Screenwriters Association to back writers with legal aid in fight against plagiarism

Soon, aggrieved writers will get the help of Screenwriters Association in their battle against plagiarism. The Screenwriters Association has planned to provide legal aid to writers in their fight against plagiarism.

“We decided to set up a legal aid fund which will work on a case-to-case basis. If there is a need, we will allot more than 50% [funds],” screenwriter and Screenwriters Association executive committe member Anjum Rajabali said in a statement.

Headed by its president Robin Bhatt, the Screenwriters Association is the writers’ association body consisting of 25,000-odd members.  

The Screenwriters Association plans to formal a panel of copyright lawyers who will offer their services at concessional rates. “We have an expert on copyright law who is our first point of contact and examines complaints to determine if they warrant filing a case,” revealed Rajabali. The veteran screenwriter pointed out that the case is then forwarded to the dispute settlement committee.

“The industry should be conscious that the material that they are getting isn’t copied,” added Rajabali.

Veteran screenwriter Kamlesh Pandey, who has written films like Chaal Baaz (1989) and Rang De Basanti (2006), welcomed the move.

Speaking to us, Pandey said, “This has been on our agenda or long. We had discussed on these lines when I was the general secretary of Screenwriters Association years ago. Back then, then Screenwriters Association was affiliated to FWICE (Federation of Western India Cine Employees), but our grievances were not addressed. Complaints were lying with us for 16 years, but we couldn’t do anything about it.”  

Pandey opined that the big problem then was FWICE’s attitude towards writers and no possibility of strong action against the erring producers. “FWICE largely addresses grievances of junior artistes, people who earn daily wages. FWICE could issue a non-cooperation notice against a producer and so the shooting was stalled. We writers couldn’t do that for our work is finished way before the film goes on floors. So, after the [Screenwriters Association] election in October last year, we have decided to part ways from FWICE as they really cannot look after our interests,” said Pandey.

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Pandey revealed that writers are exploited with widespread plagiarism. He recalled the famous case of Jannat 2 (2012) where producer Mahesh Bhatt had to pay Rs30 lakh as compensation to one young writer Kapil Chopra.

“This writer Kapil Chopra had come to us then. He had all the proofs and that is the reason why we asked him go to court. Bhatt had appealed against the Bombay high court order to pay Rs10 lakh to Chopra. He went to the Supreme Court, who then ordered him to pay Rs30 lakh. So, you see, if  a writer has been cheated, we will now be prepared to go even to the Supreme Court.”

Pandey hoped that one day Screenwriters Association will become as strong a body as the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA). “If you recall, a few eyars ago, Writers’ Guild of America had fought against Hollywood. For six months, the film and TV industry came to a halt. Eventually, their court ruled in favour of WGA. They are an extremely powerful body. They have their own office, strong finances, backed by a battery of lawyers. Someday I hope, Screenwriters Association can be as strong a body as them. This move is just the beginning.”

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