UC Davis law professor Madhavi Sunder has written Bollywood/Hollywood, a fascinating look at plagiarism claims and cross-claims involving movies made in America and India. The abstract:
Free flow of culture is not always fair flow of culture. A recent spate of copyright suits by Hollywood against Bollywood accuses the latter of ruthlessly copying movie themes and scenes from America. But claims of cultural appropriation go far back, and travel in multiple directions. The revered American director, Steven Spielberg, has been accused of copying the idea for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial from legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s 1962 script, The Alien. Disney’s The Lion King bears striking similarities to Osamu Tezuka’s Japanese anime series, Kimba the White Lion. Neither Ray nor Tezuka’s studio sued the American filmmakers and this Article is by no means an attempt to revive any particular legal case. Rather, this Article considers copyright’s role in promoting free cultural exchange, albeit on fair terms in a global marketplace of ideas marked by sharp differentials in power, wealth, and knowledge.