, as far as copyright law is invoked to examine the viability of such legal action against Bollywood, i.e. "(i) the copying of incidents and themes described in a novel or screenplay by a screenwriter, and (ii) the copying of the visual sequences of a motion picture by re-shooting". Among other things, relying upon a Report of the Indian Cinematograph Committee submitted in 1928, the author reflects upon the state of Indian cinema as under;
In British India, the government-appointed Indian Cinematograph Committee (“ICC”) presciently discerned an aesthetic divergence in Indian cinema. The ICC felt that “Bombay productions” were not “faithful to Indian life.” These productions indulged in “crude imitation” and showed “a tendency not only to borrow plots and incidents” from Western novels, but “also to imitate the Western films both in action and treatment.” However, the ICC found Bengali movies to contain “a more intellectual appeal.” The storylines of Bengali movies were derived not from Western movies or novels but from the “peculiarly rich” literature of Bengal.
Noting a number of reported instances (judicial decisions) wherein copyright violation allegations have been examined, the author guides the Indian script-writer by stating that "for the Bollywood screenwriter who writes a screenplay based on a Hollywood screenplay, the upshot of all these judicial observations is this: altered copying can be alleged if identical incidents and characters are adopted and if the differences between the two screenplays are minor. However, the more commonplace or abstract the themes borrowed, the less likely it would be to constitute copyright infringement."
While the paper only explores the possibility of the outcome in case the title of the paper actually takes place, it nonetheless reflects upon an out-of-box thinking of how law can help change mindsets of people. An interesting paper, indeed !!!

No comments: