Is “JugJugg Jeeyo” based on a stolen script?

When we hear Bollywood, the first picture that comes to our mind is lots of drama, music, and a colorful world. They are known for their dialogues and catchy songs globally. These movies are based on various artistic creations which bring Intellectual property rights and disputes thereof into the picture. Bollywood films have been accused of Intellectual property rights disputes, particularly, copyright infringements.

The upcoming Bollywood family drama movie ‘JugJugg Jeeyo’ is to be screened at the commercial court of Ranchi before the actual release on 24th June 2022. As the movie has landed into legal trouble over a copyright infringement suit filed by a Ranchi Based writer Vishal Singh.

Singh has alleged that he mailed some parts of his story “Punny Rani’ to Dharma Productions and the movie is made based on that without his knowledge. He further claimed that he was not given any credit in the film and demanded a compensation of Rs. 1.5 Crore.

Judge MC Jha will look into the matter and will hear the arguments from both sides and the film will be screened in the court. It will be found out whether there is a copyright violation or not.

This is not the first time that film has faced copyright infringement, a Pakistani singer Abrar Ul Haq had accused filmmaker Karan Johar of stealing his song, soon after the release of ‘Nach Punjaban.’ He also threatened to take legal action. The singer accused Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions of copying his song Nach Punjaban without his permission.

Bollywood films enter into legal fallouts often. We saw Shahid Kapoor starrer movie ‘Jersey’ in legal trouble for a copyright infringement suit. A writer named Rupesh Jaiswal claimed that the concept, story, and idea from his script have been illegally plagiarised in Telugu as well as the Hindi film Jersey. Bombay High Court refused the stay order on the release of the film.

Copyright and movies

Out of all the IP rights, copyright is the anchor of the artists. Among other things, it protects creators or owners of rights by preventing others from using their works without their permission. We see the long credit list at the end of the movie to know who all are involved in making a film. The script is the first step in the creation of a movie, producers generally find a script that is ready to be shot. Scripts are protected as literary works under the Copyright Act, 1957. We understand that the ideas cannot be protected under copyright law but only the expression is protected. In the case of a script, the idea of a script or a story cannot be protected but the expression of that idea is protected by copyright.

For example, multiple people can make a movie on the Scam of 1992 or on the holocaust, anyone can make a movie on these ideas, only the expression in one’s movie is copyrightable. An idea per se is not copyrightable.

The present case of “JugJugg Jeeyo” reminds of the classic and landmark case, R.G Anand vs M/S. Delux Films & Or[1] in which the Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down certain essential principles relating to copyright infringement. 

The Supreme court explained that if a substantial portion of the artwork is copied, leading to the fundamental similarities in terms of scenes, incidents, and treatment and any reasonable man would consider it as a ‘copy’ then it will be a copyright infringement.

In the present case of ‘JugJugg Jeeyo’, the court will see if there is any substantial similarity between the script as alleged by the plaintiff, Vishal Singh, and the film. It is to be noted that copyright infringement cannot be claimed just like that or with a snap of a finger, the plaintiff has to prove that the fundamental parts are copied. The court will use the substantiality test as laid down in the R.G. Anand case.

There has been an ambiguity in the decisions of Indian Courts when it comes to the copyright infringement in the movies. The decisions consist of divergent opinions as to whether a movie is infringing another’s copyright. It is really a subjective question.  Maybe, this case can resolve the ambiguity in judgments and can be another classic judgment, maybe RG Anand’s case of the present times.

[1] 1978 AIR 1613, 1979 SCR (1) 218

About Manya Jain 20 Articles
Manya Jain is a law student pursuing BBA. LLB.(Hons) from UPES School of Law, Dehradun. She likes to read and write on many topics of law while blogging on IP laws is her latest passion. She is a quick-witted person and leaves everyone awestruck with her creative mind. Not only she is a smart mind but also she rightly defines what hard work, dedication and passion can bring to you in this highly competitive world.

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