The live action remake of the 1994 animated feature, The Lion King, was released to much anticipation on July 9th this year. It followed the original storyline; the coming of age of a lion cub prince, Simba, who is banished from his father’s land after his villainous uncle, Scar, kills his father, Mufasa, in order to steal the throne. In the 25 years since its initial release, The Lion King became one of the highest-grossing works in pop culture. With the creation of the remake, animation fans have once again been reminded of the television show, Kimba, the White Lion, which has a remarkably close resemblance to the animated film, The Lion King.
Kimba, the White Lion, was a Japanese Shonen manga series created by Ozamu Tezuka which ran from November 1950 to April 1954. The Lion King features characters and events which closely resemble the television show, Kimba, from the prince protagonists, Kimba and Simba, and their evil one-eyed relative, to sage baboons and animated birds who follow and keep watch over the lion cubs.
Of particular note are key similarities such as with the theme of the film - the ‘Circle of Life’, scenes depicting the protagonists looking up at the sky to their father lion, their disgust at eating food other than meat. The Disney filmmakers, however, were quick to deny any influence or knowledge of Kimba or Tezuka. The likeness between both works indicate that the Lion King may have been influenced by Kimba. Law professor Madhavi Sunder of Georgetown University, said that the number of closely matching scenes shows the "highest level of evidence of copying.” This gives rise to what is known as copyright infringement.
Copyright is a type of intellectual property protection that is extended to certain creations of the mind such as literary and artistic works and films. Once the original work is fixed in a tangible form, the work is automatically copyright protected. To put others on notice of the existence of the copyright, the owner may wish to register his or her copyright. Ownership of a copyright in Nigeria grants the creator of a work exclusive rights such as to adapt, copy or sell the work for the life of the creator plus 70 years after his or her death.
Copyright infringement occurs where a copyrighted work copies and is substantially similar to an earlier created copyrighted work. To succeed in an infringement action, the substantial similarities will need to be proved. Despite the lack of a final remark on the Kimba/Simba conflict, Disney writers continue to hold that any similarity between the two works is a mere coincidence. Nevertheless, 488 Japanese cartoonists and animators signed a letter/ petition requesting that Walt Disney Company give due credit to Jungle Emperor Leo in the making of The Lion King. With the release of the live action feature, it will be interesting to see how this saga concludes.
The contents of this news alert are meant for the general information of our clients and friends and do not amount to legal advice. All enquiries on the subject may be made to: email@example.com
Adepetun Caxton-Martins Agbor & Segun
9th Floor, St. Nicholas House, Catholic Mission Street, Lagos Island, Lagos State, Nigeria.
Telephone: +234 (1) 462 2094; 462 2480; 740 6743 Fax: +234 (1) 461 3140