Gutthi: the larger debate of copyright

  • Kavita awaasthi, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
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  • Updated: Nov 25, 2013 10:51 IST


When Sunil Grover suddenly decided to quit the show, Comedy Nights with Kapil, it made news. But what made even bigger news was the channel Viacom 18’s public notice asking him to refrain from using the character Gutthi.

This came in the wake of the news that Sunil was planning to have his own comedy show on a rival channel.

Sunil clearly didn’t see that coming. His reaction expressed shock and hurt. He never announced he was going to use Gutthi, he said. But it seems Viacom wasn’t going to leave that to chance. Right or wrong, harsh or justified, the public notice has sparked off a debate.

The likes of comedian Raju Srivastav have voiced their support for Sunil.  Others have talked about past instances where actors have used their characters across multiple shows and channels.

Bharti Singh portrayed the child persona, Lalli, and used it across multiple shows and channels; Saloni Daini did the same with Gangubai.

Even Kapil Sharma once played the character of police officer Shamsher Singh and used in multiple shows. However, channels seem to have overlooked such conflicts in the past.

Even Sunil played a character called Chutki across shows. But a precedent has now been set, queering the pitch for anyone who might intend to use one avatar across platforms.

For the way the rule works, any show — fiction, reality or a stand-up comedy — is owned by the channel since they buy off the concept. While they can sell it to another broadcaster, dub it or re-run it, the creators retain no rights, neither do they get any
portion of the profits.

Apparently, only creators of certain older shows like Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and BR Chopra’s Mahabharat are paid a certain sum for re-runs, because they entered into a contract.

As for the actors, they are not even a part of the scene.

Some would argue that an actor plays a big part in making his character popular.

And while Kapil and Sunil still claim they have no grudges against each other, the news — and the precedent set here — is much bigger than either Sunil or Gutthi.

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