Copyright infringement in India

In this article, you will learn about copyright, its importance, copyright infringement and its remedies in India as per the Copyright Act of 1957.

What Are Intellectual Property Rights?

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are the rights granted to individuals over their unique inventions. They usually give the creator the exclusive right over the use of their creation for a certain period of time. There are five types of Intellectual Property: Patent, Trademark, Geographical Indication, Industrial Design and Copyright.

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In addition to all its goodness, the development of the internet has threatened humans in multiple ways, and copyright violation is one of them. With just a few clicks, people have access to millions of websites and may modify someone else’s original work to put it on social media networks.

The concept of copyright refers to the ownership rights of writers and producers of creative works. Exclusive ownership of a work is granted to the creator by copyright, which also forbids the unauthorised publication of the work and duplication.

When a work is created and expressed in some physical way, copyright protection starts to apply. An original piece of work is protected by copyright.

Copyright protects only the original expression of ideas and not the idea itself. The main reason behind this is such protection would hinder the freedom of exchanging ideas and thereby go against the very object of copyright laws, that is, to promote creativity. Hence, ideas, methods, and processes are considered to be the common property, and the author has the right to express them in his way.

Example of copyright:

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  • If someone creates a gorgeous sculpture, then he will get the copyright for the same.
  • The film is protected by the copyright of its creators.

Under section 13 of the Copyright Act of 1957, copyright can be given in the following classes of work:

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works
  • Cinematographic films
  • Sound recording

What cannot be copyrighted?

As mentioned above (before the example part), only innovative expression of ideas is protected by copyright law; the concept itself is not protected. The primary justification for not copyrighting ideas is that doing so would obstruct the free interchange of ideas, which would defeat the purpose of copyright laws, which is to encourage creativity. Ideas, systems, and techniques are therefore seen as the collective property of all people, and authors are free to express or explain them in any way they see fit.

The benefits of copyright protection are:

  • It provides a practical means of protecting original content.
  • It helps give people credit for the work they do.
  • It grants the only authority for reproduction, duplication, transcription, and translation to the owner of the original work.
  • The original work’s owner has the power to stop unauthorised use of it and to pursue legal action in the case of infringement.
  • Copyright encourages society to be creative by allowing owners to benefit from and have their creative work protected.

Copyright is not an everlasting privilege. It is there for a specified duration. The “work” enters the public domain when the term has expired, making it available for use by anyone without the owner’s consent.

The term protection given to any “work” can be understood in two parts:

  • For literary, theatrical, musical, and artistic works, the term is the author’s lifetime plus 60 more years after the author’s passing.
  • For photographs, cinematographic films and sound recording, the term is only 60 years.

Copyright safeguards two types of rights:

1. Economic rights

Owners of copyright are entitled to economic rights. These rights are known as economic rights because they allow the owner to profit financially from the use of his creation. Economic rights are not equally granted to all works under the Copyright Act of 1957. In other words, these rights are organised in line with groups of works protected by copyright. As a result, the economic rights available for films are different from those for books.

2. Moral rights

The author’s moral principles are what give his writings their heart. The spiritual bonds that connect a creator and his creation are an accurate description of them. By virtue of his moral rights, the author is entitled to maintain, guard against destruction, and nurture his works. Moral rights are distinct from economic rights and continue to belong to the author even after he has licenced or assigned all of his economic rights to another party. This means that these rights are perpetually owned by the author and cannot be the subject of a transfer.

The owner of a work is granted some rights under copyright rules, and by utilising those rights, the owner is able to profit financially. Copyright is violated if any of these rights concerning the work are exercised by anybody other than the owner without the owner’s consent or approval from a competent authority as required by law.

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of infringement:

1. Primary Infringement

Primary infringement describes the actual act of duplicating the owner’s work. Using photocopies of books to distribute them commercially is one example.

2. Secondary Infringement

A copyright is infringed only when an unauthorised individual copies a substantial portion of the work. It deals with different types of trade, such as selling unauthorised publications, duplicating a lyricist’s catchphrase, and so on.

Section 51 of the Copyright Act, 1957, deals with the infringement of copyright. According to this section, copyright is deemed to be infringed:

(A) When someone uses a copyright without the owner’s permission to:

  • Do anything for which only the owner is allowed exclusive rights under this Copyright Act.
  • Grants permission for the financial gain of such a piece, which is going to be used for communication to the public; doing so would violate the author’s copyright.

(B) When a person does any of the following:

  • Creates, sells, hires, distributes for the purpose of sale, exhibits in public, or imports into India any copies of the work that are infringing.

The remedies for copyright infringement are:

  1. Civil remedy
  2. Criminal remedy
  3. Administrative remedy

Only the first two remedies, i.e. civil and criminal, have any actual practical significance.

1. Civil Remedies

Here are some of the civil remedies provided under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957:

I. Interlocutory Injunctions

The most important civil remedy is the issuing of an interlocutory injunction since most lawsuits begin with a request for interlocutory relief and because the majority of cases never move past the interlocutory stage.

The owner of the work files an interlocutory injunction, asking the court to prevent the individual from utilising the copyrighted literary work.

An injunction may be issued before the trial and only last until the conclusion of the trial or until subsequent orders are made, or it may be definitive and irrevocable.

Interlocutory injunctions are intended to give the plaintiff immediate and temporary protection against any ongoing breach of his rights for which he cannot be fully made whole by monetary damages.

The following criteria must be met in order to award an interim injunction:
(1) A prima facie case;
(2) A balance of convenience; and
(3) Irreparable damage.

Related: What Is an Interlocutory Order Under CPC?

II. Pecuniary Remedies

Sections 55 and 58 of the Copyright Act of 1957 provide monetary remedies for copyright owners who experience issues with infringement. Damages that the victim has experienced financially are known as pecuniary damages.

The injured person may pursue the following remedies:

  • Account of profit is a legal action brought against the defendant to collect any profits he has accrued due to the violation.
  • Compensatory damages: Compensatory damages are monetary awards made to an aggrieved party to compensate for their losses.
  • Conversion damages: For the conversion of any unauthorised copies, the copyright holder is entitled to get remuneration based on the worth of the work.

III. Anton Pillar Orders

Orders of this nature are extreme, and they have broad effects. These orders consist of the following components:

  • An order prohibiting the defendant from disposing of or selling counterfeit products.
  • An order directing the defendant to disclose the names and addresses of suppliers and customers.
  • An order allowing the plaintiff’s solicitors access to the defendant’s premises so they can search them and remove goods that are in their safe custody. In simple words, it is an order allowing the plaintiff’s solicitors to search the defendant’s premises.

IV. Mareva Injunction

It is an order that temporarily seizes a defendant’s assets, preventing them from violating the judgement by selling them.

V. Norwich Pharmacal Orders

Under these orders, the methods for finding information from third parties are used.

2. Criminal Remedies

Criminal remedies for copyright violation include:

  • Punishment through imprisonment that may not be less than 6 months but may extend to 3 years.
  • Fines shall not be less than Rs. 50,000 but may extend to Rs. 2,00,000.
  • Search and seizure of infringing goods.
  • Delivery of infringing goods to the owner of the copyright.

A person who violates the copyright of another person’s work is subject to both criminal and civil penalties. However, there are several exceptions to copyright infringement, meaning that in some circumstances, a person may not need the copyright holder’s consent to utilise his work. Therefore, it is always advisable to create unique content rather than unauthorised use of another person’s copyrighted work.

3. Administrative Remedy

When an infringement occurs through an importation (bringing of goods into a country from abroad for sale), administrative remedies provide petitioning the Registrar of Copyrights to impose a restriction on the import of infringing copies into India and delivering the confiscated infringing copies to the copyright owner.


Copyright exists to safeguard the rights of original work creators and to reward them financially for their hard work and ingenuity. Databases and computer software are included in the scope of copyright, as are other literary or creative works that require innovation. Although it is not essential to register a work in order to qualify for copyright protection, doing so is frequently encouraged since it will serve as legal proof in the event of a legal dispute.

Suhani Dhariwal
WritingLaw » Law Notes » What Is Copyright Infringement and Its Remedies in India Law Study Material
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