It is ridiculous that Times Now Group thinks it is smart in issuing a legal notice to Mr Arnab Goswami that he should refrain from using the phrase “Nation Wants To Know” on which Times Now claims an “Intellectual Property Right”. (Refer here).

At this point of time, it is not clear that the restraining notice is only on Mr Arnab Goswami or on the whole world and if so it is for the entire phrase along with a certain intonation and voice modulation and whether it applies to written text, voice, TV etc.

Just because Mr Arnab used to use the phrase often while on the news program and made it popular, it is not automatically possible to consider that an exclusive “Intellectual Property Right” is created for the owner of the channel. The first thing to settle is whether the claim is for Trademark or Copyright  or some other IPR.  Since the program was named “News Hour” and not “Nation Wants To Know”, there cannot be a trademark right associated with the phrase. The most obvious choice of the type of IPR is therefore the Copyright.

Mr Arnab is not the only person who used the term “Nation Wants to Know” but since he was the anchor of the channel, he did speak out the phrase several times a day and made it popular. Was the creation of the value an accident? or was it a “Literary Work” created with the use of “Intellect” of Mr Arnab?… are questions to ask before applying the Copyright Act.

It is also necessary to ponder whether  the employment contract between Times Now and Arnab mention or even envisage the possibility of copyright on different phrases used by the news readers and anchors? If so, can Ravi Shastri (or on his behalf Star Sports) claim similar rights on “The Ball Goes to the fence like a Tracer Bullet”? “Can Sidhu ( or on his behalf Star Sports) claim rights on all the Sidhuisms that he introduced?..are some of the questions that pass in our mind.

I remember one of our lecturers in the College saying “OK” after every sentence and we used to enjoy counting whether he will hit a century of “OKs” in one lecture hour. If Times Now was the college authorities, they would have perhaps claimed copyright on “Saying OK” and claim royalty on others using the word.

Yes… the Court will spend its valuable time on this trivia for days on end and in the next couple of years give out its wisdom. Probably the Court will reject the claim of Times Now or the matter becomes irrelevant with the passage of time.

But it is time that the public in the meantime pull up Times Now for the arrogance they have shown in trying to gag Mr Arnab Goswami of spoken words which is actually an assault on his freedom of speech and expression. If the thought to be expressed is that the” Nation wants to know”, except to substitute the word “Nation” with say “Country” or “Wants”  with “Desires”, there cannot be an alternative. If every news anchor has to stop using all his popular phraseology once he moves from one channel to another he will have to always carry a thesaurus in his pocket.

Legally, there is a provision for “Compulsory Licensing” and the Government should come forward to issue a notification that the phrase “Nation Wants To Know” is too generic an utternace that it cannot be a subject matter of “Exclusive Copyright”. The objective behind the provision is to provide for the mechanism to prevent the abuse of monopoly by the copyright holder and to ensure that the general public is not deprived of the copyrighted work, solely because of the unreasonable demands of the copyright holder. Normally the “Compulsory Licensing” is applied where a “Copyright” is recognized and the owner is preventing the use of the copyrighted property by the community.

In the current instance, the principle to prevent abuse of law is very much relevant.  But  in the instant case, we need to reject even copyrightability of the phrase and not go into the discussion of “Licensing”. We need to declare that “Nation Wants To Know” is a generic phrase in the language which cannot be copyrighted.

While the Court has a power to come to such a conclusion in due course, and probably it will, it should be explored if the Government can bring in an explanatory notification to clarify that Copyright Act does not extend to such phrases (I am not sure if it can be called a phrase in the normal English Grammatical usage).

Alternatively, pressure should be brought upon Times Now to withdraw its stupid claim of intellectual property rights through a social media campaign against Times Now and by consumers boycotting products advertised on Times Now channel.

We have seen in the past some equally objectionable copyright claims by the music industry including that a record cannot be played aloud for multiple persons to hear at the same time . (Remember the ad where two people listen to a song sharing the ear pieces?….it is copyright violation). It is this tendency to abuse the law that makes Copyright law lose its respect.

I am certain that Mr Arnab will ignore the notice and the controversy will fizzle out. But it would be better if Times Now itself withdraws  its notice and apologize to the public for trying to misuse Copyright law pursuing its vengeance on an outgoing employee.

Probably an online petition should be started with the theme “Nation Wants to Know why Times Group should not have an exclusive right to say so”.

Naavi

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