On May 20, 2022, the Supreme Court of India cleared up any uncertainty and upheld that the offence of copyright infringement is a cognizable and non-bailable offence. A cognizable offence is one that is an unwarrantable, and a non-bailable offence is one wherein bail is not generally available, thereby these types of penalties are reserved for more serious offences. With the rise of copyright infringement cases in India, the May 20th judgement recognizes the highest court of the land's resolve to dissuading these types of violations. The dispute between M/s. Knit Pro International and Mr. Anurag Sanghi for copyright infringement show the Courts' commitment to the seriousness of intellectual property infringement in India.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property through which creators hold rights over their original works. A range of works are covered under copyright, such as literary, artistic and dramatic works, cinematograph films such as original adaptation of literary work, translation works, computer programs, content, musical work, sound recordings, work of architecture, painting, sculpture, drawing, photograph, cartoons, lithographs, engravings, diagram, map, chart, plan, graphical notation, recitation, choreography, scenic arrangement, and the like.

Copyright infringement refers to use of the copyright protected work in any manner without the consent of the copyright holder that is detrimental to the interests of the owner/creator/author. It is another term for piracy or theft of owner's intellectual property, where the infringer is reaping benefits as opposed to the owner. Fair dealing is an exception to copyright infringement, but its enforcement further encompasses exceptional circumstances to be treated as such. Civil and criminal remedies are available against infringers that includes, injunctions, damages or accounts of profit, delivery of infringing copy, seizure of infringing copies and imprisonment with or without fine.

In this matter, an ex-parte injunction was granted restraining Mr. Anurag Sanghi from manufacturing the ‘Lykke Knitting Needles, i.e.  the infringing goods. It was found that, Mr. Sanghi, continued to manufacture the infringing goods despite the injunction order filed by Knit Pro. Thereafter, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered under Sections 51, 63 and 64 of the Act read with Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code. The Court in its judgement declared that there were multiple grounds of objections to be adjudicated upon, however the counsel representing Mr. Sanghi chose to contest the impugned orders on the sole ground that these offences are non-cognizable and bailable.

As per the Act, an offence under Section 63 is punishable with imprisonment and a fine. The Supreme Court in this matter asserted that as per Part II of the First Schedule of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the maximum term of the sentence must be considered, whereby making any offence under Section 63 of the Copyright Act that is punishable with a maximum imprisonment of three (3) years, a cognizable and a non-bailable one.

Section 63 reads,

Offence of infringement of copyright or other rights conferred by this Act.

Any person who knowingly infringes or abets the infringement of—

(a) the copyright in a work, or

(b) any other right conferred by this Act, [except the right conferred by section 53A]

 [shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to three years and with fine which shall not be less than fifty thousand rupees but which may extend to two lakh rupees:

Provided that [where the infringement has not been made for gain in the course of trade or business] the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months or a fine of less than fifty thousand rupees.]

Almost all legislation in India, stipulate a range of punishment that can be imposed from a minimum to maximum sentence for an offence. Under such circumstances, upon conviction, the Court can impose either the minimum or the maximum sentence. In this regard, the Court will primarily classify offences under Section 63 of the Copyright Act, where a maximum of three (3) years of imprisonment maybe imposed, as a cognizable and a non-bailable offence pursuant to the judgement of the Supreme Court in this matter. In such situations, going forward, a police officer is empowered to arrest without a warrant and the accused is not entitled to bail intrinsically.

We are hopeful that this ruling will allow entities that conduct their business in India to be secure in the knowledge that infringement of copyright will be taken seriously, that the courts recognise the impact such offences have on businesses and will enforce strict penalties with respect to such violations. 

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