Rightfully Claiming Copyright Legal Remedies Available in Cases of Infringement

Although registration is important in modern Indian Copyright Law, the country's primary idea is to protect authors without the need for them to register their work. Anyone who makes copies of a work without the author's or copyright owner's permission can be prosecuted for infringement, which can result in damages,injunctive relief, or even criminal charges.

Fri Jul 01 2022 | Business Law | Comments (0)

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The notion that expressive works are entitled to protection without scrutiny and, in many cases, without registration undertook the development of copyright law. Pre-publication protection would have been impossible under common law if prior scrutiny was necessary, because one of the principal goals of protection was to preserve the privacy of authors. Although registration is important in modern Indian copyright law, the country's primary idea is to protect authors without the need for them to register.

Because copyright laws protect expressions that are fixed in a tangible medium, the author is protected as soon as the work is documented in some physical form. The author's work is protected for 60 years after his or her death under the Copyright Act of 1957 (the Act). In the case of original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, the 60-year period begins the year after the author's death.

Copyrightable and Non-Copyrightable Works

Are Ideas Copyrightable?

Copyright is reserved for the expression of an idea and does not extend to the very idea itself, according to the courts. When the expressive components of the work appear to be coextensive with the underlying idea, the courts are hesitant to give protection. In Baker v. Selden , for example, the copyrightability of an accounting system was at question. Because the defendants' account books were not organised in the same way as the original author's, the court decided that using the original author's principles or ideas, per se,  was not infringement. The court stressed the distinction between the art, or the book's subject matter, and the description of the art, or its expression. Although the expression of the accounting system in question was copyrightable, the idea behind it was not. Thus, infringement would have occurred if the original author's forms of account were copied verbatim. All that had been taken from the author was the idea, or the art, which is not protected under copyright laws because the defendants' account books were arranged differently.

The most fundamental question in this case is, of course, the copyrightability of ideas. The concept or the very idea cannot be monopolised because anyone can borrow it. Except for the protection against replicating the original explanation of the system, the original author of a similar system of accounting or business process has very little protection.

The Scope of Copyrightable Subject Matter:

The scope of copyrightable subject matter is determined by two basic principles:

  • the utilitarian-non-utilitarian or functional non-functional dichotomy, and
  • the idea expression dichotomy

The courts have time and now decided that when the utilitarian function and the non-utilitarian function are inseparable, there can be no protection or, conversely, that protection should not be fully denied when they are inseparable.

When there are limited methods to express a concept, the doctrine of merger is sometimes used to prevent copyrightability. The availability of various sorts of relief, as well as the idea-expression and utilitarian-non-utilitarian dichotomies, will determine whether or not a work is protected. The availability of patent or design patent protection, for example, may impact a court's decision to deny copyrightability. Although there is no legal prohibition against concurrent protection, the availability of other forms of protection, for example, may be significant to a court in assessing where a specific work falls on the functional-non-functional continuum.

Non-Copyrightable Subject Matter:

Because any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium from which the expression can be reproduced is copyrightable under the Act, there are only a few works left that are not covered by it. However, one topic intangible expressions remains firmly outside the scope of the Act. Choreography is an excellent example of this style of work. There is no law safeguarding a choreographer's creation of a dance or series of movements that is not reduced to a physical or tangible medium of expression. However, there is no doubt that protection would exist if the choreographer films their work and records it to choreographic notation.

Remedies Available in Cases of Infringement:

Anyone who makes copies of a work without the author's or copyright owner's permission can be prosecuted for infringement, which can result in damages, attorney's fees, and even injunctive relief. Copyright protection gives the owner ownership over derivative works like plays, movies, and other adaptations of the primary work, as well as the ability to sue for damages and injunctive relief against anybody who creates a substantially comparable work based on it.

  1. Injunctive Relief: Equitable relief is the classic remedy for copyright infringement. Injunctive relief, both preliminary and permanent, is included. Although the rules relevant to preliminary release in copyright proceedings are no different than in other substantive areas of law, preliminary relief has been observed to be significantly more probable than in other situations, particularly when compared to patent law. This can be justified in terms of evidentiary proof by the fact that proving a legitimate copyright and infringement at the pre-trial stage is easier than proving analogous components of other substantive violations of law, such as patent infringement.

    Another explanation for the apparent higher inclination to award preliminary equitable relief in copyright matters than in other matters could be an ill-defined presumption that copyright infringement always risks irreparable harm. Because irreparable injury is often required for injunctive relief, such an assumption would make injunctions more common in copyright matters than would otherwise be predicted.

  2. Damages and Profits: Monetary awards in copyright infringement actions are categorised under three headings:-
    • Damages,
    • Profits,
    • Statutory damages.
  3. A plaintiff was entitled to both damages and profits under the Act, which some courts interpreted to indicate that the plaintiff could recover both.
  4. A plaintiff should try to show both actual and monetary damages. If the plaintiff has difficulties establishing real damages or any part of them, the plaintiff has a better chance of winning a higher and more reasonable award if profits prove to not overlap.  
  5. Statutory damages are the third type of monetary award that the plaintiff can choose at any moment before the final judgment.
  6. Impoundment: The Act allows for the seizure and final disposition of infringing copies and the equipment used to make them, including probable destruction. As a final remedy, the destruction or confiscation of infringing content may be an important aspect of a plaintiff's purpose. Impoundment prior to final judgement, on the other hand, may be a more immediate goal. Certainly, in the case of fleeting violators like record pirates or fly-by-night paperback book publishers, a plaintiff's immediate purpose may be the seizure of infringing copies to avoid having to re-litigate the case every time the objectionable contents reappear.
  7. Is Copyright Infringement a Criminal Offence in India? Under the Act, copyright infringement can also be classified as a criminal offence. Under Section 63 of the Act, anybody who intentionally infringes or aids in the violation of the copyright in any work commits a criminal offence.  A six-month prison sentence and a fine of INR 50,000 are the minimum penalties for copyright infringement. A second and subsequent conviction carries a minimum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of INR 1 lakh.
  8. Any police officer, once satisfied that an offence in respect of the infringement of copyright in any work has been committed, can seize, without a warrant, all copies of the work and all materials/devices used for the purpose of making infringing copies of the work. All the copies seized must be produced before a magistrate. A police officer can seize infringing goods without a warrant. The Court may order delivery to the owner of the copyright of all such copies.
  9. The criminal provisions do allow broader remedies in terms of seizure, confiscation, and destruction, making these procedures mandatory rather than discretionary upon conviction, and giving the court wider powers in terms of treating infringements as contraband in general.
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