A Take on Producer’s Right in ‘Dubbing’ and ‘Remaking’ of a Movie

Can a producer of a film remake or dub it without the permission of the author of the script? The answer to this question is given by a division bench of Madras High Court in a recent case of Mr. Thiagarajan Kumararaja vs. M/s Capital Film Works (India) Pvt. Ltd. and another.

In this case the Plaintiff, the author of the script of an award-winning Tamil movie “AARANYA KAANDAM” prayed for a permanent injunction against the producers of the film from remaking and dubbing the film in other languages claiming that it would be a copyright infringement of his script.

The following judgement was passed against the judgement and decree passed by a single judge dated 08/09/2016 in which the honourable single judge dismissed the appeal.

In this appeal the following issues came up in front of the division bench:

  1. Whether the producer of the film has any right to dub the in a different language?
  2. Whether the producer of the film has any right to remake a film in a language different from the original one?
  3. If the answer for the first issue is in affirmative, can there still be any injunction against them?

The appellant argued that the dubbing is also remaking a film and it would amount to infringement of his copyright in the script.

The respondents defended that dubbing is only ‘communication to the public’ and it would not amount to infringement of copyright because they are the authors of the cinematograph of the film and hence they are the owners of the copyright of the cinematograph of the film.

The court held that dubbing is included in the term “otherwise enjoyed” of the definition ‘communication to the public’ under section 2(ff) of the Copyright Act, 1957which reads as follows:

“2(ff)”communication to the public” means making any work available for being seen or heard or otherwise enjoyed by the public directly or by any means of display or diffusion other than by issuing copies of such work regardless of whether any member of the public actually sees, hears or otherwise enjoys the work so made available.

Explanation: – For the purposes of this clause, communication through satellite or cable or any other means of simultaneous communication to more than one household or place of residence including residential rooms of any hotel or hostel shall be deemed to be communication to the public.”

Therefore, court is of the view that dubbing is included in the cinematograph of the film. It was also held by the court that the producers are the ones who take initiative to make the film and that they are the producers under section 2(uu) of the Copyright Act, 1957 and that producers are the authors of the cinematograph of the film under section 2(d)(v) of the Copyright Act, 1957. Hence dubbing does not amount to infringement and dubbing rights are held with the author of the cinematograph i.e. the producers. This also answers the third issue that since the rights of cinematograph lies with the producer so there cannot be any injunction against the dubbing of a film in different language.

The court is of the view that remaking a film would amount making changes to the main script of the film and hence would amount to infringement of the exclusive copyright given to the author of the script. Therefore, the producers of the film do not have a right to remake a film.

Conclusion

From the judgement of the above discussed case it can be concluded that the producer is the person who takes initiative to make the film and he is the author of the cinematograph of the film and hence holds the right over it. Dubbing is included in “communication to the public”. Dubbing is also part of the cinematograph and only includes change in the audio track of the film and hence it does not amount to infringement of copyright of the author of the script. But remaking a film would lead to making changes to the underlying script without the permission of the author of the script therefore, it leads to infringement of the copyright of the script writer.

Author: M.Sai Krupa, Intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. Can be reached at anirudh@khuranaandkhurana.com.

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