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Copyright Infringement : An Overview

This blog is written by Alisha Khatoon, she is a 1st year law student pursuing B.A. LL.B (Hons.) from Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.


Copyright refers to the set of entitlements that automatically belong to the person who creates an original piece of art, which may include software, music, films, or literary works. The original author, or copyright holder, is in charge of his creation and can grant permission to others to use it or retain complete control by forbidding others from producing or copying it. Infringing upon certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display, or perform the protected work, is known as copyright infringement  and occurs when works protected by copyright are used without permission for a usage where such permission is required. Copyright Infringement is a critical issue in the world of intellectual property rights. In India, as in many other countries, copyright laws play a vital role in protecting the creative works of individuals and entities. It is important to know about the intricacies of copyright infringement , exploring the laws, types of infringement, landmark cases, available remedies, exceptions, and the way forward in safeguarding intellectual property. 

What is copyright infringement?

Numerous copyright laws existed prior to India's independence, including the India Copyright Act of 1847, the Copyright Acts of 1911 and 1914. However, the Copyright Act of 1957, the first copyright legislation passed following independence, is still in effect today. According to Section 2(y), sound recordings, dramatic, musical, creative, cinematographic films, and literary works are all protected under the Copyright Act, regardless of whether they are registered or not. "Copyright law is to preserve the fruits of a man's effort, labor, talent, or test from annexation by other persons," the Madras High Court stated in the matter of Sulamangalam R. Jayalakshmi And Anr. vs Meta Musicals And Ors. (2000). The definition of "infringing copy" is given in Section 2(m) of the Copyright Act, 1957 as : "infringing copy" means (i) Regarding a piece of literature, theatre, music, or other creative expression, a copy of it that isn't a cinematic film (ii) a duplicate of a cinematographic picture created using any method or material (iii) any additional recording that, with connection to a sound recording, uses any method to encapsulate the same sound recording  (iv) A sound recording or a cinematographic film related to a program or performance for which a broadcast reproduction right or a performer's right exists under the terms of this Act, if such a reproduction, copy, or sound recording is made or imported in violation of the terms of this Act.

Unauthorised use of another person's copyrighted work is referred to as copyright infringement. It is, therefore, the unapproved use of another person's creative work that violates that person's rights to reproduction, distribution, performance, and display. According to Section 51 of copyright act 1957 , Copyright in a work shall be deemed to be infringed when anybody violates any of the terms of a license so provided, any condition imposed by a competent authority under this Act, or does so without a license issued by the copyright owner or the Registrar of Copyrights under this Act.

Types of copyright Infringement

The two main categories which can be used to classify copyright violations are primary and secondary infringement. Primary infringement deals with  actual act of replicating the copyright holder's work. For instance, distributing a book that has been photocopied for profit. But occasionally, someone might just duplicate a portion of the work—for instance, a passage from an article. The copyright holder in such a situation must prove two things : first one is substantial taking in which only  a significant portion of the work is copied by an unauthorised party is a copyright violation committed. For instance, stealing a lyricist's notable line. Second one is Casual connection in which the owner of the copyright must demonstrate that the infringer's work and theirs are similar. This could, however, be the result of a number of other factors, such as the fact that they both employed the same research source. The owner of the copyright cannot allege infringement in such a situation.

Secondary Infringement refers to the infringement of copyright work without actually copying it. A person may be held accountable for the crime of copyright imprisonment if they give permission for a venue to be used for the general circulation of a work that violates someone else's intellectual property or if they allow such usage for profit. However, the individual cannot be held accountable for copyright infringement if they are ignorant of it or have no cause to suspect that it is occurring there. Copyright infringement occurs when someone distributes copies of the works of another that are infringing on their copyright. A further instance of copyright infringement is the importation of the holder's infringing work into India. Nonetheless, it won't be considered copyright infringement if the person imported the illegal work for domestic or private use.

Remedies available for Infringement of Copyright

Creators and copyright holders have legal remedies in cases of copyright infringement. These remedies range from compensatory damages to restraining orders.

Civil Remedies

According to Section 55(1) of the Copyright Act, the owner of the copyright has the right to an injunction as a remedy. The best available remedy for copyright infringement is an injunction. An injunction is a legal procedure used to stop someone who is endangering the legal rights of another person by restraining them from acting further or by directing them to return the situation to as it was prior to the action. In addition, the copyright holder is entitled to damages for copyright infringement, according to Section 55(1) of the copyright act. To put the copyright holder back in his former position is the goal of giving him damages. The amount of damages owed to the copyright holder depends on a number of criteria. In most cases, the individual who secured the license from the copyright holder would have received an award for damages equal to that sum. The amount of damages is, however, also determined by a number of other variables, such as the copyright holder's loss of profit, damage to reputation, decline in sales of their work, etc.

Criminal Remedies 

According to Section 63 of the Copyright Act, anyone found to have wilfully violated or assisted in the violation of copyright in a work or any other copyright-related rights granted by the Copyright Act, 1957, faces a minimum six-month prison sentence, which can go up to three years, and a maximum fine of two lakh rupees. When someone violates a work's copyright without intending to profit from it during trade or business, the court has the authority to punish them with a sentence of less than six months and a fine of less than fifty thousand rupees.

Another remedy provided in case of infringement of copyright is that of administrative one. We know that importation is the process of bringing items into a nation from overseas for sale. Sometimes, limits are placed on imports, meaning that some goods cannot be sold in certain areas or can only be sold in specific areas. Any action taken in violation of these conditions constitutes copyright infringement by importation, and the aggrieved party may file a request with the Registrar of Copyright to limit the import of copies that violate copyright to the copyright owner.

Exception : Doctrine of fair dealing

The "fair dealing" doctrine allows certain uses of copyrighted works, within certain parameters and with certain conditions. While India has limited scope, Western countries have expanded it through innovative interpretations and legal activism. Whether someone utilises the copyright material “fairly” would depend solely on the specific facts and circumstances of that case. The boundary between "fair trade" and violation is very thin. There are no set rules in India regarding the amount of words or phrases that can be used without a person's permission. Section 52(1) provides for certain acts which shall not constitute an infringement of copyright, namely, a fair dealing with any work, not being a computer programme, for the purposes of Private or personal use, including research; Criticism or review, whether of that work or of any other work; The reporting of current events and current affairs, including the reporting of a lecture delivered in public.

Case of R.G Anand vs. Deluxe Films and Ors. (1978)

This case is considered to be a prominent judgement regarding copyright violation. In this case  in 1953, the plaintiff wrote a play called "Hum Hindustani," which gained popularity after its 1954 debut. Defendant No. 2 expressed interest in adapting the play into a film but later released a movie titled "New Delhi" in 1956. The plaintiff sued, alleging that the movie infringed on his play's copyright. Defendant No. 2 argued that their work was independently based on the idea of "provincialism," which is not a issue of copyright, and pointed out significant differences between the play and the film. Both the trial court and the Delhi High Court ruled in favour of the defendants, finding no copyright infringement. The supreme court had to decide that when the defendants made the movie "New Delhi," whether or not they had violated the appellants' copyright in the play "Hum Hindustani." While analysing the case supreme court cited section 13 of the Copyright Act, the idea-expression dichotomy, and the viewer's reasoning was considered to be deciding parameter of this case. The idea of "provincialism," on which the play and movie are based, is not protected by Section 13 of the Copyright Act, which only protects literary, musical, theatrical, creative works, sound recordings, and cinematographic films, the court ruled in favour of the defendant. The concept itself is not protected by the Copyright Act; rather, it is the presentation of an idea—its expression, mode of presentation, and arrangement. A viewer should determine whether or not a particular work violates the copyright of another if two or more of them share the same source. Similarities between works will inevitably exist. 


In conclusion, copyright infringement is a significant issue in protecting the rights of creators in our digital age. It involves the unauthorised use of copyrighted works, which can lead to severe legal consequences. Understanding what constitutes infringement, along with the available defences and legal frameworks , is essential for both creators and users. Respecting copyright laws not only helps protect intellectual property but also promotes a fair creative ecosystem. As technology continues to evolve, staying informed about copyright issues is crucial for navigating the balance between inspiration and infringement.


  1. Copyright act 1957, S 2(y).

  2. Sulamangalam R. Jayalakshmi And Anr. vs Meta Musicals And Ors. [2000] AIR 454 (MAD).

  3. Copyright act 1957 s 2(m).

  4. Anushka saxena ‘ what are the types of copyright infringement in India’ (Corpbiz , 31 may 2023) accessed 15 may 2024.

  5. Copyright act 1957 , s 51(1).

  6. ‘Remedies of Copyright Infringement, Its Effectiveness, and More’ ( writing law) accessed 15 may 2024.

  7. Copyright Act 1957 s 63.

  8. Sana singh ‘Remedies Against Infringement of Copyright’ (singhania blogs 24 july 2020) accessed 16 may 2024.

  9. Naga Lahari ‘The Fair Dealing Exceptions Under Indian Copyright Laws: A Critical Apprisal’ ( samisti legal March 2024, 2022) accessed 16 may 2024.

  10. Copyright act 1957, s 52(1).

  11. R.G Anand vs. Deluxe Films and  [1978] AIR 1613 (SC).

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