Levi’s plagiarism row: How not to overstep the inspiration mark

Industry observers note that the sector should carefully draw a line between inspiration and plagiarism

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Mar 5, 2021 9:14 AM

The rush to create ever more inventive ads has never been more apparent. Just yesterday Deepika Padukone’s new Levi’s ad was caught in a plagiarism row after filmmaker Sooni Taraporevala alleged that the campaign has been copied from her 2020 film Yeh Ballet.

Taraporevala took to Instagram to talk about the “intellectual theft” of her film. Taraporevala in the post said, “I was shocked to see our Yeh Ballet dance studio set in this ad, because it was conceptualised & created out of a derelict space by Shailaja Sharma @shalzoid (our PD) from scratch and dismantled after our shoot. No such dance studio exists in Mumbai which is why we built it. Basically, @nadiaeye (the director of this ad) saw Yeh Ballet and decided to plagiarize our set down to the very last detail (swipe for screenshot). Would Levi’s and the director ever think of doing that in the west without permission/acknowledgment, and passing it off as their own creative work? This is not homage this is intellectual theft! It’s SO unfair to our wonderful production designer @shalzoid to have her work ripped off like that (sic),” she wrote.
Time and again, creatives have been accused of taking it too far when referencing the work of artists. So how should the creative industry ensure its not overstepping the inspiration mark?

Dr. Sandeep Goyal, Chairman, Mogaé Media, opines that just acknowledging the contribution of the original creator, and paying for it would have been more ethical. “Plagiarism is rampant. But a good 90 per cent of it goes unnoticed or unreported. Hence many creative folk decide to take the chance, believing they will be able to escape being caught. It is just unbecoming though that a brand like Levi’s would try to cheat. It does not behove a brand like Levi’s not to respect IP of others. Avoidable, I would say,” he remarked.

Interestingly, the production designer of the Levi’s ad, Rupin Suchak has admitted it to be the case. He said that the ad director Nadia Marquard Otzen had in fact asked him to design the set that way. Under one of the comments on the video that called out the similarity, Suchak replied: “Yes we did? in fact that’s what our director wanted so we had to recreate that.”

Samit Sinha, Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, feels that it is much ado about nothing. “While I respect the concept of intellectual property and strongly believe that they have to be protected, one also has to draw a line somewhere. Having said that, I think that the product designer who did the set for the Levi’s ad should not have taken the Levis’s creative director’s brief so literally and used the reference more as an inspiration rather than as a replication,” he shared.

The denim-maker’s campaign is centered around the message – ‘When you take a step, we all move’. The campaign featuring Deepika Padukone, celebrates the spirit of women and their collective journey of inspiring and championing each other through authentic self-expression.
According to N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA, since the legal route in India is convoluted and long, many refrain from taking this matter to court, and therefore a self-regulatory authority like ASCI must also have jurisdiction over such infringement.

“The creative imagination and effort that goes into making an original, is as much an intellectual property and should be considered a copyright or patent as much as a biscuit or cookie, the battle for which is being fought in court between Oreo and Parle’s Fabio. Plagiarism in the areas of literary work, dramatic work, musical work, cinematographic work, and advertising must be seen as a cognizable offence to act as a deterrent to offenders. Stunting originality & creativity and not deterring copying is the surest way of killing innovation, and must be considered very seriously by law,” he opined.

Brought alive through the power of music, the TVC is set to the tunes of the timeless classic ‘Auva Auva Koi Yahan Nache’. As part of the visual montage, the film features brand ambassador Deepika Padukone alongside diverse women from everyday walks-of-life dreaming, believing, and taking the step with confidence to live their next big thing. As each woman finds confidence and comfort in expressing their fearless pursuits, it inspires people around her to join in and move with her.

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