Copyright Infringement Laws In India

Pramati Chatta


Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are the set of legal rights that protects inventions and/or innovations of the creator in the sectors of industry, science, literature, arts, etc. Copyright is one of the most commonly known IPRs.


What is copyright?

Copyright is a category of intellectual property right granted to the inventor to print, display, publish, film, or document literary, artistic, or musical content for a set number of years. Copyright is also awarded to safeguard the work from being replicated or published without the author's permission. The effort might be creative, educative, literary, or musical in nature. The purpose of copyright is to safeguard the authenticity of an idea in the form of creative work. The owner has a complete right over his creation, moreover, he can even share his rights if he is willing or take the complete authority to vest it with himself.


Section 14 of the Copyright Act

Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957 defines copyright as the exclusive right to do or permit the execution of any of the specified actions in relation to a work or any significant portion thereof, notably:

1. Replicate the work in whatever manner you desire, including preserving it in any form.

2. Distribute copies of the work to the general audience.

3. Carry out the task in the public

4. Produce a cinematographic film in tribute to the work.

5. Making an adaptation of the work

6. Translation of the work


In Sajeev Pillai v. Venu Kunnapalli & Anr, 2019, the High Court of Kerala stated in determining the issue that the first sub-section of Section 57(1) allows the author to hold back third parties, and the second sub-section allows the author to sue for damages from such third parties for any manipulation, disfigurement, or other changes made to his work, or any other activity in connection thereto that would be derogatory to his pioneering work.


Section 13 of the Copyright Act, 1957: It provides the list of areas where copyright protection exists:

1. Literary work consists of computer programs, tables, and compilations, as well as computer datasets.

2. Dramatic work contains any composition for recitation, choreographic work, or amusement in a dumb show, the theatrical arrangement or performance of which is established in writing or otherwise, but excludes cinematograph films.

3. Musical work denotes a work composed entirely of music, including any graphical notation for such work, but excluding any words or actions meant to be sung, spoken, or performed in accordance with the music.

4. Artistic work means paintings, sculptures, and drawings that include any diagram, map, chart, or plan, engravings, or picture, whether or not such work exhibits creative merit.

5. Cinematograph films means any piece of visual recording that contains a sound recording that is accompanied by such visual recording, and "cinematograph" shall be defined to encompass any work created by any method equivalent to cinematography, including video films.

6. Sound recordings mean a sound recording out of which sounds can be created independently of the media on which the recording is made or the manner by which the sounds are produced.


Why is copyright important?

a) It grants the creator of the original piece the sole right to copy, replicate, record, and interpret the work.

b) The creator has the right to prohibit the unauthorized use of his original piece and to take legal action if violations occur.

c) The creator has the sole power to cash compensation for their work.

d) Creators reap the benefits and safeguard their creative work, which motivates society to be more innovative.

e) Maintains a balance between the owner's and society's rights. It eventually acts as a reward for the creator by legally protecting his creation.

f) To offer creators an incentive and compensation for creating original material. The creators can earn financially from their copyrighted work and receive a due acknowledgment.


Rights of copyright owners

Copyright holders have been entitled to certain essential rights that they can practice as mentioned below:

1) Right to reproduce their work/creation

2) Right to distribute

3) Right to make derivative works

4) Right to publicly perform

5) Right of Paternity

6) Sui Generis Right


Defining copyright infringement

Copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is used without the creator's consent. Infringement happens when a person wittingly or unwittingly duplicates or utilizes someone else's work without giving due credit. Infringement is often divided into two types: primary and secondary infringement. Primary infringement is the practice of duplicating itself, whereas secondary infringement involves unlawful activities such as selling pirated publications, importing, and so on. In the instance of secondary infringement, the infringer has knowledge of the infringement, but in the event of primary infringement, awareness may or may not be present. Creators create new material and obtain copyright protection to ensure that their efforts are rewarded. The owner has the exclusive right to sell his work or license it to a third party. The creator has the exclusive right to sell or permit his work to third parties who may use it; however, if someone copies or replicates the work of the copyright holder (i.e. Creator) without the creator's consent, this can result in infringement of copyright, for which the creator may pursue legal action against the infringer.

  • Copyright is declared to have been infringed under Section 51 of the Copyright Act, 1957 if:

  1. Without the consent of the copyright owner, a person performs any activity that only the copyright holder is permitted to perform

  2. A person allows the use of a location for communicating, selling, distributing, or displaying an infringed work unless he is unaware or has no cause to think that such consent would result in a copyright violationz

  3. A person brings/imports unauthorized/ copyrighted work.

  4. Without the permission of the copyright holder, a person replicates his creation in any manner.

Exceptions to copyright infringement:

Certain actions do not constitute copyright infringement. However, some requirements must be met in order to certify that no copyright infringement has happened. These criteria include using copyrighted material for research, study, critique, review, news reporting, and use in libraries, classrooms, and legislation. Such uses of copyrighted work are permissible without obtaining permission from the copyright holder.

In India, the following activities also do not constitute copyright infringement:

  1. Fair use: A crucial justification against copyright infringement, as established in Section 53 of the Copyright Act. The owner/creator bears the burden of proving an act of copyright infringement.

  2. A related judicial proceedings

  3. If the presentation is in front of a non-paying public, it is performed by an amateur group or organization.

  4. Under specific situations, making sound recordings of literary, theatrical, or musical works

Shamoil Ahmad Khan v. Falguni Shah and Ors., High Court of Bombay, 2020


The complainant, in this case, is the writer of the well-known short novel 'Singardaan.' The defendant is the creator of a web serial called Singardaan, which is similar to the plaintiff's novel. Following an examination of the facts and evidence offered, the court determined that a copyright infringement would occur if the parallels are on essential or significant parts of the manner of expression used in the copyrighted work. This would be determined by the impact the work has on the readers, observers, or viewers. The court recognized a considerable resemblance in both the plots and directed the defendant to refrain from further adaptation or use of their web series "Singardaan" in a new format.


Remedies for infringement

The following are the primary prerequisites for taking action against copyright infringement:

a) Evidence of copyrighted works

b) Significant resemblance between the original and the infringing piece

c) Copying is formulating wrongful appropriation.

The first and foremost step is to issue a legal notice for copyright infringement on the individual or entity responsible for the violation. In the event of digital copyright violation, a takedown notice may be issued to the individual or entity implicated. Under civil and criminal law, a copyright owner has numerous options for dealing with copyright infringement.


Civil remedies: Sections 54 to 62 of the Copyright Act, 1957 deal with civil remedies. Section 55 of the Act provides for civil proceedings against copyright infringement. The court can provide the relief of injunction, damages, and financial relief in a civil lawsuit for copyright violation.

Section 55(1) of the Copyright Act states that the copyright owner is eligible for injunctive relief. In the instance of copyright infringement, one of the most efficient reliefs is an injunction. Injunction pertains to the court procedure through which somebody who is endangering someone's legal rights is prevented from continuing his actions or is directed to bring the situation to the state it was in before the action.

Section 55(1) of the copyright legislation furthermore states that the copyright owner is authorized to damages for copyright infringement. The purpose of awarding damages to the copyright owner is to return him to his previous stance. The quantum of damages awarded to the copyright holder is determined by several variables. In most cases, the damages are calculated based on the amount that the copyright holder would have received if the individual had gotten the license from him. However, there are several additional elements that decide the amount of damages, such as the copyright holder's lost profits, damaged reputations, drop in the sale of the copyright holder's work, and so on.


Criminal remedies: Sections 63 to 70 deal with offenses relating to Copyright infringement. As per section 63 of The Copyright Act, 1957, the copyright owner may initiate criminal proceedings against the offender, with a penalty for at least jail time, which may be prolonged to three years, and a compensation of Rs. 50,000, which may be raised to two lakhs.

Sony Pictures Network India Pvt. Ltd. v. www.sportsa la.tv And Ors., High Court of Delhi, 2021.


In this case, Sony Pictures filed a suit against several defendants, chiefly seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the reproduction, making accessible, distribution, broadcast, and so on of the cricket matches from India's tours of England and Sri Lanka. The Court upheld Sony Pictures an injunction against rogue websites that may replicate, broadcast, give access, convey to the public, or circulate cricket matches. The Court also issued an order directing ISPs to prohibit the aforementioned as well as other unauthorized websites and directed the Government of India to issue suitable orders to prevent infringement of Sony Pictures' copyrights in the events.


Anil Gupta And Anr. v. Kunal Dasgupta And Ors[1].

In 2002, Delhi High Court in Anil Gupta And Anr v Kunal Dasgupta And Ors granted an injunction in favour of the plaintiffs for their concept in the reality television show Swayamvar, depicting matchmaking in Indian culture, against the defendants, who based on the plaintiffs’ concept intended to launch a television programme titled Shubh Vivah. The court held that while the idea by itself cannot have a copyright, if the idea is developed into a concept with adequate details the concept can be registered as a copyright and would be protectable as such. The unauthorized use of this concept in a competitive environment, coupled with the confidential information contained within it, therefore would amount to a copyright infringement.

Abdul Sathar v. Nodal Officer, Anti-Piracy Cell[2]

This historic decision called into question the character of a crime punished under Section 63 of the statute. The petitioner contended that the offense had to be cognizable in order to be genuine. Since there were no specific precedents before the court, it relied on the norms of Cr. P.C., which separates the three degrees of offenses based on their sentencing in Part II of Cr. P.C. As violations under Section 63 of the Copyright Act are punished by imprisonment for three years, they come under Category 2 and are cognizable. As a result, because there were no disagreements in terms of the Act or auxiliary Acts, principles, or precedents, this ruling unequivocally established that criminal offenses of copyright infringement are cognizable.

[1] (2002) ILR 1 Delhi 250 [2] AIR 2007 KER 212

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