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August 7, 2020

No Copyright In An Idea: Re-affirmed

Author: Sunidhi Bansal

In the matter of Vinay Vats v. Fox Star Studios India Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. [I.A. 6351/2020 in CS(COMM) 291/2020], the Delhi High Court, vide order dated July 30, 2020, refused to grant an interim injunction in a copyright infringement suit, and re-affirmed that there can be no copyright in an “idea”. 

The Plaintiff claimed to be the author and the first copyright owner of a script titled “Tukkaa Fitt”, written in 2010-2011. As per the Plaintiff, a trailer of a film based on this script was released in March 2011. While the film allegedly completed production in 2012, it was never released.

The Defendants allegedly released a trailer of a film titled “Lootcase” on July 16, 2020. The Plaintiff asserted that the plot of the Defendants’ film (set to be released on July 31, 2020), as ascertained from the trailer, bears substantial similarities to the Plaintiff’s earlier script. Alleging copyright infringement, the Plaintiff sought an interim injunction against release of the Defendants’ film “Lootcase”.

The Defendants contended, inter alia, that there is no sustainable cause of action as the Plaintiff’s script was never in the public domain, and the movie based on the script was never released.

The Court, placing reliance on RG Anand v. M/s Delux Films, 1978 (4) SCC 118, rejected the Plaintiff’s interim application and held, “..there is no copyright in any idea, subject matter, theme or plot, and violation of copyright is confined to the form, manner and arrangement and the expression of the idea by the author of the copyright at work. In the present case, there is no earlier film, based on the script of the plaintiff, which could for the basis of a claim to copyright. The plaintiff…bases his cause of action on a script, which never came in the public domain, and public knowledge of which is being sought to be attributed on the basis of a trailer, for a film which never saw the light of day. The cause of action, on the basis whereof the plaintiff premises his case, therefore, essentially remained inchoate…It is prima facie questionable…whether any claim of copyright can be laid by the present plaintiff at all, in such circumstances..

The Court further observed that, prima facie, the Plaintiff has nothing to lay claim to any such ‘novelty’ in its script, as could be said to have been filched by the Defendants.

Disclaimer: Views, opinions, interpretations are solely those of the author, not of the firm (ALG India Law Offices LLP) nor reflective thereof. Author submissions are not checked for plagiarism or any other aspect before being posted.

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