The Kerala High Court has held that mere similarities will not come under the purview of copyright unless it satisfies the various clauses incorporated in Section 14 of the Copyrights Act. The Court, in this regard, said that when something is incorporated as a new version or a new idea apart from the general idea, subject matter, themes, plot etc., the user of the newly invented or incorporated idea alone would stand capable of bringing the matter within the purview of violation of copyright. Otherwise, there cannot be any violation at all.
The High Court cited the proposition laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of R.G. Anand v. Delux Films, that there cannot be any copyright in an idea, subject matter, themes, plots, or historical or legendary facts. The Apex Court had made it clear that when an idea was originated or developed from a source being common, similarities are bound to occur, and unless the fundamental or substantial aspects of the mode of expression adopted in the copyrighted work, the same cannot be brought under the purview of violation.
In the case on hand, Suryansh Broadcasting Pvt Ltd v. Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd [Judgement dated 29 March 2022], the Court adjudicated a dispute between two channels over the programmes wherein, the appellant’s show was an eminent one that aired first in 2015. However, in 2021, the respondent aired four episodes with the very same cast and roles with the same theme.
Maintaining the order passed by the Trial Court, the High Court held that mere employment of very same actors in a different atmosphere, though it is pertaining to the day-to-day life of a family may not by itself bring the matter within the sweep of the copyright as defined under Section 14, especially when one was dealing with a Hindu family and the other one was dealing with a Christian Anglo-Indian family.
The High Court was of the view that copyright is intended to protect the work of a particular person or group of persons or a firm whatever it may be, but that does not mean that it is not permissible to adopt the very same theme or plot or idea or subject matter by others unless the same is having an individual nature of its own with the employment of an invention made by the creator apart from the generality of the idea, theme or plot and its natural sequences.