The author Barbara Taylor Bradford has won an injuction in the Indian Supreme Court to prevent transmission of a 260-episode Bollywood serial ‘inspired’ by her best selling novel A Woman Of Substance. The novel tells of the heroine’s rise from an impoverished servant to become head of a business empire and the Bollywood serial Karishma – the Miracles Of Destiny charts a similar story. Both stories begin with the heroine recounting her adventures in old age.
Taylor Bradford won an injunction at first instance in the Calcutta High Court, although this was overturned on appeal. However on the 12th May the injunction was confirmed in the Supreme Court – although broadcaster Saraha TV broadcast the first episode risking an action for contempt of court. (source: The Times, May 14th 2003).
COMMENT : This case could have interesting ramifications in the debate on the protection of format rights. UK copyright law does not protect ideas, only the expression of ideas. It is sometimes very difficult to draw the line between what is an idea and what is the expression of an idea. In the English case of Rees -v- Melville (1911), it was held that the plot or storyline to a play could be protected but the leading case of Green -v- Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand (1989) held that a format (in this case for a game show) could not be protected. The decision in Green was recently mirrored in the US decision in CBS -v- ABC (see Law Updates January 2003). The distinction between what is an idea (and therefore unprotected in copyright law) and what is a literary or other copyright work (and therefore protected) has troubled lawyers for some time. Judge Learned Hand commented (Nichols -v- Universal Pictures Corp (1930)) ‘nobody has ever been able to fix that boundary and nobody ever can.’ In this case the Indian Supreme Court seem to have felt that what Saraha TV might think of as ‘inspiration’ was perhaps a little more than basic copyright infringement. Mrs Taylor Bradford said ‘where I come from in the North of England they have a much simpler word applied to this … stealing … they are stealing my ideas, my imagination, my hard work and ability as a writer.’