The Indian media and entertainment sector, particularly the film industry— popularly known as Bollywood, has experienced robust growth over the last few years and has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy despite the economic downturn. In last few years, several Bollywood films have successively broken previous records on box office collections, which have perhaps also prompted both multinational entertainment companies and Indian conglomerates to invest in Bollywood films.
Remake of Hollywood films or Indian films ‘inspired’ by them is not a new phenomenon in the industry. However, Hollywood did not take cognizance of them until their studios entered the Indian film industry with their own projects. They have realized a big potential for the remakes of their Hollywood films. Sony Pictures threatened to sue the makers of Partner for remaking their film Hitch, and Hollywood’s famous studio 20th Century Fox had moved the Bombay High Court against B R Chopra Films seeking Rs. 70 million damages and an injunction against the release of the Hindi film Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai alleging that it was a remake of Oscar-winning film My Cousin Vinny. 20th Century Fox had also moved the Bombay High Court against SME Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. for alleged copying of the script and screenplay of their film Phone Booth by making / adapting the same in the latter’s film Knock Out based on a similar storyline.
The whole of the movie, The Raid: Redemption has been copied and compressed into the last twenty minutes of Baaghi. The makers of the movie Raid contended that once they saw the trailer of Baaghi, they were alarmed by the similarities between their film and Baaghi and filed a case for copyright infringement. The movie Raid is about a group of policemen entering a tall multi storied building to defeat the criminal overlord who controls the building from the 15th floor. To get to him the police teams have to defeat criminals at every floor of the building, especially defeat two of his best and trusted henchmen.
BANDA YEH BINDAAS HAI (BR FILMS) vs. MY COUSIN VINNY (20TH CENTURY FOX)
In June, the Bombay High Court stayed the release of Ravi Chopra’s Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai. Earlier this year, Fox gave permission to BR Films to make a film loosely based on their 1992 hit My Cousin Vinny, but it maintains it did not give rights for a complete Hindi remake. Fox wants $1.4 million in damages, and an injunction against the release of the film. BR Films claims it has made an original movie.
PARTNER (K SERA SERA) vs. HITCH (SONY/OVERBROOK ENTERTAINMENT)
The producers of ‘Hitch’, Will Smith’s production house Overbrook Entertainment along with Sony Pictures Entertainment, has accused Eros and K Sera Sera the Indian producers of ‘Partner’ of remaking a direct lift version of Will Smith’s starrer ‘Hitch’, considering a possibility of 30 million dollar suit. A ‘Remake’ is defined as an exact copy from scene to scene from the old version, but in this case it is not. Instead, I believe it is a ‘Re-Mix’ or ‘Remix’, such that it is recombined with the original ideas to produce a modified and new dose of laughter. Accordingly, an assignment or license of the right to make a remake is the grant of a right to produce one or more motion pictures based substantially upon the same story as contained in the original motion picture.
HARI PUTTAR (MIRCHI MOVIES) vs. HARRY POTTER (WARNER BROS)
In March of 2008, Mirchi Movies was sued by Warner Bros. just before it released the Lucky Kohli-directed film Hari Puttar. Warner Bros. said the similarity in title was too close to its biggest franchise, Harry Potter. It said the title “unfairly sought to confuse consumers and benefit from the well-known and well-loved Harry Potter brand.” Mirchi Movies CEO insisted the plots of the films were in no way similar, and that ‘Hari’ is a popular Indian name, while “puttar” means “son”.
The Delhi High Court rejected the lawsuit filed by Warner Bros. The court said Warner Bros could have brought the case in 2005, when it first learned of the title, but delayed taking action until now. It also said that the audience could easily distinguish between Hari Puttar and Harry Potter.
Hari Puttar was to be released on September 12, 2008. It was delayed because of the court case, and released September 26 in India. It also released in the US and the UK.
The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to remake a motion picture based substantially upon the same story, albeit with modernization or updating elements. This right to make a remake can, of course, be assigned and/or licensed; failing which, the making of a remake without a licence from the producer will be a copyright infringement of the original work. With the recent controversies of the remakes of numerous movies coming to the forefront, it is but a matter of time that procuring appropriate licences for making of a remake shall be a matter of practice.The producers at large now are not only vigilant in procuring licences but are ready to adopt all appropriate measures in order to protect their rights in their original work.