The case of R.G Anand v. M/s Deluxe Films & Ors is a landmark decision by the Apex court in the field of Copyright Laws in India. The main issue arose when a playwright of a play (“Hum Hindustani”) accused a filmmaker of making a film (“New Delhi”) which was similar to his play. His contention was that his Copyright was infringed by the filmmaker. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court on Appeal, and the resulting judgement has had considerable impact on Indian Copyright Law as we know it today. The central issue of infringement was resolved in favour of the Defendants and no infringement of copyright of the Appellant was found.
Key Observations by the Court
The main findings by the Apex court were :- The Court found dissimilarities as well as similarities by comparing the two. The similarities found out in the present case between the play and the movie were very insignificant and not substantial enough to qualify the movie as replica of the play. Even though the central idea of both works (i.e. Provincialism) was the same, they were presented in totally different ways. As the central idea is moulded very differently in both cases, each of them is a work of its own and not copied. There were several themes in the movie other than just the common source of Provincialism. The Court analysed these themes and further opined that copyright is not found in mere ideas but it is only and only found in the expressed form of those ideas i.e. in the material in which the idea is expressed. The Court additionally applied the Test of Reasonability and opined that No prudent man or reasonable man could after watching the movie and reading the play say that both of the work were similar.
Relevance of the Case
The abovementioned case was a pivotal event in the history of copyright laws. The result of this case is the limitation on the nature of copyright. The important concepts of Substantial Similarity and Copyrightability of ideas were the major takeaways from the judgement. These concepts are still followed today, and courts continue to rely on them while adjudicating other cases. Some case laws which relied on RG Anand are;
Zee Telefilms Limited v. Sundilal Communications Private Limited (2003): In this case, the Bombay High Court held that, “i In order to find out similarity in the two concepts, what is to be seen is the substance, the foundation, the kernel and the test as to whether the reproduction is substantial is to see if the rest can stand without it. If it cannot, then even if many dissimilarities exist in the rest, it would nonetheless be a substantial reproduction liable to be restrained.” Notably, while R.G Anand was cited in this case, the results were very different, and it was held after comparing the works in question that there was copyright infringement.
Shri Venkatesh Films Pvt. Ltd v. Vipul Amrutlal Shah & Ors (2009): Here, the Calcutta High Court referred to the cases of both RG Anand and Zee Telefilms. The court here reinforced that the opinion of a viewer of ordinary prudence must be considered when looking into similarities between two movies.
Maddock Films Private Limited v. Shiboprasad Mukherjee (2017): The Hindi film “Hindi Medium” was alleged to be similar to a Bengali Film. Prima facie substantial similarities were found in the stories , by the application of the tests of the cases of RG Anand and Shri Venkatesh Films Pvt. Ltd v Vipul Amrutlal Shah & Ors . It has been observed by the courts that that for litigation of copyright infringement of films that are similar to original films, the tests laid down in R G Anand v Deluxe films are still relevant today, more than 40 years after the judgement.
Author: Aayushi Aman, Legal Intern at PA Legal.
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