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Copyright infringement in India Copyright infringement in India
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With the arrival of printing, forgery was prevalent and hence copyright came into the scene. Modern day copyright laws provide us a safeguard against theft of our creative works. They protect our creative creations - works of literature, drama, music works, art, cinematography and even sound recordings - against defaulters and in turn give us exclusive rights to our own work -  rights to reproduce, display, distribute or perform the work that has been protected.

Copyright infringement is the use of the copyright protected work without the permission of the owner who has the copyright. Even if the new work is a derivative of some copyright work, it is assumed to be an infringement.

Infringement can be classified as: primary infringement and secondary infringement.

While primary infringement means that the original piece of work has been copied, the secondary infringement means that the original piece of work has either been pirated (books, etc.) or has been imported - either without exclusive rights to do so or into a geography not permitted. 

Common varieties of copyright infringement

Some of the following are the most prevalent copyright infringements in India

  • To make copies of copyright works for sale or hire them for our personal use without permission
  • To permit the performance of the infringed copyright works at any place of significance
  • To distribute the infringed copyright works
  • To publically exhibit the infringed copyright works
  • To import the infringed copyright works into the geographical and political borders of India

If any individual or an entity is guilty of any of the above infringements, they are liable to prosecution under the existing copyright laws in India. 

Claiming owner rights to copyright

In fields such as literature, music, dramatics and for works of art, the name that appears on the work or on the copies of the original work is by default deemed to be the copyright owner, unless it is proved otherwise. 

Remedy for copyright infringement in India

The Copyright Act, passed in 1957 and amended by the Copyright Amendment Act 2012, provides safeguards against copyright infringement in India. It incorporates three varieties of remedies: administrative remedies, criminal remedies and civil remedies.

Criminal and civil remedies are of real practical importance for us.

Administrative remedies include detention of infringing goods and it is done by the customs department. Civil remedies include damages, injunctions and account of profits.

If anyone uses your work against your wishes or in a manner not allowed by you, then you can move to the court and impose legal proceedings in the erring individual - the one who is involved in infringing the copyright you own. As a copyright owner, you can file civil remedies case in a court that has the necessary jurisdiction. You are then entitled to damages.

For your information, only a court chaired by a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate, or higher, can take up cases and try the offender for copyright infringement. That should tell you that copyright infringement is no mean deal.

In case the copyright is infringed by an entity - say a private limited company, or even a limited liability partnership - then the company and all of the people who were involved in committing the offence are  held responsible and charges can be pushed against each one of them.  

Criminal Prosecution for Copyright Infringement

One can be a criminal offender under Copyright Act if he or she deliberately infringes the copyright for personal gains. In such a case, the bare minimum punishment for knowingly infringing a copyright is jail for 6 months with a bare minimum fine of Rupees 50,000. In case an individual is convicted again, the punishment is increased to a minimum of one year jail accompanied by a fine of Rupees one lakh. 

Copyright Infringement a Cognizable Offence

What does Cognizable Offence mean? If a police officer has the rights to make an arrest and start an investigation with or without the permission of the court, it is for a cognizable offence.

Copyright infringement is a cognizable offence and a police officer - who is not below the rank of a sub-inspector - can make arrests without a warrant. Later, the copies of the infringed copies and other proofs can be presented to the Magistrate who presides over the case. 

Exceptions to copyright infringement in India

The Copyright Act 1957 exempts a few acts from copyright infringement. The term 'fair dealing had different connotations in India and abroad. Unlike the United States of America, India follows a combined approach that enables:

  • "fair use" of any copyrighted work for certain special purposes
  • certain specific commotion as mentioned in the statute

"Fair dealing" in India is limited to the purposes of

  • private or personal use, such as education or entertainment
  • criticism, such as reviewing a work of art
  • news, such as reporting of current affairs to the general public

 

Thus, the Copyright Law gives us enough protection, in the process enabling us to be creative without limits and without the fear of being wronged. And in case we have been, there are propositions in place to settle us with finances.

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