Safeguarding legal and intellectual property rights of writers is underscored at 5th Indian Screenwriters Conference

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By  Stephen Fernandes Mobile: 9820707327  Email: stevfern@gmail.com

Aamir Khan at the 5th Indian Screenwriters Conference in Mumbai

At the 5th Indian Screenwriters Conference , held in Mumbai from August 1 to August 3, veteran screenwriter Anjum Rajabali, joined by Aamir Khan, Amit Masurkar (Newton’s director) and Delhi Belly’s Verma on stage, and scores of writers in the audience, prevailed upon Siddharth Roy Kapur, president of the Film and Television Producers’ Guild of India, to work with the Screenwriters Association on basic guidelines to safeguard legal and intellectual property rights of writers.

Kapur agreed to get the powerful grid to favourably consider the demands, which is being seen as a major stride forward. A small clause in a contract document will mean a big leap in the quality of films Hindi cinema produces, even though it will be a few years before the real impact of this will trickle down.

While web-series have opened up space for more independent content, but in terms of mass impact, they are still not a patch on the 70-mm or prime time general entertainment channels (GEC). 

Aamir Khan said that when he started his career, he chose films simply on the basis of the story. “I thought if the story is good, everything will work out. I was wrong. Just a good script wasn’t enough. For a good story to be heard as it should be, it has to be rendered well. The director, the production house, co-actors, every element is important,” he said.

The second day saw an interesting and diverse range of panels which featured some of the most respected and well-known names of the media and entertainment industry.from scriptwriting to lyrics writing to settling creative disputes, these panels covered a wide spectrum of issues and topics that concern the creative talents in the entertainment industry today.

The day kicked off with ‘Dispute Settlement – Demystified and Explained’ – a panel that shed light on creative disputes, what copyright actually stands, copyright infringement, the rights of a writer, do’s and don’ts of a contract and much more. Moderated by writer and SWA Vice-President Vinod Ranganath (Sea Hawks, Swabhimaan), the panel included SWA’s in-house Legal Officer Heema Shirvaikar, writer-director and SWA Executive Committee (EC) member and ISC co-convenor Sunil Salgia and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR expert) and advocate Sushrut Desai.

The panel tried to explain the functions of the Dispute Settlement Committee (DSC) of the SWA and how it tries to settle creative disputes of various kinds and help the concerned parties reach a settlement.Elaborating on the responsibilities and strengths of the Dispute Settlement Committee (DSC), SWA Vice-President Vinod Ranganath said, “The operative word is settlement. We try and see to it that the disputes are settled amicably. We analyse the case and see if it actually needs our intervention. Our strength is collective bargaining. The large number of committee members helps us to negotiate and reach settlements amicably.”

Talking further about DSC’s roles and responsibilities, SWA EC Member and 5th ISC Co-Convenor Sunil Salgia said, “Writers need to understand whether their case has merit or not. They also need to understand which stories and scripts can be copyrighted.”Breaking down the concept of copyright and what can be copyrighted, advocate Sushrut Desai said, “An idea, concept or a one-liner cannot be copyrighted. But if a concept is developed into a full-fledged script or a screenplay, then it can be copyrighted.”

Taking about what writers need to know about entering into contracts, Sushrut Desai said, “One must be fully aware about the terms and conditions while entering into a contract. Writers must go through all of it carefully because once a contract is made, it needs to honoured.”

The panel ‘Writing Without Fear’ focused on the various kinds of challenges that scriptwriters face. Besides the endless storytelling opportunities, writers also face resistance from the market and the society among other external forces. The panel also discussed whether writers get enough freedom to narrate their stories or are they being forced to curb their creative freedom?

 

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