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The Mystery of the Human Tug of War

Situation:

Journalist Ashwini Sarin wrote a series of articles in the Indian Express on the slave trade after she 'buys' Kamala for Rs 2,400/-. This inspired Vijay Tendulkar to write his play on the same name, which is turned into film by Jag Mohan Mundhra.“Indian Express” filed a copyright infringement suit against Vijay Tendulkar and movie producer, Jag Mohan Mundhra

Indian Express: My Lord! Restrain them from exhibiting the film!
Tendulkar: For what? The play is my original work!
Indian Express: No! Based on my journalist's work!
Tendulkar: No! Based on a true story!
Court: No copyright can be claimed over an actual event!


Law:

Can there be a copyright over real happenings, events, historical facts, legends, mythology? Is the author always a copyright holder?

No copyright can be claimed over real events, historical facts, legend, mythology. The author may not be the copyright holder when the work is commissioned and when it is created by an employee for an employer.


Spotlight on Theatre:

While legend, mythology and history are the perennial sources of inspiration for playwrights, increasing numbers of plays are drawn from current happenings. The material itself is not copyrightable, except in the case of scientific research papers. It is the form, manner, arrangement and expression of an idea that is copyrightable.


Best Practices or Quick, Tell Me How to Avoid Conflict!

Do not make a copyright claim over an event, historical fact, mythology. However, your treatment of the facts, structure, order and imagination may be original. Be aware of who holds a copyright when a work is commissioned. Usually, the one who commissions the work is considered the producer and therefore enjoys copyright.

Before consenting to create work, find out the terms of contract. You could insist on holding the copyright and a written contract.

Material research may be a separate contract.


Links:
http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/250020/

To read the full text of the above judgement, follow the link.

Also read Sections 13 & 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957