Fictional characters, in the recent times, have gained so much popularity that they are being widely used even in merchandising. Some of the popular examples include Harry Potter, Ironman, Minions, Peppa pig or the characters of famous movies or television series such as Game of Thrones, Star wars and many more.
Fictional character in simple words states to be an imaginary person, which are displayed in a work of fiction. Based on judicial proclamation these fictional characters for decades can be further classified into four broad categories; Firstly, Pure character, which means those character which are not seem in an assimilated work; Secondly, Visual characters, which are found in live-action movies; Thirdly, Literary characters which appears out of novels or scripts with description and action, creating the character; Lastly, Cartoon characters and to qualify copyright protection, the work should be original to the author and Section 13 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 allows protection only to original literary, artistic, musical, dramatic works, sound recordings and cinematographic films and by analyzing fictional character can be protected as a literary works and its performance under dramatic work.
Protection of fictional character can’t be solely a part of literary or dramatic work there is a need for per se protection of fictional character under the law. It may include several legal components, which comprise its name, its appearance, the manner in which the character carries itself, personality traits, voice or any different article associated with such character. One of the oldest cases in Indian Jurisprudence relating to character copyright was VT. Thomas and Ors. v/s Malayala Manorama Co. Ltd., 1989 and one of the famous case in which the question of character was dealt and the case was Arbaaz khan v/s NorthStar Entertainment Private Limited, 2016.
Despite of being merely in writing as a part of any text or being depicted in graphics, these characters are seen to carry huge economic value, which sometimes exceeds even the text’s value itself.
These characters have become an important part of people’s life since viewers are able to relate to them and therefore, feel connected and some of the entrepreneurs have generated profit through these characters. Not only these, mascots are also used by many organizations in order to further their brands or events such as the Olympics, commonwealth games and other sports events.
However, since these characters mint huge amount of profits in the form of books, novels, comics, TV series or even merchandising, the creators, from the very beginning, aim at protecting their distinctive characters under the copyright laws.
But in order to qualify for copyright protection there are certain conditions that the characters need to fulfill such as being unique and distinctive within the context of the story and also being the original work of the author/creator.
These copyright protections provide the author/creator with a monopoly over the use of his work and also attract penalties in case of copyright infringement. Also different jurisdictions deal with these copyright related problems in different manner.
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Harry Potter Franchise, Disney Franchise and now almost every other cartoon Franchise in India is the reason why we need to take the Copyright of the characters seriously. My 7 year old, loves Yellow Diamong Rings, its a chips but he always refers to them as Motu Patlu chips because those characters endorse them and that is how he identifies the product.