ADAPTATION UNDER COPYRIGHT

“Adaptation” has a sentimentally innocent air about it. The instant we hear or read this word, we dismiss it as an innocent or wide attempt to copy something that has already been created, composed, and applauded. Any work that is adapted must be a replica of the original. But does it always have good intentions?

An original work acquires the right to adaptation when it is granted. It is a freeing right since it gives the creator complete control over his or her creation and the freedom to present it to the audience in any way they see fit. Since the composer or artist has complete control over the intricate details of the piece of art, he or she is completely protected by the law and no one can infringe against it without incurring legal repercussions.

Adaptation under Copyright

The granting of copyright to an original work results in the right to adapt it. It is a liberating right since it provides the author control over how his or her work is presented to the public and the freedom to do it any way they see proper. The composer or creator is completely protected by the law because they have complete control over the specifics of the work of art, and no one can infringe against it without facing legal repercussions.

The Copyrights Act of 1957’s section 14(a) (VI)[1] governs adaptations in India. The work and how it is created or duplicated are entirely under the author’s control. The owners of copyrights may also transfer their ownership of a work’s copyright to other people. As a result, the author has the option to assign the rights to his work in any way that the parties think appropriate. This eventually results in the signing of a licence agreement. According to Section 30[2] of the Act, the owner of the copyright may transfer the rights to his creation to another party through a legally binding Licence Agreement.

In the case of cinematograph films, adaptation is fairly prevalent. Numerous plays or novels have been adapted into movies or television shows. The goal of the writer or producer is to narrate or visually depict the story on a broader scale. The most recent example is Game of Thrones, a critically acclaimed and hugely popular television programme that won awards all over the world. These fantasy novels were adapted into a popular television series based on George R.R. Martin’s book A Song of Fire and Ice. From an Indian perspective, films like “Laila Majnu” and “Khoobsurat” are adaptations of their older equivalents.

Television programmes like “Saraswatichandra,” based on the well-known novel of the same name by Govardhanram Tripathi, and “Sudha Chander,” based on the classic book “Gunaho Ka Devta” by Dharamvir Bharati, are examples of adaptations of original works. One frequently hears current renditions of classic songs that were enormous hits back when they were first released.

Now, it is believed that any modification or “inspiration” that occurs in India would have a licence agreement in place, validating and legalising this exchange of ideas. For instance, the Hindi version of the Bengali film “Rajkahini” was remade and released under the name “Begum Jaan” by a licence agreement signed by the directors of the two films. What about the “inspiration” that comes from Hollywood or western films, though?

Under the guise of “remakes,” the Bollywood film industry has a long history of heavily appropriating ideas or narratives and adapting them into Hindi. Many well-liked Hindi films are adaptations of successful Hollywood or Western films. This phenomenon wasn’t given the attention it deserved in the past. Western movie producers are getting concerned about unauthorised and unethical copies or remakes of their films, though, ever since entertainment has taken on a more global flavour. In the absence of any valid agreement between producers, this practice is strongly indicative of copyright infringement. Hence, now, the producers are compelled to take stringent steps to curb this practice as it is a heavy and turbulent loss of ideas and creativity. One such well-known instance is the Hindi translation and adaption of the book “Harry Potter,” “Hari Puttar.” This unethical use of the well-known brand sparked discussion and brought the practice of copying western content into the public eye. Many well-known Bollywood films, including “Ghajini,” “Partner,” and “Bang Bang,” are remakes of popular Hollywood productions.

In R.G. Anand v. Delux Films[3], the Supreme Court used the “ordinary-observer test” to determine whether there had been any questionable infringement. This standard was initially established by an American court in the case of Daly v. Palmer[4], which stipulates that infringement would occur if a viewer of the film leaves with the clear impression that it is a duplicate of another work.

This standard, however, was further developed in the case of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation v. Zee Telefilms[5], where it was ruled that each piece of infringing content had to be examined separately before being considered collectively. If the theme was the same, but the presentation was done in a completely different way, it was difficult to consider this to be an act of infringement. The film business has made considerable use of this argument because, even though the movie’s story may be the same, the way it is presented is what is deemed to be “different.”


[1] Indian Kanoon (Section 14 of Copyright Act)- https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1129646/

[2] Indian Kanoon (Section 30 of Copyright Act)- https://indiankanoon.org/doc/291394/

[3] Citation 1978 AIR 1613, 1979 SCR (1) 218  (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1734007/)

[4] Harvard Law School- https://cite.case.law/how-pr/36/206/

[5] Citation- (2005) 4 SCC 649 (https://www.jusdicere.in/zee-telefilms-anr-v-union-of-india-ors/)

Aishwarya Says:

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