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Nowadays TV shows are an important part of our life. Reality TV is one of the genres of television programming. A reality TV show is a program that aims to show how common people behaved in their life or ordinary situations. Program makers create these shows with the intent to show the everyday life of ordinary people. Now the question is whether these program makers have any kind of assurance regarding piracy of their program’s script? As we know there are many TV shows now and there is a different script for these shows, it’s not possible and right to protect any TV reality shows with a generic script. For getting the protection it is essential to show the uniqueness of these programs. There is a difference between inspiration and infringement. If anyone uniquely copies a script then it would be an inspiration but if any person copies a script in its original way, then it would be an absolute infringement of that right.


Law provides the right of the copyright to the creators of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings. There are many rights given under this including, inter alia, rights of reproduction, communication to the people, adaptation, and translation of the work. There is a possibility of slight variations in the composition of the rights and it depends on the work. The Copyright act 1957 is the governing law for the protection of copyright in India, there were some amendments in this act in 2012.

In 1999 Indian Government has also passed International Copyright Order, according to which if any work first published in any of the countries which is a part of any of the conventions given above is granted the same treatment as that work was first published in India. Copyright is very important for the progress, Copyright laws protect the creators and their representatives, for the works and also prevents these works from being copied or reproduced without the consent of the creators, Not only does it encourages creativity and new ideas but also enables producers to get the benefit of their product. Why are copyright laws important? They are important because it takes a lot of creativity, energy, time, and resources to come up with creative, new concepts or products, and it is the right of creators to get benefit financially from their efforts, As an example, a software company has to spend lots of time and the huge amount of money for producing a commercially viable product.

It stands to lose money if someone pirates the method of the production of that product and cheaply reproduces the product and sells it for the lesser price’. Pirated software not only brings losses to that software company but also discourages others who may come up with new innovative products. For the protection of this kind of loss, there is a need for a law, copyright laws fulfill this need that’s why copyright laws are important for progress.


The recent and one of the most important cases related to copyright infringement of reality TV shows is Zee Enterprises Ltd. v. Sony Pictures Network,[1] this case was in front of Bombay high court. In this the plaintiff, Zee entertainment claims that its famous reality show ‘India’s Best Dramebaaz’, has been copied by the defendant without the consent of creators. According to Zee sony’s upcoming tv show ‘Sabse Bada Kalakar’ is not an original work but it’s a copy of their famous TV show ‘India’s Best Dramebaaz’. The court has told in its judgment that for the infringement of the copyright, there must be goodwill and reputation, misrepresentation, and damage. In the present case, although there is no doubt that there is goodwill and reputation of Zee, the other two factors of this trinity test are not sufficiently addressed from the evidence and material presented. In loaded industries such as entertainment, there is the possibility of finding common elements, and a person claiming copyright for some aspects of a TV show must not readily claim copyright for the matters which are incontestably in public.

Another famous case related to copyright infringement is Anil Gupta v. Kunal Gupta & Ors.[2], this case was before the Delhi high court. In this case, the plaintiff who was a media consultant conceived an idea of producing a reality TV show containing the process of match-making to the point of actual life partner selection by the name “Swaymvar” in the year 1996. According to Mr. Sibal the learned counsel of the plaintiff, it is a unique concept for a TV show and the registration for this concept was also accepted in 1997 a certificate is also issued in 1997. The defendant has discussed and also showed interest in this concept before, later launched a show by the name “Shubh Vivah”,which would also provide a platform for matchmaking. Mr. Sibal contended that there is copyright infringement by the defendant of this unique idea. The court held the defendant was aware of this unique concept thus granted an injunction against the defendant and restrained the defendant from transmitting the television show “Shubh Vivah” or any other show similar to this concept.

Another famous case for reality show and infringement is Urmi Juvekar Chinag v. Global Broadcast News Limited[3], this case was also before the Bombay high court. This was also similar to the above-mentioned case, in this, the plaintiff conceived an idea of the television show, titled “Work In Progress”. The plaintiff has prepared a concept note related to the idea of the show and shared it with the plaintiff. There was the various meeting between the defendant and the plaintiff but the matter was not concluded. Later a reality TV program titled “Shamar Showdown” was launched by the defendant, the concept of this show was similar to that of the plaintiff. The court restrained the transmission of the show and also restrained the plaintiff from exploiting the work of the plaintiff without his consent.


Within the last couple of years, tv shows have witnessed lots of progress, no doubt in this hit shows generate high revenues, but they also are easily copied. One of the best ways of knowing whether a certain product is a copyright or not is to see the reader or viewer after reading or seeing both products finds that one is a copy of another, but this is not clear or sufficient by which copyright can be decided, through different judgment court has discussed and clarified these proposition. There is a concept of idea-expression dichotomy which means the manifestation of idea i.e. an expression is protected rather than the idea itself, here an idea means the formulation of any thought and expression denotes the implementation of the said idea, from the case of Zee Enterprises Limited v. Sony Pictures Networks India Private Limited and Ors we can conclude that the copyright does not extend to the idea of selecting child actors through reality shows. There can not be a monopoly to seek out children with acting talent because anyone can express the idea therefore the plaintiff failed in that case.

Although there is the protection of expression in copyright laws the idea and expression are intrinsically connected, according to this there is no protection under copyright if an idea can be expressed only in one or very restricted manner. In the case of Zee Enterprises court has held there is an idea of selecting child actors and there are very limited ways to express this idea. If both parties of this case are with the same idea of seeking children then there would be judges and selection of child actors from different places. This concept is called merger doctrine according to which if there is an idea that can be expressed in a restricted manner then there would be no copyright for the said.


As we can see from the above discussion copyright plays an important role in the progress. From the cases discussed above, we can conclude that copyright protects the new concept and creative ideas from exploitation. From the cases above we can also conclude copyright cannot protect an idea or concept but only the form in which this idea or concept is expressed. There may be some common elements in two or more TV shows coz of the teeming entertainment industry, just only for some common aspects anyone cannot claim copyright.

Author’s Name: Aman Upadhyay (National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi)

[1]AIR 2017 Bom. 221.

[2]AIR2002 Delhi379.

[3]2008(2) Bom.CR 400.

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