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Copyright Exists In The Expression Of Idea And Not In The Idea – Explain

INTRODUCTION

Intellectual property is the creative work of the human intellect.[1] Intellectual Property rights are something which is provided by law to the persons who are the sole owner of that Intellectual Property. The main purpose is to protect the hard work employed in creating such intellectual Property. Now the question that arose is that-What do we mean by this Intellectual Property. As the word suggests. Something which born out of human intellect; be it an invention, or creation of any design, anything which came into this world for the first time and credits should go to the person due to which thing came into existence. Basically, Intellectual property rights are given to boost, to motivate and to encourage and reward creativity. Few examples to quote here like trademark protection (any mark, logo), Copyright Protection, Patent etc. According to Article 2(viii) of the convention on WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), 1967[2], Intellectual Property includes rights relating to:

  1. Literary, artistic and scientific works.
  2. Performance of performing artists.
  3. Phonograms and broadcasts.
  4. Inventions in the field of human endeavour.
  5. Scientific discoveries.
  6. Industrial Designs.
  7. Trademarks, service marks and commercial names and designations.
  8. Protection against unfair Competition.

AND ALL OTHER RIGHTS RESULTING FROM INTELLECTUAL ACTIVITY IN THE INDUSTRIAL, SCIENTIFIC, LITERARY OR ARTISTIC FIELDS.

In this Article, what we are discussing is basically copyright protection. Before moving ahead, we must know what is copyright and for which kind of works it is provided.

ESSENTIALS OF COPYRIGHT

The primary objective of copyright is not to give reward rather enhance and encourage creativity and useful Arts. In India, According to Section 13 of Copyright Act, 1957[3] copyright subsists in the following works:

  1. Original Litrary, Dramatic, Musical and Artistic works
  2. Cinematographic films and
  3. Sound recording

The words “Original Literary, Dramatic, Musical and Artistic works” are what we are going to discuss here. What does the word “original” connotes? Is there any definition provided for the word Original in the Act itself? What if the idea is original only and work is created from the common idea but by somebody else? Does any copyright vest in the idea itself? Or Can I say that I have an idea of making something which does not exist yet, and I shared it with somebody, Let Say “B” and B Actually work on that idea and create something new? Can I Sue B who stole my idea? These are the questions that come in mind when we talk about copyright Protection.

SO, THE ANSWER IS NO, I CANNOT SUE “B”, BECAUSE COPYRIGHT DOES NOT VEST IN THE IDEA RATHER IN THE EXPRESSION OF AN IDEA. ORIGINAL WORKS DOES NOT MEAN AN INVENTIVE THOUGHT OR ITS NOT ABOUT THE ORIGINALITY OF IDEAS, RATHER IT MEANS THE ORIGINALITY OF EXPRESSION OF THAT IDEA. EXPRESSION OF THAT IDEA SHOULD NOT BE COPIED FROM ANY OTHER’S WORK.

WHAT IS AN EXPRESSION OF IDEA?

The idea is one thing and expression of that idea is a different thing, one can understand this by making use of this analogy, If the Idea is Potato, then expression of that idea may be any vegetable or dish in which the main ingredient is potato; let say, Samosas or “Dum Aalo” they find their origin from the idea itself but expressions are altogether different. The idea may be common to many expressions. One may have numerous different expressions from a single idea. If the legislature intended to provide copyright to an idea itself then it would ultimately halt or stops the further creativity from the idea itself, one may always have to think prior to creating something new and innovative that I am infringing anybody’s copyright. The Law of Copyright was intended to give protection and not intended for stopping all literary works altogether by its applications.[4]

In Barbara Taylor Bradford vs. Sahara Media Entertainment Ltd.[5] The idea/expression dichotomy was very well explained by Calcutta High Court. The Court Observed:

That the law protected originality of expression and not originality of the central idea due to the balancing of two conflicting policies. The first policy was that the law must protect the originality of work, thereby allowing the authors to reap the fruits of their labour and stopping unscrupulous pirates from enjoying those fruits. The Second Policy was the protection must not become over protection, thus, curbing down future creativity. If Mere Plots and Characters were to be protected by copyright, an author could not write anything “Original” at all on a similar plot or similar characters.

This consequence flows from the equity principle as well. Logically too, it would be very unjust for all those creative artists, authors and makers who express the same idea in a very different way and they are not getting protection just because of the reason that idea originally initiated by someone else. Let Say, the idea is to create music for healing, for all those who recently either lost somebody due to pandemic or himself gone through a lot of pain during this Corona Time. So, its lyrics should be something which will motivate the people around and ultimately to heal them. If any other person also following the same idea, creates such with the same purpose then it would be unfair to provide protection to the former person but not to the latter person just because of the reason that former person begotten that idea first. If it so, it can frustrate the whole object behind the enactment of Copyright Law.

What required is labour, skill and minimal amount of creativity in a work, no matter whose idea it is. Let’s take another example wherein, A script writer is having an idea to write a play on the social contemporary issues like dowry, domestic violence, abuse of women, or women issues, what a women undergoes in her daily routine life etc. as we see, Nowadays so many serials are broadcasted on a daily basis which all revolve around the same central idea because that central idea is not a monopoly of anyone, with the same theme design or dialogues or story, many producers and directors can start their own show and each will be said having their copyright in their own artistic work because each artistic work shall consist of a minimal amount of labour, skill and creativity in it, and that expression of idea shall be considered as their original work. In a landmark case of Donoghue vs. Allied Newspapers Ltd.[6] It was held by Farwell J. that:

“Howsoever a clever or brilliant idea it may be, it’s just an idea and nothing more than an idea and is not put into any form of words, or any form of expression such as picture or a play, then there is no such thing as copyright at all. It is not, until it is reduced into writing, or in some tangible form, that you get any right to copyright at all, and the copyrights exist in the particular form of language in which, or in the case of picture, in the particular form of the picture by which, information or the idea is conveyed to those who are intended to read it or to look at it.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT QUESTION WHICH AROSE HERE IS THAT: WHERE SHOULD A LINE BE DRAWN TO SEGREGATE AN IDEA OR EXPRESSION OF AN IDEA? WHEN CAN WE SAY IT’S AN ‘IDEA’ WHICH IS NOT PROTECTED OR IT’S AN ‘EXPRESSION OF AN IDEA’ WHICH IS PROTECTED?

In the Barbara Taylor Case(Supra) Court observed that these are the question which is most difficult to answer or to explain. The best answer was that there were no final answers, and there was also to hope that would be any final answers ever. These were the situation of legal assessment.

SOME LANDMARK CASE LAWS

In Zee Telefilms ltd. v. Sundial Communications Pvt. Ltd.[7] The Bombay High Court observed that law did not recognize property rights in abstract ideas. It became copyrighted work only when it was given embodiment in Tangible form. But in the instant case, Plaintiff had developed an idea into various Concept notes, Character sketches, Detailed plot od Episodes, they would become subject matter of copyright protection.

In Twentieth Century for Film Corporation v. Sohail Maklai Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. & Anr.[8] The court stated that an idea which was available in the world, could not be a monopoly of anyone. That idea can be presented by various people in various artistic works.

In the case of Anil Gupta v. Kunal Dasgupta[9] wherein the issue was related to one television Show “SWAYAMVAR” wherein, the plaintiff came with a unique idea of creating a TV show called “SWAYAMVAR” with the option to bride to choose her own partner from a variety of suitors. But when Plaintiff comes to know that defendant is about to launch his concept with a name “SHUBH VIVAH” with exactly the same concept note, plaintiff filed a suit for copyright Violation.

The Court Held: That, as such there is no copyright in the mere idea. But here plaintiff’s innovative and original concept, bringing the mythological SWAYAMVAR to be converted into a reality TV program is no doubt a novel concept with very minute details. Here the idea is developed into a concept fledged with adequate details and then the same is capable of being registered under Copyright Act.

[1] Law relating to Intellectual Property Rights, V.K. Ahuja

[2] Refer convention on WIPO, 1967

[3] See, Section 13 of Copyright Act, 1957

[4] Barbara Taylor Bradford vs. Sahara Media Entertainment Ltd. 2004 (28) PTC 474 (Cal) (DB)

[5] 2004 (28) PTC 474 (Cal) (DB)

[6] (1937) 3 Ch. D. 503

[7] 2003(27) PTC 457 (Bom) (DB)

[8] 2010 (44) PTC 647 (Bom)

[9] 2002 (25) PTC 1

This Article is Authored by Neha Gupta Kaushik, 2nd Year LLM Student at DDEKUK.

Also Read – All About The Copyright Act, 1957

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