Kriti versus Bob : Who owns the copyright?
Kriti, a short film by Shirish Kunder, has been taken down by YouTube amidst a copyright controversy initiated by a filmmaker from Nepal, Aneel Neupane. The short film, Kriti, was uploaded on YouTube on June 22, 2016. The short film had bagged over two million views within 2 days. However, on June 24, Kriti found itself in controversy as Neupane updated a facebook status, openly accusing Kriti to be a copy of his short film, Bob. Neupane claimed that he had circulated the film privately among a close group of friends and had finally uploaded it on YouTube on May 12, 2016.
Responding to this claim of plagiarism, YouTube has taken down the short film, Kriti, on June 29. After the copyright controversy and the resultant take down of ‘Kriti’ from YouTube, ‘Bob’ was also taken down from YouTube on June 30. It is also being alleged that Kriti’s poster has been copied from a Japanese film, Ghost Theater, directed by Hideo Nakata, which was a remake of a movie, Don’t Look Up. Both the posters exhibit a similar expression of idea, in the form of a see-through hand placed over the eyes of a girl.
Meanwhile, a legal notice has been sent by Shirish Kunder and he has sought an ‘unconditional apology’ from Aneel Neupane. The producers of Kriti, Muvizz.com, have also initiated legal proceedings against Neupane and intend to file a defamation suit against him. In their official statement, Muvizz.com claim that they possess extensive proof to substantiate that Kriti was shot before the release of Bob on YouTube. The producers of Kriti have also said that they share no connection with the ‘close group of friends’ of the Nepali filmmaker, amongst whom the film was privately circulated
Legal angle to the ‘Plagiarism Controversy’:
- It is well established that there can be no copyright in an idea, theme or plot and violation of copyright in such cases is confined to the manner or expression of the idea by the author of the copyrighted work. In this case, both the short films, Kriti and Bob, share extremely similar story lines wherein the schizophrenic protagonist murders his girlfriend, believing her to be a fragment of his imagination. This may serve as an indicator, though not a full proof one, that Kriti is a copy of Neupane’s original work and not merely of his idea.
- In order to be actionable, the copy must be a substantial one, leading to the conclusion that the accused is guilty of an act of piracy. The surest test to determine this is to check if the viewer of both the films gets a clear impression that the subsequent film appears to be a copy of the original film. Though ‘Kriti’ has far reaching similarities with the film Bob, it may not exactly be a ‘copy’ of the film. This can be substantiated by the fact that though both the films share a similar story line, Kriti includes several portions which are absolutely different from that of Bob. For instance, in Kriti, unlike that in Bob, the major plot twist is that the schizophrenic protagonist’s girlfriend is real and his psychiatrist was the upshot of his imagination. The similar story-line may be the outcome of an exceptional co-incidence as the ‘Vimeo Link’ shared by Aneel Neupane was private and the producers of Kriti claim that they had no access to this video, which was the only source providing scope for the alleged copy.
Aneel Neupane, has to prove that the filmmakers of Kriti had access to his work, in order to establish beyond doubt that there has been plagiarism or infringement of copyright by Shirish Kunder.
Authored by Apoorwa Shankar Iyer