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Ideas, Concepts, Scripts & Stories – Protecting Ideas in the Entertainment Industry Part IV
This post was published on August 08, 2014.
In this article we will discuss another case about how to protect ideas in the Entertainment Industry. Just to recap the previous posts in this series can be found here, here and here.
Urmi Juvekar Chiang, Indian Inhabitant, Mumbai vs. (1) Global Broadcast News Limited, Uttar Pradesh; (2) Network 18 Fincap Private Limited, Uttar Pradesh
The Plaintiff, in this case, was a scriptwriter and she had written a concept for reality television for solving civic problems. She asserted that the programme would follow the chosen protagonists through the quagmire of bureaucracy and conflicting interests and destructive attitudes as they tried to solve a civic problem of their choice.
The Plaintiff sent her concept to a certain Mrs. Rasika Tyagi (one of the Defendants). She and a person who agreed to act as her producer, Mr. Arjun Gauirsaria, had a detailed discussion with the Defendants about the concept that the Plaintiff had written. The Defendants, after some discussion did not follow up on the negotiations. Soon enough, the Plaintiff was in for a shock to see that a television programme with a concept very similar to theirs, was being telecast by the Defendants’ channel.
The Plaintiff asserted that this had been done with dishonest and fraudulent intentions and that they had not granted any license to the Defendants to make any television programme using her concept note. The Plaintiff claimed interim relief on two grounds:
1. Breach of Confidentiality by the Defendants
2. Infringement of copyright of the Plaintiff
The Court considered the issues regarding Breach of Confidence on the following grounds as culled out in the decision of the Division Bench of our High Court in the case of Zee Telefilms Ltd. and Anr. v. Sundial Communication Pvt. Ltd. and Ors.:
The principles on which the action of Breach of Confidence can succeed, have been culled out as:
(i) he (the Plaintiff) had to clearly identify the information that he was relying on;
(ii) he (the Plaintiff) had to show that it was handed over in the circumstances of confidence;
(iii) he (the Plaintiff) had to show that it was information of the type that could be treated as confidential; and
(iv) he (the Plaintiff) had to show that it was used without license or there was threat to use it as such.
The first question that the Court addressed while deciding, was whether the Plaintiff identified clearly the information he was relying on? To this question, the Court held that the Plaintiff had made it clear more than once that she was alleging Breach of Confidence in relation to “her concept” and the “concept note” regarding the programme titled “Work in Progress”, which was originally conceived and articulated by her in the initial concept note and also the further developed concept notes and the production plan. It further stated that, the issue of civic woes may already be in the public domain, but the concept developed by the Plaintiff for a reality show on the subject of the programme “Work in Progress” was a novel one. Further, it was observed that going by the records i.e., the communication and averments exchanged in this regard between the parties, it can be concluded that the Plaintiff passed on the information regarding “her concept” and the format of the programme in her “concept notes” to the Defendants, in confidence.
Further, the Court took into consideration the interaction between the Plaintiff and the Defendants which clearly pointed out that in no case were the Defendants to use the said information by themselves or allow the same to be used without the license of the Plaintiff. Considering these facts, the Court concluded in favour of the Plaintiff.
The next question the Court considered was whether the Plaintiff had shown that the subject information was of such type that could be treated as given in confidence. While deciding this issue, the Court held that the problems of civic woes was a public issue, and hence confidence could not be invoked. But, Breach of Confidence can be invoked only if it is a case of use of a script, characterisation, sequences and dialogues. In the present case it was held that the Plaintiff was not claiming confidence in relation to the issue of civic woes as such, but the claim in confidence was in relation to “her concept of the programme” and the manner of spreading awareness of the civic problems. The Plaintiff was claiming confidence also in relation to her “concept notes and production plan” pertaining to the programme “Work in Progress”.
For the purpose of action in Breach of Confidence, it is a well established position that a party can claim confidence even in relation to a “concept or idea”, unlike in a claim or action in the infringement of copyright, were the Plaintiff to satisfy the specified parameters to succeed in such action. Reliance was placed on Para 16 of the Division Bench, which went on to advert to the exposition in the case of Fraser vs. Thames Television Ltd. reported in 1983(2) All.E.R. 101.
In the mentioned case, Breach of Confidence was claimed in relation to an idea of a television series, which idea was “disclosed orally” and in confidence to the Defendants. The Defendants used that idea to create a television series with other actresses. The Court held that it would prevent person who had received the idea expressed in oral or written form, from disclosing it for an unlimited period or until that idea becomes general public knowledge. While relying on this, for the present case, it was held that the grievance of the Plaintiff is not confined to exploitation of her concept or idea of staging a television reality show alone, but also in relation to the format, the treatment, the problems and the production plan articulated by the Plaintiff in the original concept note and further developed concept notes and production plan for the programme “Work in Progress”. All these matters were undoubtedly of the type which ought to be treated as confidential.
Further, in relation to the arguments of the Defendants that the Plaintiff could not succeed unless they were to assert and prove that the concept note was handed over by the Plaintiff to the Defendant No.1, with any express or implied term for confidence of the Agreement, the Court held that in its opinion, from the materials on record, the Plaintiff had succeeded in making good all the four criteria for considering grant of ad-interim relief in relation to the action of Breach of Confidentiality. Accordingly, injunction was granted to the Plaintiff.
Plaintiff’s suit against the Defendants claiming interim relief on grounds of Breach of Confidence and infringement of copyright of Plaintiff, the Court held that, facts shows that treatment, format, structure, expression and presentation of the Defendants programme was similar to the literary work of the Plaintiff. Further, the Plaintiff had registered its work and concept with the Film Writers’ Association and had copyright protection of the same. The Defendants, by their acts had indulged in infringement of copyright of the Plaintiff in relation to her original literary work of the programme. Breach of Confidence occurred in principles of literary work in relation to “concept” and the “concept note” regarding Plaintiff’s programme, originally conceived and articulated by the Plaintiff.
Held – action of Breach of Confidence succeeds only if Plaintiff could identify clearly what the information he/she was relying on, was and it has to be shown that it was handed over in the circumstances of confidence and could be treated as confidential and the information was used without license or there was a threat to use it. Hence in the present case, action of Breach of Confidence succeeded as Plaintiff passed on information regarding “her concept” and the format of the programme in “concept notes” to the Defendants in confidence and the same was used without the license of the Plaintiff. Hence, Interim relief was granted.