Court Limits the Scope of ‘Fair Dealing’ under Copyright law

 This post was published on November 18, 2011.

The Delhi High Court, in a recent decision, has held that usage of copyrighted works in television programmes such as an interview with the artist does not amount to fair dealing. Indian domestic television Channel India TV was sued by Super Cassettes and Yash Raj Films in two separate suits for infringing their copyrights. The two suits were clubbed since the defendant was the same and the cause of actions were substantially similar. India TV used certain songs and movie clips belonging to the plaintiffs in some of its television programmes and broadcasted the same at multiple occasions without any authorisation.

The plaintiffs sought injunction against the defendant from engaging in public performance/communication to the public, reproduction, recording, distributing, broadcasting or otherwise publishing or exploiting any cinematographic films, sound recordings, literary works or musical works in which the plaintiffs own the copyright. The defendant’s defence ranged from denying the copyright of the plaintiffs to claiming fair use. In specific the defendant claimed that the usage made were for either reporting current events or to describe an artist or for review and honest criticism and hence the same is covered under the exception of fair dealing under the copyright law.

The court, categorically ruled that “the  there is absolutely no review or criticism of the sound recording or the cinematograph films, or of the literary, or musical works performed by artists during the course of the said programme. It is, out and out, an entertainment programme with some information about the performer sprinkled here and there. There is hardly any intellectual input, in the making of the programme, contributed either by the anchor or by the defendant, India TV. It is, plain and simple, a commercial exploitation of the copyright works of, inter alia, the plaintiffs Super Cassettes and Yashraj Films by the defendant.

The decision comes as an alarm to most of the TV Channels who have been indiscriminately using movie clips and songs in their programmes without due authorisation under the guise of reporting current events or review and criticism.

Leave a comment