The main contention of the Plaintiff was that the rogue websites, Defendant Nos. 1 to 18, may potentially transmit or distribute unauthorised copies of the film on multiple websites. Such actions could directly harm the Plaintiff’s business, devalue the film, and constitute copyright infringement. When the lawsuit was initially filed solely against Defendant Nos. 1 to 39, the Court issued an interim injunction on September 2nd, 2022.
Despite being aware of the order issued by this Court on September 2nd, 2022, Defendant Nos. 1-3 and 6-11 persistently engaged in copyright infringement of the Plaintiff's content. They also attempted to bypass the Court’s orders by establishing mirror/redirect rogue websites for domains that had already been blocked by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the Department of Telecommunications (DOT).
Therefore, Plaintiff argues that the court should issue a judgment in their favour while including substantial costs against all the websites named Defendants in the present case. Consequently, the court passed an order in favour of the Plaintiff to curb the Defendants’ piracy activities and copyright infringement.
The issue was unauthorised and unlawful distribution of the movie ‘Brahmastra Part One: Shiva.’
The Plaintiff argued that because the film constitutes a ‘cinematograph film’ involving both visual and sound recordings, any form of hosting, streaming, or making the film available to the public without the Plaintiff’s authorisation, regardless of the method or platform used, would constitute infringe Plaintiff’s copyright.
Furthermore, Plaintiff emphasised that the rogue websites, with the intention of illicitly profiting from it, are distributing unauthorised copies of film to the general public, even when the film has only been recently released for theatrical screening.
The Plaintiff presented a screenshot of the film being broadcasted on one of the Defendant’s rogue websites. The counsel for the Plaintiff contended that it demonstrates that these mirror websites were unlawfully streaming Plaintiff’s film.
Considering the substantial investments made by the Plaintiff in both the production and promotion of the film and the exclusive rights granted to them under the Copyright Act, the Court concurred with the Plaintiff’s arguments. The Court held that if the rogue websites were to transmit the film in any way or on any platform, especially around the time of its theatrical release i.e., September 9, 2022, or shortly after that, it would have a significant financial impact on the Plaintiff’s film.
The Court reaffirmed its stance of dynamic injunction via two judgments, Department of Electronics and Information Technology v. Star India Private Limited, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 4160 and UTV Software Communication Ltd. and Ors. v 1337X.TO and Ors. Subsequently, the Court held that piracy must be firmly addressed and granted an injunction against the screening of copyrighted material by rogue websites.
Additionally, as the websites were involved in streaming or engaging in copyright infringement against the Plaintiff, the Court granted Rs. 20,00,000/- as damages, to be collectively and individually paid by the mirror websites. In accordance with the ruling of the Honorable Supreme Court in the case of Uflex Ltd. v. Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors., [Civil Appeal Nos.4862-4863 of 2021, decided on 17th September, 2021] the Court has issued a decree for the reimbursement of actual costs.
The illegal distribution of cinematograph films significantly results in financial losses in the film industry. Over time, legal decisions have upheld film producers’ rights in cinematographic works. Moreover, efforts have been made through legislative measures to combat piracy. Notably, amendments have been made to the Cinematograph Act of 1952 with the aim to address piracy more rigorously. The Cinematograph (Amendment) Act, 2023, was officially enacted and notified on August 4, 2023, to tackle the issue of film piracy.
The primary objective of the amendment is to discourage film piracy by imposing penalties on individuals engaged in the unauthorised recording and distribution of copyrighted audio-visual content. These provisions notably involve Section 9(1A) of the Amendment Act, which raises the imprisonment term from 3 months to 3 years and increases the fine from Rs. 3 lakhs to 5% of the audited gross production cost. Additionally, the insertion of new sections 6AA and 6AB in Section 8, which deals with the prohibition of unauthorised recording and prohibition of unauthorised exhibition of films, respectively.
The current case highlights the proliferation of websites (both rogue and mirror), particularly regarding copyrighted materials that are relatively more established and popular. Nevertheless, in most instances, the individuals or organisations behind these infringing websites maintain anonymity or are known only to the Domain Name Registrars (DNRs). Given these circumstances, with no representation or defence filed, it is appropriate to grant a permanent injunction to prevent such infringements.