Technological strides in media and communication have created newer avenues of copyright infringement and most cases of copyright infringement today are reported from the electronic media industry. Copyright is an exclusive right to do or to authorise the reproduction, publication, performance, and in relation to cinematograph films, transmission or communication of the protected work to the public. If done without licence or authorization, this communication amounts to infringement.
Piracy is the greatest threat to the industry. There have been news reports that the Indian entertainment industry loses about US$4 billion every year to piracy. The producers of cinematograph films invest huge amounts of money in creating or acquiring a copyrightable work and bringing it to the market; while pirates eat away a sizeable chunk of their profits without any major investment.
The members of the WTO and the signatories of the international copyright conventions can have the works originating in their territory protected in other member countries vide the International Copyright Order 1991. The Order provides for the protection in the United Kingdom and other specified countries of works and other subject matter being produced in other countries party to international copyright conventions.
Recently, Time Warner Entertainment filed a suit in Delhi High Court to enforce its copyright against a cable network services provider in Kolkata1. Time Warner along with its affiliated companies is engaged in the business of film production. The defendant was transmitting certain films on its cable network, the copyright in which was owned by Time Warner(Plaintiffs), without acquiring any licence from them. Plaintiffs prayed for grant of injunction against the telecast of the films and handing over of infringing copies. They also alleged that most of the films telecast were pirated copies. Time Warner also averred that the present action was not limited to existing films but also in relation to the future works. Their films were published in the schedule of the International Copyright Order 1991. They evinced the findings that the defendant, being the cable network service provider had a 75% share in the cable market and provided signals to 216 franchisees, thus the magnitude of loss in relation to release and sale rights was huge.
The defendants prayed for dismissal of the suit for the reason of non-joinder of the necessary parties. It also averred that it was merely receiving satellite transmission of various channels and delivering them at Signal Injection Point of other cable operators. Thus it had no control over those cable operators as to the programmes aired by them. However, after filing written statement, the defendants stopped appearing in the proceedings, consequently, the orders were issued ex-parte. After filing evidence and submitting infringing copies of the films in question, the plaintiffs demanded perpetual injunction against the defendants from exhibiting the said movies. In accordance with Section 14 of Copyright Act 1957, copyright is infringed by selling or giving on hire any copy of the film, regardless of whether such copy has been sold or given on hire on earlier occasions.
The court adjudicated by holding that since the defendant was a cable network owner vide Section 2(c) of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 19952, it is in control of closed transmission paths and associated signal generation and owns control and distribution equipment cable of providing signal to multiple subscribers. Hence it would be no defence for him in law to aver that intermediate cable operators are indulging in acts of piracy. It is his obligation to ensure that they closed transmission paths and associated signal generation are not resulting in violation of another's copyright. Regarding the multiplicity of plaintiffs, the court ruled that Order 1 Rule 1 CPC enabled several parties to join as plaintiffs.
Regarding injunction in respect of future works of the plaintiff, the court held that the relief would be based on assumption of future violation by the defendants. Since there was no evidence of such imminent future threat and that the plaintiff had not established how injunction could be granted for anticipated threats, the court refused to grant such a relief.
Accordingly, the court granted perpetual injunction against defendants only in respect of present loss by the said transmission and/or in respect of the films mentioned in the schedule to the International Copyright Order except with a prior licence from the plaintiffs.
1.Time Warner Entertainment Company I.P & Others v. RPG Netcom Ltd. 2008 (37) PTC 21 (Del.)
2. Section 2(c) : "cable television network" means any system consisting of a set of closed transmission paths and associated signal generation, control and distribution equipment, designed to provide cable service for reception by multiple subscribers
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