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Copyright Infringement: Safeguarding Intellectual Property Rights

By - King Stubb & Kasiva on June 27, 2023

Every brushstroke, every chosen word, every melody, and every designed structure is an expression of the artist's true self. Naturally, those who create such works of art should have rights that govern the use and sharing of their creations. This idea is what copyright is all about.

And in today's digital age, where information is easily accessible and widely shared, protecting intellectual property rights has become more critical than ever before. Infringement of copyright poses a significant threat to creators, artists, and innovators, potentially undermining their hard work and stifling innovation.

Copyright is a legal concept that gives creators exclusive protection over their artistic and literary works. It covers a wide range of creations, including books, music, paintings, sculptures, computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings, as defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

It is important to understand the difference between being inspired by someone's work and infringing upon their rights. While inspiration can spark new artistic endeavors, infringement violates the rights of creators, dampening their creativity and hindering progress.

The Copyright Act recognizes and upholds the rights of owners, granting them exclusive privileges.[1] Section 14 of the Act stipulates that copyright owners have the authority to reproduce their work in any form, distribute copies, publicly perform the work, and create adaptations or translations. These rights are bestowed upon the owner regardless of copyright registration, as the Act acknowledges a range of rights and privileges for the original copyright holder without necessitating prior registration.

Section 51 of the Copyright Act of 1957 outlines the scope of infringement of copyright. It states that copyright in a work is infringed when an individual, without the owner's or registrar of copyright's license:

  • Engages in an activity that falls within the exclusive rights of the owner.
  • Allows, for profit, any location to be used for the public communication of the work, where such communication constitutes copyright infringement.
  • Sells, rents, displays, distributes, or exhibits infringing copies in public.
  • Imports infringing copies into India.

Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 51, it is important to note that not all actions falling within its purview can be classified as infringement of copyright.

Fair Dealing (Section 52)

Section 52 of the Copyright Act introduces exceptions to copyright infringement. These exceptions encompass acts such as fair dealing, transient or incidental storage, and reproduction for the purpose of a judicial proceeding, among others. One noteworthy exception is fair dealing, which permits the use of copyrighted works for research, criticism, or review purposes.[2]

In the case of Civic Chandran v. Ammini Amma, the court emphasized that the concept of fair dealing entails considering various factors. These include the volume of material used, with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity, as well as the extent to which the materials in question are subject to copyright protection. Additionally, the court takes into account the existence of animus furandi, which refers to the intention to save labour, and the level of competition between the works of the plaintiffs and defendants.[3]

Therefore, it is crucial to determine whether an act constitutes an infringement of copyright by employing both objective and subjective criteria. The objective standards involve assessing the nature and extent of the copyrighted material used, while the subjective standards consider the intention and purpose behind the usage.

The University of Oxford v Rameshwari Photocopy Services[4]

In this case, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court, established that the act of creating study materials through the photocopying of book pages, as directed by professors, did not amount to copyright infringement. This ruling upheld the rights of educational institutions to utilize copyrighted materials for educational purposes.

RG Anand v Delux Films &Ors[5]

In this case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, clarified that copyright protection extends to the expression of an idea rather than the idea itself. The court also noted that if an ordinary person observes a substantial resemblance between two works, then the impugned work would be deemed an infringement.

Kartar Singh Giani v Ladha Singh[6]

This case highlighted the importance of motive and intent in determining copyright infringement. It was held that if copying is done with an unfair motive to compete and profit from such competition, it would be deemed infringement.

MRF Limited v Metro Tyres Limited[7]

In this case, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court emphasized the need to compare the fundamental essence and distinctive features of both advertisements. Blatant copying of the essential elements of the advertisement with an intent to mislead would constitute copyright infringement.

Myspace Inc v Super Cassettes Industries Limited[8]

Regarding intermediary liability in cases of copyright infringement, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court ruled that intermediaries can be held liable for secondary infringement only if they have knowledge of the infringing activities. However, if the intermediary engages in acts of infringement themselves, they would be subject to punishment.

When copyright infringement falls within the purview of Section 51 of the Copyright Act, the legislation provides both civil and criminal remedies to combat these infringements.

Section 55 empowers the copyright owner with a range of civil remedies, including injunctions, damages, and accounts, as conferred by the law to address the infringement of their rights.

  1. Injunctions serve as restraining orders, compelling the defendant to cease and desist from further acts of infringement. Such orders may include directives to halt the publication, screening, or distribution of artistic works, ensuring immediate protection of the copyright owner's rights.
  2. Damages can be granted by the court as compensation for the losses incurred by the plaintiff as a result of the infringement.
  3. Additionally, accounts can be sought, compelling the defendant to provide a detailed report of the profits generated from the sale of copied materials.

Criminal Remedies

According to Section 63 of the Copyright Act, individuals who knowingly engage in infringement of copyright or aid and abet such infringement can face criminal liability. The Act prescribes a minimum imprisonment term of not less than six months and a fine of not less than fifty thousand rupees for such offenses.

Further, Section 63A establishes an enhanced penalty for repeat offenders. If an individual is convicted for the second time under Section 63, they will face a minimum imprisonment term of not less than one year and a fine of not less than one lakh rupees.

Moreover, under Section 63B, individuals who knowingly utilize infringing copies of computer programs on a computer can be subjected to a minimum imprisonment term of seven days and a fine of not less than fifty thousand rupees.


Copyright infringement is a pressing concern in the digital era, where the ease of sharing and accessing information has heightened the risk of unauthorized use of creative works. Robust infringement laws are essential to ensure that creators have the exclusive rights to enjoy the rewards of their literary and artistic works. It is crucial for copyright holders to assess and recognize various types of infringement and safeguard their intellectual property using the methods outlined in the law.

At KSK, we understand the significance of robust infringement laws in safeguarding the rights of creators and protecting their intellectual property. Our firm is dedicated to assisting clients in navigating the intricacies of copyright law and providing them with comprehensive support in cases of infringement. Through our expert team of legal professionals, we offer tailored strategies and solutions to address infringement of copyright.


What actions can be considered copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement refers to the unauthorized use, reproduction, distribution, or exploitation of someone's copyrighted work without obtaining proper permission from the owner. This includes activities such as copying and distributing literary works, reproducing artistic creations, broadcasting copyrighted content without authorization, or using copyrighted material in a commercial context without the owner's consent.

What remedies are available to copyright holders in cases of infringement?

Copyright holders have a range of remedies available to them in cases of infringement. These include seeking injunctions to prevent further infringement, pursuing damages to compensate for financial losses resulting from the infringement, and requesting the infringing party to provide an account of profits made from the unauthorized use of the copyrighted work. In some instances, criminal penalties may apply, leading to fines or imprisonment for the infringing parties.

Can copyright infringement occur on the internet?

Yes, copyright infringement can occur on the internet. With the proliferation of digital content sharing platforms, social media, and file-sharing networks, unauthorized copying, distribution, and sharing of copyrighted material have become more prevalent. This includes illegally downloading or streaming movies, music, books, software, and other copyrighted works without the necessary rights or licenses.

[1]The Copyright Act, 1957 [Act 14 of 1957]

[2]The Copyright Act, 1957 [Act 14 of 1957], Section 52

[3]Civic Chandran v. C. Ammini Amma, 1996 SCC OnLine Ker 63

[4]University of Oxford v. Rameshwari Photocopy Services, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 5128

[5]R.G. Anand v. Delux Films, (1978) 4 SCC 118

[6]Kartar Singh Giani v. Ladha Singh, 1934 SCC OnLine Lah 277

[7]MRF Limited v. Metro Tyres Limited, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8973

[8]Myspace Inc. v. Super Cassettes Industries Ltd., 2016 SCC OnLine Del 6382

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