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February 23, 2024

Court Case Bulletin (CCB): Lodging FIR Alleging Copyright Infringement Can Render The Remedy Against Threat Of Legal Proceedings Infructuous

Author: Shreyak Patnaik

In the matter of Manya Vejju v. Sapna Bhog [2023:BHC-AS:37466], a Single Judge (N. J. Jamada, J.) of the High Court of Bombay, vide judgment dated December 13, 2023, held that FIR alleging copyright infringement can render the remedy against threat of legal proceedings infructuous.

Section 60 of The Copyright Act, 1957 states that “Where any person claiming to be the owner of copyright…threatens any other person with any legal proceedings or liability in respect of an alleged infringement of the copyright, any person aggrieved thereby may… institute a declaratory suit that the alleged infringement… was not in fact an infringement..”. The proviso, however, clarifies that “…this section shall not apply if the person making such threats, with due diligence, commences and prosecutes an action for infringement of the copyright…”. The question that arises is whether lodging an FIR can be considered an “action” for infringement of copyright, under proviso to Section 60, thereby providing immunity against remedies for groundless threats of legal proceeding.

The Appellant-Defendant, filing the instant appeal against the order of the District Court restraining it from giving groundless threat of legal proceeding alleging infringement, contended that since both civil and criminal remedies are available to copyright owner under Copyright Act, 1957, an FIR should constitute an “action” within the meaning of proviso to Section 60, thereby rendering the instant suit infructuous.

The Respondent-Plaintiff contended that a criminal enforcement action is not an “action” contemplated by the proviso to Section 60. The respondent further submitted that the action contemplated under the proviso to Section 60 must be an action in which there could be effective and complete adjudication which was only possible before the Court.

The Court, while holding that FIR can be considered an “action” as mentioned in the proviso, observed that “Indisputably, the infringement of copyright gives rise to both civil and criminal liability. Where…FIR is lodged with all the particulars requisite for determination of the question of infringement of copyright, which eventually leads to a trial on the question of infringement of copyright, it would be rather difficult to hold that the FIR would not constitute an action within the meaning of the proviso to Section 60…”. The Court, however, clarified that “whether FIR constitutes a threat of groundless action under the main part of Section 60 or constitutes an ‘action’ under the proviso thereto, turns on the facts of the given case”.

Disclaimer: Views, opinions, interpretations are solely those of the author, not of the firm (ALG India Law Offices LLP) nor reflective thereof. Author submissions are not checked for plagiarism or any other aspect before being posted.

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