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13 Copyright Infringement Cases in India

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Manish Jindal

March 1, 2024

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13 Copyright Infringement Cases in India

Key Takeaways

  • Copyright infringement is widespread. The digital age has seen a surge in unauthorised use of content, creating challenges for creators.
  • Authors, musicians, and artists across various fields must be aware of their rights and the legal framework surrounding copyright.
  • High-profile cases like Hawkins vs Magicook and Yash Raj vs Sri Sai Ganesh Productions offer valuable insights into how courts interpret copyright law in India.

India’s vibrant cultural landscape has fostered a rich tapestry of artistic creations. However, with the surge of digital platforms and widespread content sharing, copyright infringement has become a pressing concern.

In this article, we explore the landscape of some famous copyright infringement cases in India, where artistic endeavors frequently intersect with legal complexities.

From literature to music, films to software, we delve into notable instances that have emerged within the Indian legal system.

Join us as we unravel the fascinating tapestry of copyright disputes, shedding light on the challenges faced in safeguarding creative works in India’s dynamic and ever-evolving artistic ecosystem.

Understanding Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement occurs when a person uses copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright holder. This can take many forms, such as reproducing, distributing, or performing the work without consent.

Here are some examples of infringement of copyright:

  • The unauthorised reproduction and sale of a song or music album in the market is an instance of copyright infringement that is commonly seen.
  • Using images, logos, or text from a website without permission. For instance, if a person downloads an image from a website and uses it on their own website or blog without permission, it can be a violation of the copyright owner’s rights.
  • Plagiarism is also a form of copyright infringement. If someone uses someone else’s written work, such as a book, article, or research paper, and presents it as their own without permission, it is a violation of the copyright owner’s rights.
  • Using software without permission or without paying the license fee: Unauthorised copying, distributing, or selling of software, including games, apps, or computer programs, is illegal and can lead to legal action.

These are just a few examples of how copyright violations can occur in different forms and industries.

Being mindful of copyright laws and regulations and seeking permission before using copyrighted material is essential to avoid committing infringement.

Related Article: Check out the linked article to find out what makes copyright infringement so easy online.

Notable Copyright Infringement Cases in India

Over the years, India has witnessed several high-profile copyright infringement cases. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable cases:

Hawkins Cooker Ltd. vs Magicook Appliances

In a legal battle between Hawkins Cooker Ltd and Magicook Appliances, Hawkins claimed that Magicook Appliances had infringed on their registered trademark under the Copyright Act of 1957 by using it on their pressure cooker line without permission.

The court ruled in favor of Hawkins Cooker Ltd and prohibited Magicook Appliances from using the Hawkins Cooker Ltd label.

In addition, the court mandated that Magicook Appliances provide compensation to Hawkins Cooker Ltd for all purported merchandise, written works, and other materials used in the manufacturing of the unauthorised products.

Super Cassettes Industries Limited vs Google and YouTube

As per Super Cassettes Industries Limited (SCIL), YouTube’s profit model is based on the unauthorised use of copyrighted content that has been uploaded without the consent of the rightful owners and without providing any compensation in the form of royalties.

SCIL alleges that YouTube benefits greatly from this approach and generates substantial profits as a result.

In response to the plaintiff’s claims, the court has ruled that YouTube, as well as Google, must cease distributing, reproducing, displaying, or transmitting any audio-visual works exclusively owned by SCIL on their platform.

Ratna Sagar (P) Ltd. V. Trisea Publications & Ors., 1996 Ptc (16) 597

Ratna Sagar (P) Ltd. v. Trisea Publications & Ors. was a legal battle in which the plaintiff, a prominent publisher of children’s books named “Living Science,” filed a copyright infringement claim against the respondent, the publisher of “Unique Science.”

The plaintiff vehemently contended that the defendant’s literary masterpiece was a cunning copycat of their own ingenious work.

Upon examining both publications, the court concluded that the respondent was guilty of copyright infringement and, in accordance with Sections 14 and 19 of the Copyright Act, issued a perpetual injunction against the act.

Star India (P) Ltd. V. Piyush Agarwal & Ors, C.S. (O.S.) No. 2722/2012, Del Hc

In a ruling by the Delhi High Court, it was established that although the facts presented in a broadcast may not be subject to copyright protection, any audio or visual recordings of the performance are.

After a performance has been broadcasted, it is challenging to argue that the conveyed information is not in the public domain, making it ineligible for copyright protection.

As a result, the agreement between the plaintiff and BCCI concerning the 72-hour media right monopoly was deemed impractical.

The agreement lacked a legal foundation and could not be enforced because the content in question was not protected under copyright.

Najma Heptulla V. Orient Longman Ltd., Air 1989 Del 63

The petitioner in this case was the rightful heir of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, and he had entrusted Prof. Humanyun Kabir with the responsibility of translating and narrating his work.

In return for assigning the publisher’s copyright, the petitioner was entitled to 50% of all royalties for the next 30 years.

However, as per the court’s verdict, the plaintiff could not restrain the publisher from printing the book once the specified term had lapsed, regardless of any circumstances.

Eastern Book Company & Others V. D.B. Modak & Another, Air 2008 Sc 809

A publishing house called Eastern Book Company accused two companies, Spectrum Business Support Ltd and Regent Datatech Pvt Ltd, of copying their work.

The work in question was the publication of Supreme Court orders and judgments. The accused companies argued that this work did not qualify for copyright protection because it was not very creative or original.

The lower courts agreed with the accused companies, saying that this type of work was not unique enough to be protected by the copyright statute. But the Supreme Court disagreed.

They said that even though the work may not be very creative, it still required a lot of skill and effort to create, and therefore it should be protected by copyright law.

So, in the end, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Eastern Book Company, saying that their work was indeed protected by copyright law and that the accused companies had infringed on that copyright.

Suggested Reading: Image copyright infringement cases

The Chancellor, Master and Scholars of the University Of Oxford & Ors. V. Rameshwari Photocopying Services and Anr., Cs (Os) 2439/2012

In this case, the plaintiff was suing two defendants – Rameshwari Photostat and Delhi University.

The plaintiff was saying that these defendants were using and copying their copyrighted course material without permission.

The court looked at the case and decided that the defendants were not allowed to copy significant portions of the original publishers’ works – these were Cambridge University Press, Taylor & Francis, and Oxford University Press.

Here’s when things start to get a little difficult. India has a law called the Indian Copyright Act that permits the occasional partial use of protected work without paying the owner. This is called “fair dealing.”

However, the petitioners (the people who were suing) argued that photocopying course material wasn’t covered under fair dealing, even if it was for private use or research.

The court agreed with them and said that the defendants couldn’t copy the material without permission.

Sarla A. Saraogi & Ors Vs. Krishna Kishore Singh

There was a case where Sushant Singh Rajput’s parents filed a lawsuit against the distribution and broadcast of movies related to him.

The movies included ‘NYAY The Law,’ ‘Suicide or Death,’ and ‘Roughly in the Middle.’ The parents claimed that their son’s personality rights and due process were being violated and that the movies should not be released.

However, the court did not find enough evidence to support their claims and ruled in favor of the respondents.

The court concluded that the movies did not use SSR’s appearance, similarities, or title and that the movies had suitable provisions.

The court also mentioned that famous rights may cease to exist after the demise of a star.

According to the court, media coverage or news cannot be used as grounds to claim that an individual’s right to a fair trial was violated.

In addition, the court clarified that freedom of speech and expression takes precedence over Article 21, which pertains to the protection of life and personal liberty.

The plaintiffs were asked to provide accounts to compensate for any losses after the court refused to grant an injunction.

Shalini Kalra & Ors. Vs. Muthoot Finance Limited

Muthoot Finance, a finance company, offered loans to people who deposited their gold jewelry. As a result, the company had to keep confidential information about their clients in a dataset.

Some of their former employees copied and shared this data with other companies, resulting in Muthoot Finance losing customers and money.

Muthoot Finance filed a complaint and a court injunction to prevent the defendants from using the confidential information and to demand damages.

The court granted an interim injunction prohibiting the defendants from using any sensitive information, or intellectual property, or engaging in any actions that would harm Muthoot Finance.

Spartan Engineering Industries Pvt. Ltd. Anr. Vs. Dassault System Solidworks Corporation & Anr.

The Delhi High Court dealt with a case of software copyright infringement involving a French firm that created a 3D modeling program called ‘Solidworks’ and its sister corporation in India.

The defendants argued that their workers had created the program and the copyright belonged to the petitioners, but the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were using a version of the program that was not licensed.

The court granted an injunction prohibiting the defendants from using the program until the case is resolved, highlighting the importance of protecting intellectual property rights.

Yash Raj Films vs Sri Sai Ganesh Productions

In this case, there were two companies involved: YRF and Sri Sai Ganesh Productions. YRF claimed that Sri Sai Ganesh Productions had copied their movie, ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, to make their own movie, ‘Jabardasht’.

YRF filed a lawsuit against Sri Sai Ganesh Productions for copyright infringement, saying that their movie was too similar and copied important parts like the story, characters, and look of the movie.

The court had to decide if Sri Sai Ganesh Productions had copied too much, or if their movie was different enough to not be considered a copy.

They looked at things like the main idea of the movie, the important parts of the story, and how it looked to the average person watching the movie.

Based on this, the court decided that Sri Sai Ganesh Productions had indeed copied too much and that they were guilty of copyright infringement.

Suggested Reading: Famous copyright infringement cases in movies

Sajeev Pillai v. VenuKunnapalli & Anr

Sajeev Pillai, a film director, and scriptwriter claimed that his script was modified and distorted without his consent for the film ‘Mamangam’, produced by Kavya Film Company associated with Venu Kunnapalli.

He filed a lawsuit seeking various reliefs and an interim injunction to restrain the respondents from releasing, publishing, distributing, and exploiting the film without providing him proper authorship credits.

In its decision, the court referred to Section 57(1) of the Copyright Act, which gives the author the right to restrain third parties from modifying, distorting, or making any changes to their work.

The court ruled that Sajeev Pillai’s copyright assignment of the work would not exhaust his legal right to claim authorship over it.

Therefore, the court granted an interim injunction in favor of Sajeev Pillai, restraining the respondents from releasing, publishing, distributing, or exploiting the film ‘Mamangam’ without giving proper credit to him as per the film industry standards.

UTV Software Communication Ltd., v.1337X.TO and Ors

Imagine your favorite movie that you love so much is available for free on a website. You watch it there and don’t have to pay for it, but did you ever think that this might be illegal?

A company called UTV Software Communications faced a similar problem where many websites were hosting and providing access to their copyrighted movies without permission.

They filed a case against these websites and also against the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and various ISPs.

However, some of these websites were hosted outside India, so the Court had to come up with a solution to stop them from infringing on UTV’s copyrights.

The Court introduced a new procedure called a ‘dynamic injunction,’ which allowed UTV to extend the website blocking injunctions not only to the specified websites but also to those that appeared later as ‘mirror/alphanumeric/redirect’ websites.

This means that UTV could file an additional affidavit stating why a new website fell within the purview of an existing blocking order, and the ISP could dispute the merits of the blocking order.

This process helped curtail piracy by such ‘Rogue Websites’ and reduced the burden on the copyright owners to go through the challenging route of litigation over and over again.

Conclusion

Copyright infringement cases in India are taken very seriously. If someone copies another person’s creative work, like a movie or software program, without permission, it’s considered a violation of the original creator’s rights.

The courts use different methods to determine if someone has copied too much and violated copyright law.

If they find that a violation has occurred, the court can issue permanent injunctions to stop the infringing party from using or distributing the copied work, and they can also award damages to the original creator.

It’s important to respect other people’s creative work and not copy it without permission, as it can lead to serious legal consequences.

Contact Bytescare today to learn how we can help you protect your digital assets and empower your creative journey.

FAQs

Is the idea protected under the copyright act?

The main focus of Section 13 in the Copyright Act of 1957 is to safeguard the expression of ideas instead of the notion themselves. This means that the way an idea is conveyed, such as in a book, painting, or musical composition, is what is protected by copyright law.

It safeguards audio recordings, cinematographic films, dramatic works, artistic creations, and literary works.

For example, if someone wrote a book about a magical land filled with talking animals, they would be protected under the said law for the specific way they wrote about this idea.

However, if someone else wrote a book about a similar magical land filled with talking animals, but used different words and characters, they would not be infringing on the first author’s rights. This is because copyright law protects the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves.

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses a copyrighted work without the permission of the content creator, violating the exclusive rights granted to the holder, such as reproduction, distribution, public performance, adaptation, and translation.

How can I avoid copyright infringement?

To avoid copyright infringement, you should always seek permission from the copyright holder before using their work, give proper credit when using copyrighted material, and familiarise yourself with the concept of fair use, which allows limited use of copyrighted content under specific circumstances.

What are the penalties for copyright infringement in India?

Depending on the degree and nature of the infringement, consequences for copyright violations in India can range from civil remedies like injunctions, damages, and accounts of profits to criminal penalties like imprisonment and fines.

Can I use copyrighted material for educational purposes in India?

The Indian Copyright Act allows for the fair use of copyrighted material for educational purposes, as demonstrated in the Rameshwari Photocopy Case.

To prevent infringement, you must make sure that your use of copyrighted content complies with fair use guidelines, which are decided on a case-by-case basis.

What is a copyright infringement example in India?

An example of copyright infringement in India could be if someone reproduces, publishes, or distributes a copyrighted work without the permission of the content owner.

For instance, if someone copies and distributes a movie or music album without the permission of the owner, it would be considered violating the exclusive rights of the owner.

Is copyright registration mandatory to file an infringement case in India?

In India, filing a suit for copyright infringement requires that the copyright is registered. Without a valid copyright registration, it is not possible to bring an infringement suit against any unauthorised use of your work.

The registration certificate of copyright serves as prima facie evidence of the originality of the work and is crucial in initiating legal action against infringement.

Therefore, it is advisable to register your copyright to protect your intellectual property rights and strengthen your case in case of any infringement.

What is the time limit to file a copyright infringement suit in India?

The time limit to file a copyright infringement suit in India is three years from the date of the infringement. However, it is advisable to file the suit as soon as possible to prevent any further damage to the copyrighted work.

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