We might be forgiven for thinking that India has very lax copyright laws as we see Bollywood movies blatantly copying Hollywood and Korean movies without even giving credit. However, movies are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Intellectual Property Rights.
In India, IPR includes Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks and Geographical Indication of Goods. Patents require you to file for it at a Patent Office as you can’t claim a violation of a patent law unless you file for it. Copyright violations, on the other hand, can be claimed if there is significant evidence that the piece of work was first created by the claimant and the defendant’s piece of work is not significantly different.
Indian courts do take violation of these laws very seriously as it could lead to hefty fines and even imprisonment, in some cases. However, what is more important is that the inventors, writers, artists, businesses etc. know their rights. This allows for courts not to waste time on cases which have no basis. Many people have gone onto suing others for copyright violations only to back out when they realise it isn’t going to work out. This wastes the time and money of courts and it could also lead you into trouble. Read the laws carefully before going into a legal battle.
In 2008, a woman had accused Madhur Bhandarkar of stealing the plot of the film Fashion from her book. However, because she failed to turn up at the court probably and because similar ideas cannot lead up to copyright, the case was dismissed. This is an example for when the court had to unnecessarily waste it’s time for no reason.
As for Indian movies, there have been some movies which have been charged with copyright infringement, like Partner (2007) was charged for copying the English film Hitch (2005). However, there was a settlement which was not made public. Most Indian films are not charged because the foreign filmmakers are simply not aware of it as they do not watch Indian films. Indian films can also dust everything under the radar by putting songs and item numbers, throwing off filmmakers as they wouldn’t at first glance believe that the film was a rip-off.
However, Bollywood isn’t the only copycat. In the US many people have tried to patent turmeric, yoga postures, basmati rice etc. This is why India put a geographical indication of source to its IPR laws.
Many people fall into the trap by thinking that IPR laws in India are non-existent. However, plagiarism is not accepted in this country and you could get into legal trouble for doing so. The laws are in place for a reason, and one must be careful when treading too close to the line, which will eventually force them into court.