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  • Mass Leader Will Be Safe - Exclusive

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    The fight over the film title Leader has gone before a court in Bengaluru. But if you look at judgement by the high courts and even the Supreme Court over the last few years it is clear that you cannot have a copyright on the title of any work, including films, books and music albums. There is copyright on the work itself but not on the titles.

    The most famous case was two years ago when a writer challenged the use of the Hindi film title Desi Boyz. He claimed that it was infringing on his copyright as he had written a script called Desi Boys and shown it to the film maker. But the Supreme Court ruled (CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 258 OF 2013) that "A title does not qualify for being described as work". Further the court said that the words Desi and Boys were commonly used in spoken language and there cannot be copyright on it. So will there be copyright on words 'Mass' or 'Leader'. It cannot be. 

    There was another case involving Tamil director A.R. Murugadoss. In this case the Madras High Court ruled that there cannot be any copyright on the words like Raja and Rani. The film's title was Raja Rani. 

    The only case that can stand scrutiny is if one title is passing off as another. If the makers of Mass Leader are trying to sell their film as if it is the film Leader then it can be a case. But here it is Shivarajkumar starrer Mass Leader that is complete and it cannot be passed off as a film that is not even made. 

    Also See

    Mass Leader Vs AMR Ramesh

    Mass Leader Censored; Releasing On August 11th

    Leader Vs Mass Leader

    The Leader Shivarajkumar Now as Mass Leader

    No Copyright on Film Titles Says Supreme Court - Exclusive

    Court Stay On Mysore Mallige Title - Exclusive

    Why are so Many Film Titles in Controversy? - Exclusive

    I Don't do films for Titles - Sudeep

    Repeating Movie Titles - Analysis

  • No Copyright on Film Titles Says Supreme Court - Exclusive

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    A very important judgement of the Supreme Court of India that will affect almost every film maker in the country has largely gone unnoticed. The judgement came in October and is about the copyright in a film title. The significant supreme court order says that there is no copyright on the title of a literary work including films. The case was about the title of a Hindi film but it will apply to any film made in India in any language and also the title of books and other works.

    The case was about the Akshay Kumar film Desi Boyz. Writer Devkatta had approached the High Court in Mumbai claiming that he had written a story called Desi Boys and got it registered with the Film Writers Association in 2008. He had sent the synopsis to his friend who had sent it to others. Later a film named Desi Boyz (with spelling change) was seen by him and he filed the case. He had not seen the film and did not know if the film had the same story but the title was his and he had copyright on it, he had claimed. The High Court had ruled in his favour and the matter went to the Supreme Court.

    The Supreme Court however said that Devkatta did not copyright on the title of his story. He can have a copyright only if it is a registered trademark whereas he had only registered the story with the screenwriters association and not the title with the trademark body. He could also have got relief if someone was trying to pass off another product as his with a similar sounding name but that was also not the case.

    This judgement opens up many questions. How will a film title registered with the film chambers stand against any any impersonation? Sure no one can make a film with the same name but film makers cannot exploit the film title unless they register it as a trademark. This cannot be done in the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce. So if someone makes a T-shirt brand or toys using the name of a very popular film say; Mr & Mrs Ramachari t-shirts or Kendasampige toys, the film producers cannot claim copyright in it. 

    Watch out for a follow up of this story on how the economics of film title copyright can be exploited tomorrow.

    Also See

    Why are so Many Film Titles in Controversy? - Exclusive

    I Don't do films for Titles - Sudeep

    Repeating Movie Titles - Analysis