Recap 2021 – Indian Copyright Case Laws

In this post, we bring to you few Copyright Cases decided by Indian Courts in the year 2021:-

Sony Pictures Network India Pvt. Ltd. vs. And Ors

In this case, Sony Pictures filed a suit against numerous defendants primarily praying for a permanent injunction against reproducing, making available, distributing, broadcasting, and so on of the cricket matches between India’s tours of England and Sri Lanka. During the pendency of the suit, Sony Pictures prayed for an interim injunction asking for more or less similar reliefs.

The Court granted an injunction in favour of Sony Pictures against websites including their redirects, mirrors and alpha-numeric versions. A dynamic injunction was also granted against rogue websites, which may reproduce, broadcast, make available, communicate to public or distribute the cricket matches. The Court also passed an order asking ISPs to block the mentioned and other rogue websites, and asked Government of India to give appropriate directions to prevent infringement of copyrights of Sony Pictures in the matches.

The interim injunction also covered MSOs and cable operators, and local commissioners were appointed to monitor and act against violations of the Court’s orders. The Court’s orders primarily cover the copyrights held by Sony Pictures, and   by implication permits non-infringing uses and fair uses of the content pertaining to the cricket matches between India and England/Sri Lanka.

Citation: Sony Pictures Network India Pvt. Ltd. vs. And Ors., High Court of Delhi, CS(COMM) 289/2021 decide on – 4.06.2021 available at –

Krishna Kishore Singh vs. Sarla A. Saraogi & Ors., High Court of Delhi

In this case, the Delhi High Court refused to grant an interim injunction against publication and release of films purportedly related to Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) as the plaintiff, SSR’s father failed to make out a prima facie case, and because irreparable harm and balance of convenience were in favour of the defendants. The plaintiff in the case argued that films and series such as ‘NYAY The Justice,’ ‘Suicide or Murder,’ and ‘Shashank,’ must be injuncted and restrained from being released, published and communicated to the public. The plaintiff filed the case on several grounds including violation of publicity rights and privacy rights, right to fair trial, defamation, and violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.
After reviewing the facts and relevant cases, the Court came to the conclusion that the plaintiff failed to make out a valid case for violation of celebrity or publicity rights of SSR or his family members because the plaintiff was not aware of the content of the films, the defendants were not using SSR’s image, likeness or name, and because the films had appropriate disclaimers. It also pointed out that celebrity rights may not subsist after the death of the celebrity, and that facts that form part of the public record may be used by the defendants without liability. About defamation, the Court stated that a case of defamation is merely speculative without access to the defamatory content.

The Court also pointed out that no violation of the right to fair trial may be contemplated because of publication in news or by way of films. It went on to note that freedom of expression prevails over Article 21 for information that forms part of the public record. While denying the injunction, it asked the defendants to render accounts as any damage may be compensated by way of damages.

Citation: Krishna Kishore Singh vs. Sarla A. Saraogi & Ors., High Court of Delhi, CS(COMM) 187/2021 – 10.06.2021 –

Dassault System Solidworks Corporation & Anr. vs. Spartan Engineering Industries Pvt. Ltd. Anr.

In this case, the Delhi High Court has dealt with the issue of copyright infringement of software. Plaintiff no.1 is a French company which has developed a software called ‘Solidworks’. This software facilitates modelling and development of products in a three-dimensional environment. Plaintiff no.2 is a sister concern established by Plaintiff no.1 to manage all its affairs with respect to ‘Solidworks’ in India.
Plaintiff no.1 and Plaintiff no.2 (“Plaintiffs”), state that the software was developed by their employees as work for hire, and hence the copyright therein belongs to the Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs claim that the software program and its instruction manuals are literary work under the Copyright Act, 1957 (Act) and is entitled to copyright protection. The software was first published in the United States of America (US) and is entitled to protection in India under Section 40 of the Copyright Act as India and the US are members of the Berne Convention, Universal Copyright Convention and the World Trade Organisation’s TRIPS Agreement.

The Plaintiffs allege that in May 2018, the Plaintiffs received information regarding the commercial use of pirated and unauthorised versions of the ‘Solidworks’ software program by the Defendants, without paying the required  license fee. The Plaintiffs further asserted that such unauthorized use of the software had increased since August, 2020 and all efforts to reach an amicable resolution were futile, as the Defendants were denying infringement.

Following this, the Plaintiffs approached the Court seeking an injunction, as use of any pirated or unauthorised copy of the Plaintiffs’ software program would amount to copyright infringement under Section 51 of the Copyright Act. The Plaintiffs also relied on Section 63B of the Act, which makes it a criminal offence to knowingly use a pirated computer program. Further, the Plaintiffs asserted that, there has also been a contractual infringement and intellectual property infringement, due to the violation of the End User License Agreement by the Defendants.

While issuing the order, the court remarked that, “Software infringement is a serious issue, and deserves to be nipped in the bud”. The Court granted the Plaintiffs an ad interim ex-parte injunction, restraining the Defendants from using, reproducing and distributing any pirated or unlicensed or unauthorized software programs owned by the Plaintiffs and also from formatting their computer systems and/or erasing any data, pertaining to assisting others to infringe the Plaintiffs’ copyright.

Citation: Dassault System Solidworks Corporation & Anr. vs. Spartan Engineering Industries Pvt. Ltd. Anr., High Court of Delhi, CS(COMM) 34/2021 – 28.01.2021

Mr. John Hart Jr. & Anr. vs. Mr. Mukul Deora & Ors, High Court of Delhi

In this case, Plaintiff No. 1 claims to be vested with the exclusive copyright to make a movie adaptation of the book “The White Tiger” authored by Mr. Aravind Adiga by virtue of a Literary Option/Purchase Agreement dated 4th March, 2009. Plaintiff no.1 and Plaintiff no.2 (“Plaintiffs”), have approached the Court at the eleventh hour to seek an injunction restricting the release of the film “The White Tiger” (‘Film’) produced by Defendant No. 1 to be released on the streaming platform, Netflix. The Plaintiffs assert that when it came to their knowledge that Netflix was in the process of making and releasing the film, a cease-and-desist notice dated 4th October, 2019, was sent by Plaintiff No. 2 to Defendant No. 1. Further, the Plaintiffs stated that allowing the release of the film would result in irreparable injury, as the Plaintiffs planned to release the film in Hollywood. The Plaintiffs also attempted to justify the delay in approaching the Court by stating that the delay was unavoidable as the Plaintiffs were unaware of the fact that Defendants were shooting the film during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The court opined that no case exists for grant of any interlocutory injunction and the case constitutes a misuse of the judicial process. The court held that, “The Plaintiffs were aware of the possibility of the film being released on the Netflix platform at least from 4th October, 2019. There is not a scintilla of material produced on record to justify the Plaintiffs approaching this court less than 24 hours prior to the release of the subject film, seeking stay thereof.” The court relies on several precedents to elucidate that a Plaintiff who approaches the court at the eleventh hour, seeking an interlocutory injunction against the release of a cinematographic film, is disentitled to any such relief. A delay in approaching the Court for an equitable relief is always fatal.

The Delhi High Court held that the balance of convenience favours the Defendants and by granting an injunction at the eleventh hour, greater irreparable loss and injury would be caused. The Plaintiffs stand disentitled from seeking any interlocutory injunction against the release of the film on the ground of unconscionable delay in approaching the court. The court nevertheless directed the defendants to keep detailed accounts of the earnings made from the film so that, if the Plaintiffs were to succeed in the future, the account details would facilitate in awarding damages or monetary compensation.

Citation: Mr. John Hart Jr. & Anr. vs. Mr. Mukul Deora & Ors, High Court of Delhi, CS (Comm) 38/2021 – 21.01.2021 –

Aman Chhabra And 7 Ors vs Trac Entertainment Pvt Ltd And 6 Ors.

In this case involving the copyright of two music videos, “Pyar Ko Na Kaho” and “Lutti Heer,” the Appellant contested the order of the Single Judge vacating an interlocutory consent order restraining the Respondents from commercially exploiting the songs. On appeal, the Division Bench reversed the order of the Single Judge stating that time ought to be given to the Appellants to contest the interim application filed by the Respondents to vacate the interlocutory consent order. This is required as several facts that formed the basis for vacation were disputable and should have been considered by the Single Judge. The Division Bench also pointed out that as the attempts by the Respondents to commercially exploit the songs yielded no financial returns, and that the songs can be taken down from the platform, Believe International, at any time, no third party rights have been created, and therefore, the interlocutory consent order may be in force until the Single Judge decides that matter after hearing the parties.
Citation: Aman Chhabra And 7 Ors vs Trac Entertainment Pvt Ltd And 6 …, Decided by Bombay High Court on 3 July, 2021, available at:

Unknown vs Iquest Enterprises Private Ltd. and Others

In this case, the primary question before the Madras High Court was with respect to ownership of satellite rights pertaining to the Telegu film, Pelli Koduku. Like many other films of the nineties, the agreements with respect to transfer of rights with respect to this film were not worded very clearly, and copyright terms were not always clearly expressed. Also, many of these films are the subject of multiple transfers, which in this case includes at least five. Owing to ambiguity of rights, duplicity of right transfers was common, and in this case, the plaintiff prayed for a declaration of copyright ownership over satellite rights.
After reviewing the first transfer agreement, the Court came to the conclusion that the initial transfer included satellite rights also. Based on the conclusion, the Court stated that the subsequent transfer to the plaintiff was not valid. As the transfer/assignment was not valid, the Court concluded that the plaintiff does not hold the satellite rights asserted.
Citation: Unknown vs Iquest Enterprises Private Ltd and Others, Decided by Madras High Court on 14 July, 2021, available at:

Muthoot Finance Limited vs Shalini Kalra & Ors.

In this case, the Plaintiff, Muthoot Finance Limited, a non-banking financial institution, provided business and personal loans against the deposit of gold jewellery. As a part of this business the Plaintiff had to maintain proprietary and confidential information related to its vast customer base in the form of a database which in turn constituted a ‘literary work’ as under Section 2(o) of the Copyright Act, 1957 and it also amounted to trade secrets of Plaintiff which ought not be disclosed to any third party. The Defendants no. 1 to 4 herein were the former employees of the Plaintiff. At the time of joining the employment, each of them had duly signed the non-disclosure undertaking as provided in the appointment letter along with a Declaration of fidelity. The main allegation in the plaint was that the Defendant No. 1 & 4, during the course of their employment, had unauthorizedly and illegally downloaded, extracted, copied and later on transmitted the confidential information of the Plaintiff’s customers to Defendant No 2 & 3 along with employees of Defendant No.5, a company engaged in similar services as that of the Plaintiff. Thus, the Plaintiff’s customer base started drifting towards the Defendant No.5. Eventually Defendant 1 & 3 on being terminated by the Plaintiff, in turn joined the employment under Defendant 5. Aggrieved by this, the Plaintiff filed a criminal complaint against Defendant No. 1 to 5 with the Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, New Delhi. However, there were similar instances of disclosure of confidential information at various other branches of the Plaintiff which in turn resulted in a loss of around 9 crore rupees to the Plaintiff. Thus, the Plaintiff again lodged an FIR at PS Special Offences and Cyber Crime under the relevant sections of IPC and IT Act. The plaint herein also averred that Defendant No.5 was poaching the Plaintiff’s employees and customers with the aid of the information illegally obtained by the Defendants.
Hence the Plaintiff moved this court seeking a decree of permanent injunction thereby restraining the Defendants and any other person acting on behalf of/through them from using/disclosing any confidential information pertaining to the Plaintiff, using/infringing any copyright or other IP rights belonging to the Plaintiff, from directly or indirectly luring/canvassing any of the Plaintiff’s customers, inducing any of the Plaintiff’s employees to quit employment or provoke them to join the Defendant No.5 or any of its businesses, and to give up all the said confidential information/trade secrets in hand. The Plaintiff also sought damages of Rs.2,00,01,000/- payable to the Plaintiff jointly and severally by Defendants 1 to 5 together with an interest of 18% p.a. till the date of payment. The Court herein issued summons to the Defendants and gave them an opportunity to file a written statement (if any). And pertaining to the IA filed by the Plaintiff, the court ordered an interim injunction restraining the Defendants from disclosing or using any confidential information, trade secrets or any other information, pertaining to the business and operations of the Plaintiff Company, and from using proprietary content of any nature, including copyright and other intellectual property rights of the Plaintiff Company or doing any acts or deeds that will infringe/dilute the Plaintiff Company’s intellectual property rights.
Citation: Muthoot Finance Limited vs Shalini Kalra & Ors, Decided by Delhi High Court – Orders on 13th September, 2021, available at:

Progress Software Solutions vs DCIT

In this case, the Appellant (Assessee) was a resident company involved in the business of trading and sale of software license and development of computer software. For the assessment year 2009-10, the Assessee filed the return of income declaring Rs.89,29,099/- as loss. But originally the assessment was completed later on in 2011, which was computed after making few disallowances as u/s 143(3) of the Act. On an appeal against this assessment order to the learned Commissioner (Appeals), partial relief was granted, by deleting one of the disallowances. Still being aggrieved by the same additions repeated once again in the fresh assessment, the Assessee again approached the Tribunal.
With regard to the disallowance of Rs.23,50,466/-, the Assessee put forth the contention that by merely being a distributor, the payment so made to Savvion, USA (a non-resident company) for the purchase of a copyrighted article for the purpose of reselling was not in the nature of royalty under either U/A 12 of Indo-USA tax treaty or u/s 9(1)(vi) of the Act, and therefore tax deducted at source as u/s 195 of the Act was not required. Thus, the court analysed whether a copyrighted article was genuinely purchased for the purpose of resale/distribution or whether it was done for some internal use or according to the convenience and own will of the Assessee. After verifying the reseller agreement, the court concluded that the license granted therein was not for purpose of any internal use. The Court found that the agreement also restricted the reseller/any other third party from translating, modifying, extending, de-assembling or reversing the said copyrighted article (the software program herein). The reseller too acknowledged and agreed that on occasion of any unauthorized use/disclosure/copying of the software program, it would be liable for remedies and consequential actions from Savvion, USA. Citing few judicial pronouncements of the Hon’ble SC, it was averred that when a non-transferable and non-exclusive license to resell a copyrighted article without actually transferring the copyright in the said article was provided to the ultimate end-user/distributor, then there was no additional right granted to sub-license/transfer/reverse/reproduce/modify anything, other than that allowed by virtue of the license given to the ultimate user. It was agreed by the Tribunal that payment made for the purchase of copyrighted article for the purpose of distribution was not in the nature of royalty and hence the grounds were allowed and thus the concerned disallowance was thereby deleted.
Citation : Progress Software Solutions … vs Dcit 13(1)(2), Mumbai, Decided by Income Tax Appellate Tribunal – Mumbai on 30th August, 2021, available at :

Cristina Maiorescu vs M/S Nishangi Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. and Ors.

The Plaintiff, a professional photographer filed a suit against the Defendants seeking direction from the Bangalore District Court for payment of a sum of Rs.1,56,025/- towards an invoice for services provided by her, with interest at the rate of 12% per annum. The Plaintiff entered an agreement with the Defendants for providing photography services with respect to products to be sold by the Defendant No.1, a company operating a chain of eateries/beverage stations under the name and style ‘Frootality’ in Hyderabad and Bangalore. As per the agreement, a sum of Rs.2,23,000/- was to be paid by the Defendants to the Plaintiff, who had to provide 62 photographs in two phases. Further, in pursuance of the agreement, the Defendant No.1 paid a sum of Rs.1,00,000/- to the Plaintiff as advance.
It was alleged by the Plaintiff that after completion of her assignment, she raised an invoice and Defendants neither raised any objections regarding the completion of the assignment nor made the payment. It was also the case of the Plaintiff that the Defendants No.1 and 2 utilized various services of the Plaintiff outside the scope of photography assignment and she also permitted the Defendant No.3 to reside with her. The Plaintiff alleged that she incurred an expense to the tune of Rs. 3,85,000/- in fulfilling these and that the Defendants blatantly violated her intellectual property rights.
The Court held that owing to the facts and circumstances of the case, the burden was on the Plaintiff to prove that she provided photography services to the Defendant and that the Defendants were liable to pay damages and compensation for the additional services rendered by the Plaintiff and for unlawful use of photographs clicked by her. The Plaintiff placed on record evidence which included a copy of email communications between Plaintiff and Defendants, a copy of the invoice, a C.D. containing photographs, screenshots of websites of defendants, and a copy of the notice. The Court, after examining the evidence, concluded that the Plaintiff successfully established that she provided the services to the defendant, who agreed to pay the amount that was claimed by her and the interest amount was also held to be appropriate. However, with regards to the additional services and unlawful use of photographs, except the issuance of notice no other evidence was available. The Court held that in absence of any cogent material, Plaintiff was not entitled for damages and compensation as claimed in the plaint.
Citation: Cristina Maiorescu vs M/S Nishangi Enterprises Pvt. Ltd, on 24 September, 2021, available at:

Saregama India Limited v. Next Radio Limited & Ors.

The Apex Court, in the instant case, set aside an interim order passed by the Madras High Court, which held that copyrighted material cannot be broadcasted without prior notice as per Rule 29(4) of the Copyright Rules, 2013. The High Court had modified specific provisions of the Rule and applied it to the broadcasters, by opining that the Rule lacked flexibility and created difficulties for the broadcasters. The mandate to furnish the particulars in the notice was revised to fifteen days as against 24 hours. Moreover, the High Court rendered the second proviso under the Rule regarding prior notice as a mere routine procedure instead of an exception loosening the grips on broadcasters. The Petitioner pointed out that this modification would be applicable pan-India and create disparity regarding the Rule. Various landmark cases were relied on by the Petitioner in establishing the settled principle of law, which prohibited the judiciary from modifying or rewriting the words in a Statute while interpreting the law. While setting aside the interim order, the Supreme Court opined that the Courts were not empowered to revise or rewrite the provisions of a Statute by way of judicial review. Emphasis was laid on the fact that the powers to make and rewrite laws vested with the Legislature. Furthermore, the Court did not deliberate on the merits of the respondent’s submission concerning the validity of Rule 29(4).
Citation: Saregama India Limited v. Next Radio Limited & Ors., decided by the Supreme Court on 27th September, 2021, available at:

Narendra Hirawat And Co. vs Aftab Music Industries & Anr.

Plaintiff Narendra Hirawat and Co. filed a suit against the Defendants for violating consent terms and breaching film rights accorded to the Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs claimed that despite the existence of an agreement which granted the Plaintiffs perpetual rights over certain movies produced by the Defendants, the latter uploaded it on their YouTube Channel. The Plaintiffs argued that the Defendants accepted the Plaintiffs’ right over the film in perpetuity by relying on the Consent Terms mentioned in a suit filed in 2012. The Defendants countered this by alleging that they had only granted ‘Internet Rights’ and not ‘YouTube Rights’ to the Plaintiffs. However, the High Court of Bombay rendered the Defendants’ arguments ‘non-sensical’ by holding that ‘YouTube Rights’ fall within the ambit of ‘Internet Rights’ and the two cannot be dealt with separately. The Court added that YouTube could not function without the existence of the Internet hence denying the standalone ‘YouTube Rights’ claimed by the Defendants.
The Court ordered the Defendants to stop infringing the rights accorded to the Plaintiffs, and to cease storing or making copies of the films on any platform. The Court explicitly forbade the Defendants from representing their non-existent right over the films to any third party. Although the Court opined that exemplary and punitive costs are to be imposed along with issuing a contempt notice to the Defendants for having intentionally breached the agreement, no such imposition or issuance of notice were ordered. The Court denied the Defendants their right to reply by stating that the Defendants were dishonest and failed to adhere to the commitments made to the Court.
Citation: Narendra Hirawat and Co. vs Aftab Music Industries & Anr. on 28th September, 2021, available at:

M/s. Sun T.V. Network Ltd. v. M/s. Shree CMR Productions

The Plaintiff filed a suit seeking a declaration that it was the exclusive copyright holder of a Kannada film “ADDHURI”, along with a permanent injunction against the Defendant No. 2. The Defendant No. 1 assigned the copyrights in the film to Plaintiff perpetually, and consequently the Plaintiff became the absolute copyright owner of the said film, and could broadcast it without geographical area restrictions. On 02.03.2016, Defendant No. 2 telecast the songs from the said movie without permission or licence from the Plaintiff.
The Court examined Censor Certificate, the copyright assignment deed, and the supplementary agreement. The Court found that the assignment agreements showed that the Plaintiff was the exclusive copyright holder. The Court held that by telecasting the songs on 02.03.2016, Defendant No. 2 infringed the Plaintiff’s copyright, as it was done without obtaining any permission or licence from Plaintiff.
Citation: M/S. Sun Tv Network Ltd vs M/S. Shree Cmr Productions, Decided by Madras High Court, on 7 September, 2021, available at:

M/s. Sun TV Network Ltd. v. M/s. Nitin Productions & Anr.

Defendant Nitin Productions assigned the copyright of the film “HUDUGAATA” in favour of the Plaintiff after receipt of the agreed consideration. By virtue of the agreement, the Plaintiff became the absolute copyright owner of the aforementioned film which included satellite rights, radio rights and other similar rights perpetually. However, Defendant M/s. Public TV, telecast songs from the film without obtaining prior permission. The Plaintiff, which held the copyright of both digital and negative format of the film, alleged that the Defendant had illicitly telecast the songs of the film by making use of pirated CDs. After perusing the exhibits submitted, the High Court of Madras found a valid agreement and also found that the Defendant made use of pirated CDs. In an ex-parte hearing, the Court declared that the Plaintiff was the exclusive copyright holder of the film and granted a permanent injunction against the Defendants, as they had no right to telecast the film or any part thereof.
Citation:  M/s. Sun TV Network Ltd. v. M/s. Nitin Productions & Anr. on 7th September, 2021, available at:

M/s. Sun TV Network Ltd. v. Mr. B.V. Ravindranath & Anr.

The producers assigned the copyright over the Kannada film ‘JEEVA’ to the Defendant Mr. B.V. Ravindranath, who in turn assigned the same in favour of the Plaintiff. By virtue of the agreement, the Plaintiff became the absolute copyright owner of the aforementioned film which included broadcasting via satellite, radio and other similar platforms perpetually. However, Defendant M/s. Public TV, telecast a song from the film without obtaining prior permission from the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff alleged that the defendant had illicitly telecast songs of the film using pirated copies. The High Court of Madras inspected the exhibits put forth by the Plaintiff which included the assignment agreement and pirated CD of the film. The court found that the assignment agreement was valid, and also found the Defendant to have made use of pirated copies of the film. In the ex-parte hearing, the Court declared that the Plaintiff was the exclusive copyright holder of the film and granted permanent injunction against the Defendants, prohibiting them from telecasting the film or any part of it on their channel.
Citation: M/s. Sun TV Network Ltd. v. Mr. B.V. Ravindranath & Anr. on 7th September, 2021, available at

M/s Sun TV Network Ltd. v. Mr. P. Ramesh

The producer of the film, M/s Megha Movies, assigned the entire copyrights for a Kannada film in favour of Defendant No. 1 (P. Ramesh) on October 11th, 2012, who in turn passed on the copyrights permanently to the Plaintiff after 19 days. Thus, the Plaintiff became absolute owner of copyright for the Kannada film titled “EDEGARIKE” to broadcast it through any satellite system, broadcasting service, mode of transmission. or any form of communication. Defendant No. 2, M/s Public TV, telecast songs from the film in March 2016. The Plaintiff argued that it was the exclusive copyright holder for negatives and digital format of the movie, and that Defendant No. 2 was not allowed to exploit the film partially or fully without paying licensing fee or seeking permission. The relief of declaration was granted by the Madras High Court because the assignment deed in favour of the Defendant No. 1 from the first owner (producer) and further assignment towards Plaintiff by the 1st Defendant showed that the Plaintiff had full copyrights for the film. Defendant No. 2 also did not approach the Court to justify release of the pirated version of the song made on CD through television without the permission of the copyright holder (Plaintiff), thus relief of permanent injunction (ex-parte order) was granted by the Court in favour of the Plaintiff.
Citation: M/s Sun TV Network Ltd. vs Mr. P. Ramesh, Decided by The Madras High Court on 7th September, 2021, available at

Mrs. Sellappapa Keeran v. S. Vijayaraghavan & Anr.

The Plaintiff, Mrs. Sellappapa Keeran, wife of late Pulavar Keeran, a famous religious Hindu preacher and historian, sought a declaration from the Madras High Court that she was the rightful owner of the copyright of her husband’s works. She also filed for an injunction against the Defendants, asking them to surrender all master tapes containing original recordings of the speeches, lectures and discourses and in any other form like cassettes or CDs.  Pulavar Keeran had met Defendant No. 1., S. Vijayaraghavan, who was the proprietor of Vani Recording Co., a small audio cassette shop in 1987, and decided to record his concerts in the form of 38 cassettes between 1987 and 1990 and sell them so they could be listened to at people’s convenience. He allowed Defendant No. 1 to promote the cassettes in exchange for incurring the expenses involved in making the recordings. Defendant No. 1 also sold certain cassettes through a dealer, along with a temporary mutually beneficial agreement based on the market and the number of copies sold.
The Plaintiff claimed that her husband did permit any further reproduction after a formal agreement laying down the profit-sharing ratio was in place. He did not part with the copyright, and was not paid by Defendant No. 1 for his recordings. He suffered a brain hemorrhage in 1990, so he only completed recording 12 of his works. The Plaintiff entrusted the master tapes with Defendant No. 1 based on his assurance that he would keep it safe and maintain them well in his shop, but intended to retain the copyright of her husband’s works. S. Vijayaraghavan commercially exploited the recorded works, against the Plaintiff’s wishes, while she was abroad. The Plaintiff’s counsel stated that as per Section 2(d) and Section 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957, the Plaintiff would be the rightful copyright owner as she was a legal heir, and Defendant No. 1 did not assist in the capacity of a producer.

The counsel for the Defendants claimed that the sound recordings were the work of a producer, which in this case was Defendant No. 1. They also claimed that the present suit was filed back in 2004, and was thus barred by limitation as it was 13 years after the preacher’s death in 1990. The Court stated that this argument did not hold water, because the copyright was valid till 1/1/1991, i.e. 60 years from beginning of the next calendar year after the death of Pulavar Keeran. The Court analysed Section 2(d), 13, 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957 and Section 2 of the Berne Convention. The Court held that the copyright holder would be the Plaintiff, and granted a permanent injunction against the Defendants, restraining them from using, selling, distributing, broadcasting as a whole or exploiting the literary works in isolation (transcript of speeches) through any media.

Citation: Mrs. Sellappapa Keeran vs S. Vijayaraghavan & Anr., Decided by The Madras High Court on 1st September, 2021, available: at

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Please note that these case updates have been put together from different sources, primary and secondary, and BananaIP’s reporters may not have verified all the decisions published in the bulletin. You may write to [email protected]  for corrections and take down.



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