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Copyright extends to the expression of the core idea and also to its theme, plot and the storyline in the case of literary artworks, the Bombay High Court ruled on Friday.
The order came on a plea filed by Urdu writer Shamoil Ahmad Khan who alleged that Falguni Shah along with two others had infringed his copyright in Singardan (Dressing Table), one of his short stories and produced a web series with the same title.
Khan alleged that producers of the web series had copied the title, plot, narrative and characters of his story.
Producers of the web series however claimed that except the central idea of the story, there was no other similarity between the two and said that the central idea was not entitled to any copyright protection.
They even said that the projection of the central idea in the web series was different from Khan's story.
The argument, however, was not acceptable to Justice SC Gupte who said that copyright does not extend to ideas, schemes, systems, or methods and is confined to their expression. He also clarified if the expression is not copied, then the copyright is not infringed.
Justice Gupte said that in a literary artwork "an idea is developed into a theme and then into a plot and then the final story with the help of characters and settings. It is the combination of all these elements which give a substance to the work".
"If one goes on stripping the final work of these various elements, one may finally come to the bare idea or abstraction which no longer enjoys copyright protection," he added.
"The above narration is the life and blood of the plaintiff's (Khan's) story," the judge said, adding that the writer has copyright only in the details of expression.
"If someone steals this theme, plot and storyline, is he not thereby plagiarising the expression of the plaintiff's work? Can the above theme, plot and storyline be simply dismissed as non-protectable ideas of the plaintiff's work and not its expression? I think not. We have not yet reached that level of extraction where the work can be stripped to its non-protectable idea," he concluded.
The judge concluded that though the producers of the web series developed Khan's theme, plot and storyline in a distinct manner, prima face it was a case of copyright infringement.
The court also restrained them from any further adaptation of Singardaan, directing them to maintain accounts of the revenue earned from the web series.
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