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The Case of Disappearing Civility

Situation:

Civic Chandran wrote a play titled Ningal are Communistakki, a spoof / critique of late Thopppil Bhasi’s play that powerfully highlighted the working class struggle in Kerala, Ningal Enna Communistakki. Civic Chandran used a few characters and scenes from the original play to project his point of view that the communist party has failed to set out the goals sought to be achieved. Little did he expect trouble from a different quarter! That too a day before the play was to be staged!

Bhasi’s legal heirs: Stop! Here’s the restraining order!
Civic Chandran: Nonsense! This is ‘fair use’. I’ve just copied certain scenes to amplify my criticism.
Bhasi’s legal heirs: Same character! Same scenes?
Court: Hmmm. If the intention is to criticize the original, it’s inevitable for certain characters and scenes to be there. Play can be staged.

In the case of parodies, substantial quoting of the original is inevitable.


Law:

Can you criticize or do a parody of a copyrighted work without permission? The copyright law allows fair use of copyrighted work without the permission of the right's holder. Criticism, parody, review of copyrighted work is allowed even without the copyright holder's permission.

When can you copy dialogues, scenes and characters, without the copyright holder’s permission? Dialogues, scenes, characters from a copyrighted work can be copied in a parody.

Also read Section 52(1)(a) of the Copyright Act, 1957


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

Parody and criticism are genuine grounds for expression. It adds to the discussion on a particular piece of work. You may not agree, but it is fair. You could parody the parody, or reply with an even stronger play. Legal recourse is not an option.