Intellectual Property Rights in the Film Industry


Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) play a crucial role in protecting the creative works of individuals and entities within the film industry. This sector thrives on innovation, storytelling, and artistic expression, making the safeguarding of intellectual property essential for sustaining the industry’s growth. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are the cornerstone of protection for the dynamic and creative landscape of the film industry. With its foundation rooted in innovation, storytelling, and artistic expression, the film sector relies on IPR to ensure the preservation and growth of its valuable intellectual assets.

Copyright Protection in Film:

One of the primary forms of IPR in the film industry is copyright protection. Filmmakers obtain copyright for their works to prevent unauthorized reproduction, distribution, and public display. This protection extends to various elements, including the screenplay, music, cinematography, and overall storyline.[1]

Comprehensive Coverage: Copyright extends to various elements of a film, encompassing the screenplay, dialogue, music, characters, cinematography, and other creative components.

Originality Requirement: To qualify for copyright protection, the elements must exhibit a sufficient level of originality, demonstrating the creator’s creative input.

Registration and Enforcement of Copyright:

Registration Process: Filmmakers can register their works with copyright offices to establish a public record of ownership. This process facilitates legal action in case of infringement.

Enforcement Mechanisms: Legal avenues, including cease and desist orders and damages, provide means for copyright owners to enforce their rights. Litigation may be pursued to protect against unauthorized use.

Duration and Limitations:

 Duration of Copyright: The duration of copyright protection for films is typically the life of the creator plus a set number of years (e.g., 70 years). After this period, the work enters the public domain.

 Limitations on Copyright: Certain limitations, such as fair use, allow for the use of copyrighted material under specific circumstances, such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, and research. Understanding these limitations is crucial for navigating the legal landscape.

In essence, copyright protection in film is broad, covering a myriad of creative elements, and its effectiveness is contingent on proper registration and vigilant enforcement. The duration of copyright ensures creators are granted exclusive rights for a reasonable period, while limitations strike a balance between protection and the public’s interest in accessing and using creative works.

Script and Screenplay Protection:

Automatic Protection: Scripts and screenplays are automatically protected by copyright as soon as they are fixed in a tangible medium. This protection includes the expression of ideas, characters, and dialogue.

Creative Ownership: The copyright for scripts grants exclusive rights to the scriptwriter, allowing them to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their work.

Legal Challenges in Script Protection:

Proving Originality: One challenge lies in establishing the originality of a script, especially in cases where similarities exist with other works. This may involve demonstrating a unique creative expression beyond common tropes.

Unauthorized Use: Scriptwriters may face challenges when others use their ideas without permission. Differentiating between inspired works and unauthorized copying can be legally intricate.[2]

 Case Studies: Script Copyright Disputes:

 Sherlock Holmes Adaptations:  Notable disputes involve adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Copyright issues arose over whether certain elements were still protected or in the public domain.

Harlan Ellison vs. James Cameron:  Ellison filed a lawsuit against James Cameron, claiming that the movie “The Terminator” infringed on his works. The case highlighted the importance of establishing a causal connection between the original work and the alleged infringement. In summary, script and screenplay protection involves the automatic grant of copyright, but legal challenges often revolve around proving originality and addressing unauthorized use. Examining case studies provides insights into the complexities and nuances of script copyright disputes within the film industry.[3]

Music and Soundtrack Rights:

 Licensing Process:  Securing music for films involves obtaining licenses from composers, artists, and record labels. This process ensures the legal use of copyrighted music in sync with the visual elements of the film.

Copyright Ownership: Both the composition (musical notes and lyrics) and the sound recording have separate copyrights. Filmmakers often need to acquire licenses for both aspects.

Negotiations with Composers and Labels:

Composer Agreements: Negotiations with composers entail defining the terms of collaboration, compensation, and the scope of rights granted to the filmmaker. Clear agreements are crucial to avoiding disputes later on.

Label Agreements: When using existing sound recordings, negotiations with record labels involve licensing the rights to use the specific recording in the film. Terms may include duration, territory, and financial arrangements.

 Legal Issues in Music Rights:

Infringement Claims: Filmmakers may face legal challenges if their use of music is deemed to infringe on existing copyrights. Thorough clearance and licensing processes are vital to mitigate the risk of infringement claims.

Royalty Payments: Understanding royalty obligations is crucial. Some agreements involve ongoing royalty payments based on the film’s performance, and compliance with these terms is essential to avoid legal repercussions. In conclusion, navigating the realm of music and soundtrack rights in the film industry requires a meticulous licensing process, clear negotiations with composers and labels, and a keen awareness of potential legal pitfalls. Addressing these aspects ensures that the musical elements enhance the cinematic experience without running afoul of copyright laws.[4]

 Digital Rights Management (DRM):

It is a technology used in the film industry to control access to digital content. It involves the implementation of various measures to protect intellectual property, prevent unauthorized distribution, and safeguard the economic interests of filmmakers. DRM aims to prevent piracy and unauthorized sharing of digital content, ensuring that filmmakers and content creators retain control over how their work is accessed and distributed. This technology is crucial for maintaining the economic viability of the film industry. Explore aspects of DRM, including encryption, access controls, and digital watermarks. These mechanisms are designed to restrict access to content, limit copying, and trace unauthorized distribution. Discuss the challenges and criticisms associated with DRM, such as potential limitations on user rights, inconvenience for legitimate consumers, and the cat-and-mouse game between content providers and those attempting to circumvent DRM protection.

Distribution Agreements:

Film distribution agreements play a pivotal role in the entertainment industry, encompassing various legal aspects that shape how films are disseminated to audiences. Territorial rights are a cornerstone, delineating the geographic regions where the distributor has the exclusive right to exhibit the film. This ensures effective market segmentation and maximizes revenue potential in different regions. The surge in online streaming platforms introduces complexities, necessitating clauses that define digital distribution rights. Distribution agreements often specify whether the film will be available on specific streaming services and address revenue-sharing models. Exclusivity clauses are critical, defining the duration and scope of exclusive distribution rights granted to the distributor. This could involve exclusivity in a particular market, platform, or timeframe. These agreements navigate a delicate balance, ensuring filmmakers achieve widespread exposure while distributors secure a profitable and protected investment in the dynamic landscape of film distribution.


In conclusion, the landscape of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the film industry is a multifaceted terrain where legal frameworks serve as the cornerstone for creativity, protection, and economic sustainability. Copyright laws stand as stalwarts, safeguarding scripts, screenplays, and audiovisual works, while the Fair Use Doctrine injects flexibility into the industry. Trademark protection extends to film titles, and licensing agreements become linchpins, enabling filmmakers to harness external elements. Characters find protection under copyright and trademark, emphasizing the industry’s commitment to preserving creative assets. Patents delve into technological innovations, and Digital Rights Management (DRM) emerges as a crucial shield against piracy, securing economic interests. Distribution agreements, on the other hand, intricately weave through territorial rights, online streaming, and exclusivity clauses, ensuring a delicate equilibrium between market segmentation and global reach. These legal constructs not only reflect the industry’s evolution but also underscore its adaptability in the face of digital disruptions. As the film industry continues to evolve, the interplay of intellectual property rights and legal frameworks will remain instrumental, shaping the trajectory of creativity, protecting investments, and fostering a thriving cinematic ecosystem.

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Written By: Gauri Joshi

[1] https://www.legalserviceindia.com/copyright/Cinematograph-Films.htm

[2] https://www.legalline.ca/legal-answers/protecting-songs-scripts-and-film-or-tv-ideas/   

[3] https://www.giantfreakinrobot.com/ent/the-terminator-ripped-off-sci-fi-writers.html

[4] https://www.yourlegalcareercoach.com/music-law-framework-in-india-an-overview/


“Legal Battle Unfolds: Roshanara Club Seeks Possession, Court Directs DDA to Devise Club Management Scheme”


Citation: W.P.(C) 14739/2023


Decided on: 9-11-23


In this case, the petitioner has approached the court seeking various reliefs. The petition challenges the constitutional validity of Section 3 of The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971. It also disputes the sealing and locking of Respondent No. 4 Club’s premises on September 29, 2023, based on an order from September 27, 2023, alleging it to be unconstitutional and violative of fundamental and statutory rights. Additionally, the petitioner seeks to declare the sealing as void ab initio, citing contravention of rule 7 of the mentioned Act. The petition further calls for the quashing of a Draft Policy to run the club, asserting that it goes against the statement made by the Additional Solicitor General in a previous order. The petitioner requests the court to grant any other necessary relief deemed fit in the circumstances of the case.


The case involves Roshanara Club Limited (RCL), established in 1922, operating on land allotted under lease deeds by the Secretary of State for India and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The extended lease lapsed on December 31, 2017. RCL sought renewal, but after a series of communications, an eviction notice was issued on April 12, 2023. RCL filed a writ petition challenging the eviction notice with specific reliefs. The learned Single Judge, while noting the challenge to the eviction notice was not maintainable, issued an interim direction restraining coercive action against RCL solely based on the expired lease. The order allowed RCL to pursue statutory remedies against the eviction notice. The DDA appealed, and an order on June 2, 2023, directed the Principal District Judge to decide the appeal without being influenced by the High Court’s order. The case is scheduled for further proceedings on September 13, 2023.

Judgement analysis:

In the given case, the Division Bench of the Court did not grant relief to Roshanara Club. Instead, it directed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to devise a scheme for running the club and did not hand over possession to the ex-management of the club. Subsequently, a Special Leave to Appeal (SLP) was filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, seeking restoration of possession to Roshanara Club, but the relief was not granted.

Following these events, a new petition was filed by certain club members. However, the court, considering that it is already dealing with the issue of running the club and that a related writ petition is pending, decided not to grant interim relief in the present petition. The court noted that the DDA is in the process of finalizing a scheme for the smooth running of the club, and accordingly, rejected the prayer for interim relief. The case is scheduled for further proceedings along with LPA No. 497/2023 on December 7, 2023.

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“IBC Moratorium: Court Affirms Legality of Tax Proceedings During Resolution, Dismisses Petitioner’s Challenge”


Citation: WP(C) NO. 7997 OF 2023


Decided on: 20-10-23


In this writ petition, the petitioner, a dealer of BMW cars in Kerala, challenges the orders identified as Exhibits P-7, P-8, P-9, and P-10. The legal dispute arises from an application filed by the Federal Bank of India under Section 7(4) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) for initiating the corporate insolvency resolution process against the petitioner. The National Company Law Tribunal, Cochin, admitted the application on March 8, 2021, as per Exhibit P-1. Following the admission, an Interim Resolution Professional (IRP) was appointed to manage the affairs of the petitioner. However, the resolution plans submitted by the applicants were rejected by the Committee of Creditors. Since no resolution plan was accepted, the Committee of Creditors decided to seek a directive from the National Company Law Tribunal, Cochin, for the liquidation of the petitioner’s company. The present writ petition challenges the orders related to these proceedings.


In this case, an order of liquidation was issued on September 30, 2022, pursuant to Section 33 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) by the National Company Law Tribunal, Cochin. The Interim Resolution Professional (IRP) was appointed as the Liquidator, initiating a moratorium under Section 33(5) of the IBC. The petitioner’s Liquidator received claims from the first respondent, consisting of five items, in response to a public notice.

The petitioner contends that orders (Exhibits P-7 to P-10) forming the basis of the five claims were issued after the commencement of the moratorium on March 8, 2021, and argues that the petitioner was not given an opportunity to present and contest the case.

The respondent’s counsel argues that notice was indeed issued to the petitioner, a reply was filed, and the authorized representative was heard. The respondent disputes the claim that the petitioner was not heard during the issuance of orders in Exhibits P-7 to P-10. Additionally, the respondent contends that ongoing assessment proceedings and adjudication under Section 14 of the IBC are not barred. The assessment orders (Exhibits P-7 to P-10) were allegedly completed in compliance with statutory requirements, and the Official Liquidator’s absence during the finalization of the assessment should not invalidate these orders. The court considers these arguments in its evaluation of the case.

Judgement analysis:

The judgment in this case clarifies that Section 14 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) does not prohibit the finalization of assessment and adjudication proceedings related to taxes during the resolution process. The court refers to both Section 14 of the IBC and various judgments from High Courts and the Supreme Court to support this interpretation.

The court specifically notes that while there is a moratorium on the recovery of tax dues after the admission of the reference, there is no legal barrier to completing assessment and adjudication proceedings. Upon reviewing the impugned orders (Exhibits P-7 to P-10), the court finds that the petitioner was issued a notice, responded to it, and was heard during the finalization of these orders. Therefore, the court dismisses the petitioner’s argument that the absence of the Official Liquidator during the hearing makes the orders invalid.

The judgment concludes by dismissing the writ petition and instructs the Official Liquidator to consider the five claims of the petitioner in accordance with the law.

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“Estoppel Denied: Court Upholds Ineligibility Criteria, Dismisses Writ Petition for District Judge Post”

Title: Trupti Mayee Patra vs. Registrar, Examination, Orissa High Court

Citation: W.P.(C) No. 35020 Of 2023


Decided on: 3-11-23


This case involves a writ petition presented through a hybrid arrangement (virtual/physical) mode. The petitioner seeks the extraordinary jurisdiction of the court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India. The primary relief sought is a direction to the Opposite Party to include the petitioner in the list of eligible candidates for participating in the recruitment examination for the position of District Judge from the Bar, 2023. The specific demand is for the issuance of a fresh list to address the petitioner’s inclusion in the said examination


The petitioner, initially enrolled as an advocate with the Orissa State Bar Council, practiced from 2004 to 2014. Subsequently, she joined as a Junior Clerk in the office of District & Sessions Judge, Malkangiri, surrendered her license in 2016, and later became an Assistant Public Prosecutor from March 13, 2018. The petitioner applied for the post of District Judge from the Bar in 2020, 2021, and 2022 but was unsuccessful.

In 2023, the High Court of Orissa issued an advertisement for the same post. The petitioner applied, but her eligibility was questioned, and she was found ineligible due to the requirement of seven years of continuous Bar practice. The respondent argues that the petitioner does not meet this criterion. The petitioner contends that having been allowed to sit for the examination in previous years, she should not be disqualified this time. The court notes the petitioner’s active practice from 2004 to 2014 but finds that she lacks seven years of continuous practice preceding her application.

The case revolves around the eligibility criteria outlined in Article 233 of Chapter-VI (subordinate Courts) of the Constitution of India, specifically Clause 2, governing the appointment of District Judges. The court has to determine whether the petitioner fulfils the necessary criteria for eligibility in the recruitment examination for the post of District Judge from the Bar.

Court analysis & judgement:

In this judgment, the court addresses the petitioner’s plea for inclusion in the eligibility list for the recruitment examination to the post of District Judge from the Bar. The petitioner relies on the principle of estoppel, arguing that having been allowed to appear in the examination in previous years, she should not be disqualified this time. The court dismisses this argument, emphasizing that the inadvertent allowance of a person to appear in an examination earlier, who was not eligible, does not confer a right to appear when the necessary eligibility criteria are not met. The court distinguishes the relied-upon decisions in Basanta Kumar Mohanty and N. Murugesan, stating that they are not applicable to the present case due to different contexts and statutory bars.

The judgment refers to the eligibility criteria stated in the advertisement by the High Court of Orissa, which requires candidates to have at least seven years of practice as an advocate as of April 1, 2023. The court concludes that the petitioner does not meet this criterion, rendering her ineligible for the examination.

The court cites the decisions of the Apex Court in Deepak Aggarwal and Dheeraj Mor, applying them to the present case. It asserts that the petitioner’s lack of continuous practice for seven years makes her ineligible. Consequently, the court upholds the decision of the Opposite Party (OP) to consider the petitioner ineligible for the post of District Judge, stating that it does not require interference. As a result, the writ petition is dismissed as devoid of merit, with no order as to costs.

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Legal Precision Prevails: Court’s Rigorous Analysis Leads to Quashing of Charges in Favor of Petitioners

Title: Ashutosh Tiwari, Kamlesh Shukla vs The State of M.P & Vikas Khare

Citation: MISC. CRIMINAL CASE No. 6138 of 2010


Decided on: 6-11-2023


The petitioners have filed a petition under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C) seeking the quashing of proceedings in complaint case No. 218/2010. This case is currently pending before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Shahdol. The counsel for the petitioners highlights that a stay over the proceedings was initially granted by the court on July 7, 2010, until the next date of hearing. Subsequently, this stay was continued on March 15, 2013, and May 2, 2014. However, after the latter date, the case was not listed before the court. The council requests a hearing for the case, emphasising that it has been pending before the court since 2010.


The facts of the case are such that, The petitioners are seeking to quash proceedings in complaint case No.218/2010, where they are accused of offences under Section 294, 506(II) of IPC, and 3(1)(x) of SC & ST (POA) Act. The petitioner’s counsel argues that no offence is made out, emphasising that the alleged abusive remarks occurred in a school staff room, which is not a public place. They contend that the remarks don’t fall under Section 3(1)(x) of the Act as it requires a place within public view.

Furthermore, the defence asserts that Section 294 of IPC, which deals with obscene acts or utterances, applies only to public places. The government advocate argues that the staff room can be considered a public place as other teachers were present during the alleged incident. Respondent No.2, the complainant, is not actively pursuing the case, leading to the court proceeding ex parte.

The relevant sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (Section 3(1)(x)), and the Indian Penal Code (Sections 294 and 503) are invoked in this case. The crux of the matter lies in whether the staff room is deemed a public place and if the alleged acts and utterances fulfil the legal criteria for the stated offences.

Court analysis and order:

The judgment in this case reflects the court’s consideration of the arguments presented by both the petitioners and the government advocate. Here is an analysis of the judgment: The court carefully examines the definitions provided in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (Section 3(1)(x)), and the Indian Penal Code (Section 294 and 503). It emphasizes that for an offence under Section 3(1)(x) of the SC & ST (POA) Act, the act must occur in public view. The court addresses the crucial point of whether the staff room qualifies as a public place, asserting that the staff room is not within public view. Emphasis is placed on the restricted access to the staff room, stating that the common public or citizens cannot enter without school permission. The court extends its analysis to Section 294 of the IPC, highlighting that the alleged abuses did not take place in a public location, reiterating that the staff room does not qualify as a public place.

The judgment scrutinizes the complainant’s statement and notes the absence of any mention of alarm caused by the alleged threats. It concludes that an offence under Section 506 of IPC is not established. Based on the considerations above, the court allows the petition filed by the petitioners under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. The court quashes the proceedings in complaint Case No.218/2010 against the petitioners, involving charges under Section 294, 506(II) of IPC & 3(1)(x) of SC & ST (POA) Act.

The petition filed by the petitioners is allowed and disposed of. The judgment concludes by mentioning the issuance of a certified copy as per the rules. In summary, the court’s decision rests on the interpretation of relevant legal provisions and a meticulous examination of the circumstances surrounding the alleged offences. The finding is in favour of the petitioners, leading to the quashing of the proceedings.

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