The Pomegranate Series, Episode 4 (Copyright-II)

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IP Fundamentals

Season 1, Episode 4: The Original IP- Part II

In the previous episode, we saw that copyright protection is granted to a creator for an original expression of an idea. In this episode, we pick up where we last left it: the Golden Question of Copyright Law. But first, a disclaimer; in law nothing is either black or white, everything comes in shades of grey (pun not intended). So the answer to this question will always vary depending on the facts. Keeping that in mind, let’s carry on.

As some of you may already be aware, the right to expression of one’s thought is the most fiercely protected right in democracies all over the world. The American Constitution confers the right and obligation on Congress to enact laws for protection the expression of creative and scientific thought. This is because governments acknowledge the fact that innovation and creativity contribute the most to their economic and social development.

But the beauty of creative thought, as against its scientific counterpart, is that any particular idea is open to various interpretations. Two added to two will always be four, but two different books on arithmetic will try to explain the same mathematical truth in a different way; there lies the creativity of an author. Protection of this expression of an idea is paramount for the wholesome development of any society. All it asks from the creator is originality if not novelty.

But that is the catch: to be protected by copyright law, an idea must have necessarily been expressed in any tangible form. This means that no matter how brilliant a painting you may have painted on the canvass of your imagination, it will not get a copyright unless you actually pick up a brush and express it on your canvass in the drawing room (or even in paint.exe on your laptop as a jpeg file). The reasons why this principle is universally accepted is because it is simply impossible for any adjudicatory authority to determine the ownership of an idea as the subject matter of that idea is confined to the minds of the persons claiming ownership. Secondly if ideas were protected by copyright then it would be a gross violation of the fundamental right of expression as any person who adapts from a common idea will become liable for an infringement suit. This will have a drastic effect of abrogating the very right the State had sworn to protect.

So the next time you reveal your awesome plot for a movie to a producer, make sure you have a copy of your valuable idea in print so that you can protect yourself from infringement, lest the producer makes a movie based on your plot. (See R. K. Anand v. Delux Films AIR 1978 SC 1613)

Have another great idea? Watch the next episode of The Pomegranate Series to know how it can be protected and commercialized without getting a copyright or patent.  

Ritvik M. Kulkarni