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Understanding Copyright Infringement and Protection Under Indian Law

Understanding Copyright Infringement and Protection Under Indian Law


A Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution. It is one of the strongest mechanisms through which one’s intellectual property is protected. Adequate and appropriate protection for the creator along with the accessibility of their work to the public in the continual process of learning and creating is very crucial. Copyright law is governed by a statute. The Copyright Act, of 1957 is the statutory law on copyright present in India. It was later amended in the year 2012. Under Section 52 of the Copyright Act, 1957, any person who uses any intellectual property of the creator without his permission or any license granted by the Registrar of Copyright, is deemed to have infringed the copyright.

Infringement of a copyright can also be understood as a trespass on private intellectual property which is owned and occupied by the owner or creator of the copyright. Therefore, it is protected by law and the infringement of the same would attract punishment according to the statute.


According to Section 51 of the Copyright Act, of 1957, copyright is infringed when – 

  • A person acts in the capacity of a copyright owner without obtaining permission for the same from the owner.
  • A person imports a work that consists of infringing material.
  • A person reproduces the work of the copyright owner without obtaining authority from the copyright owner.
  • A person allows the usage of his place for the communication, sale, distribution, or exhibition of an infringing work. An exception to this rule is the lack of knowledge of the act that was resulting in the violation of the copyright.

We see countless instances of copyright infringements in our daily lives like downloading songs or movies from an unauthorized resource. There are two types of copyright infringements under the Copyright Act, of 1957. They are – 

Primary Acts of infringement

Primary acts of infringement are defined under section 51 (a). Primary infringement is when the property of the copyright owner is copied. For example, if a person is downloading a movie from a pirated website. In some cases, only a part of the copyrighted property is copied, for example, downloading only certain portions of the movie, not the whole thing. To establish infringement in such cases, the owner of the copyright should establish that a substantial amount of the work is stolen or copied. In the case of C. Cunniah & Co. v. Balraj & Co.,1959 the court held that one picture is said to be a copy of another only if a substantial part of the content is found in the copied or reproduced content.

Secondary acts of infringement

Secondary acts of infringement refer to the infringement without actually copying it. These acts include selling, distributing, and importing infringing copies. In the case of Penguin Books Ltd. v. Indian Book Distributors, 1985 the court held that it is also an infringement of copyright if you knowingly import the infringed copies into India without the consent of the owner of the copyright.


In the case of Donoghue v. Allied Newspaper, Ltd, 1937. it was held that an idea however brilliant and clever if not put into words or expression cannot be copyrighted. Copyright is granted to works not ideas. It was held in the case of Harnam Pictures N.V. v. Osborn, 1967 that there were no copyrights in ideas, schemes, or systems and it is only confined to the subject of the work. A copyright is not infringed if someone takes the primary concept of the work and develops their own work based on the same idea. The Bombay High Court in the case of N.T. Raghunathan v. All India Reporter Ltd., Bombay,1957, held that the existing copyright law only protects the “expression of ideas”. It is also held that if the person steals the method and form of the expression of the idea is considered to be infringing the copyright of the owner. In the case of R.G. Anand v. Delux Films, 1978 the Supreme court laid down a few rules after careful consideration of the issue of copyright infringement. They are –

  • There can be no copyright infringement of an idea, theme, or subject – matter. Although a violation of copyright can be considered in cases of the expression of the said idea.
  • In cases where the same idea is being developed then the court should determine whether the similarities in the work are fundamental aspects of the expression of the idea. If the work is very similar in a substantial and material sense, then the copyright infringement is actionable.
  • If the theme is the same but the expression of it, i.e., the presentation of the idea is different then the question of infringement does not arise.

The concept of originality also arises in the case of the copyright of an idea. The concept of originality helps a lot to distinguish between an idea and an expression of an idea. Only the original way or manner of presentation of an idea is protected by copyright law.


The Copyright Act, of 1957 gives certain exclusive rights to the copyright owner and protects the same. In case of the infringement of those rights, the copyright owner is entitled to certain remedies under the Act. Under The Copyright Act, of 1957 two remedies are offered to the copyright owner. 

In the case of Dabur India Ltd. v. K.R. Industries, 2008, the Supreme Court observed that under Section 55 (1) of the Copyright Act, 1957 civil remedies for copyright infringement are provided. The provision empowers and authorizes the copyright holder to remedies by the way of injunctions, damages, etc. In the case of Entertainment Network (India) Ltd. v. Super Cassette Industries Ltd.,2014,  it was held that the civil remedies for infringement as mentioned under Sec. 55 can be enforced by a copyright society as well. 

A copyright holder is entitled to damages under section 55 (1) of the Copyright Act. Copyright infringement is considered a tort and the overriding principle in tort law is that damages should be compensatory. In Microsoft Corporation v. K. Mayuri, 2007 the court observed that in instances where there is a blatant infringement of the copyright owner, they can be awarded damages.

Section 63 of the Copyright Act, of 1957 states that copyright infringement is a criminal offense. The copyright holder has the right to take criminal proceedings against the infringer simultaneously. The criminal remedy serves as a complementary to the civil remedy available, not an alternative.


In conclusion, copyright infringement is a serious criminal offence in India and those found guilty of it can face hefty fines and even imprisonment. As a result, it is important to ensure that any work you create, or use, is not infringing on someone else’s copyright. Furthermore, businesses should take measures to ensure that they are not infringing on someone else’s copyrighted works. By doing so, they can protect themselves and the works they have invested in from infringement. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the different types of copyright infringement and the applicable laws in India. As such, it is important to seek legal advice if you are unsure about how to protect your works or how to use someone else’s works without infringing on their copyright. Ultimately, by being aware of the laws surrounding copyright in India, you can protect your works, and those of others, from infringement.

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