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August 4, 2018

Film copyright does not subsume script copyright

A Madras High Court Division Bench in Mr. Thiagarajan Kumararaja V. M/s Capital Film Works (India) Pvt. Ltd. & Anr., 2018 (73) PTC 365 [Mad][DB], on 20.11.2017 has, at the instance of the author and owner of the copyright in the literary work of the script of the Tamil cinematograph film, Aaranya Kanadam, injuncted the producer from remaking the film by changing the script.

The denial of relief against a remake involving mere translation of the script involving dubbing of the cinematograph film has, however, been maintained.

This case examines whether a producer, to whom there is no assignment of copyright in the script, has the right to remake a film under Section 14 (d)(i) – “to make a copy of the film…”.

…the right in the script vests in the appellant…right in the subject cinematograph film vest in the respondents.” “…the right to remake …would entail…changes being made in the original script, albeit, without the consent of the appellant…A remake of…film…cannot come within the ambit of…right to copy a film…”.  

Literary copyright in script of a film and cinematograph copyright in the film itself are separate and thus capable of being owned separately by different owners, as here. Without assignment or license from the author, the producer cannot adapt the script for a remake of the film.

“…the right to copy a film includes the right to replicate the…film, …does not include…right to remake…the remake…on the subject script would…infringe the appellant’s copyright …

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