LEGAL ANALYSIS OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS IN THE CHARACTER ‘GUTHI’
“A certain artist and a stand-up comedian associated with the programme Comedy Nights With Kapil aired on Colors television channel is planning to launch or be associated with other shows. Take notice that Viacom18 has sole, exclusive, absolute and unlimited ownership rights of all the intellectual property rights of the artist associated with the programme including the rights in the format of the programme...and/or characteristic features or mannerisms of ‘Guthi’.”
The imbroglio surrounding the much-publicised exit of ‘Guthi’ from the popular comedy show attracted hordes of attention. Viacom 18 in the notice above state that they own all rights to the intellectual property of the artist and the format of the programme. It is interesting to note here that TV formats CANNOT be a subject matter of Copyright protection. While this has been proved by several case-laws worldwide, Green v Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand, is a landmark case where the British presenter Hughie Green of “Opportunity Knocks” was not allowed to claim Copyright over the format of the show as it lacked a sufficient degree of unity or certainty to constitute a dramatic work. While the Copyright Act, 1957 is silent on the same, the format of a show would constitute merely a concept or a mere idea which in no way would be liable for Copyright Protection. This takes away from Viacom, the claim to ownership of the format of the programme.
Further analysing their claim to ownership of the intellectual property of the ‘artist’, it is pertinent to note that the Copyright Act does not provide for the definition of the word ‘artist’. Perhaps, ‘performer’ would be a more apt term looking into the merits of the case and the definition under Section 2 (qq) of the Act. While Mr. Sunil Grover (portraying the role of Guthi) can in no way object to the incorporation of his performance under Section 38 A(2) of the Copyright Act, Section 38 A(1) does provide him with exclusive performer rights, without prejudice to the rights of the owner which allows him the reproduction or communication of the performance to the public. The character is claimed to have been created by Mr. Grover prior to being part of the show ‘Comedy Nights with...