On Originality: The 10 Commandments of Ethical Practice

This past weekend, the whos who of the performing arts community congregated at Harkat Studios. The point in contention: Whose play is it anyway? A coming together to discuss authorship, copyrights, and concepts of originality and inspiration in theatre and the other arts. This event coalesced out of the recent online furor on issues of giving credit within the theatre industry to work that was inspired by work already in existence. To know more about what started this, take a look at our insights on the case published earlier.
In the 4 intense panel discussions, a lot was said and said again. The last panel focussed on how organizations and institutions can boost ethical practice. In a nearly two hour discussion moderated by Arts and Culture Resources India founder Rashmi Dhanwani, 4 leaders from the performing arts tackled the tough questions. On the panel were Brian Tellis, Founder and Group CEO of Fountainhead MKTG and Creative Producer at AADYAM, Prithvi Theatre trustee Kunal Kapoor, Vivek Rao, Producer and Business Development Lead at QTP and DSM’s very own Jehan Manekshaw. While we highly recommend watching the entire discussion that Harkat was kind enough to live stream on Facebook, here is the distilled version, as articulated aptly by Rashmi as the 10  Commandments for Ethical Practices being boosted by Organizations and Institutions in Theatre and other Arts. 
  1. Articulate your Values, before you begin! Understand concepts of IPR, copyrights, inspiration, borrowing, paying homage etc and use that understanding to articulate a Plagiarism Policy
  2. Create a system of checks and balances internally
  3. Figure out your role as an institution, define your points of intervention in the process of artistic creation. Also, articulate how you will intervene.
  4. During the process, if something pertaining to copyrights and original work does go wrong, take responsibility to negotiate, advise and mediate. It is an institution’s prerogative to take artists through a process that allows them to get to the next level.
  5. When things go wrong, first investigate intent.
  6. If the intent is ill-formed, fix it, whether it is by penalizing, replacing or re-doing
  7. If the intent is fair and right, draw upon existing knowledge, resources and systems to help artists. Right or wrong, you have to fix it.
  8. Get legal help. Get people who are qualified to do this execute it on your behalf.
  9. Learn from your mistakes and articulate that learning for the collective
  10. And most importantly, as part of the ecosystem, lead by example.