Delving deeper into the concept of copyright infringement


The concept of copyright has evolved over the past few decades as technology has revolutionised how we live and work. Unmistakable is the reality that copyright is not a very avant-garde concept. The term “Copyright” and its principles were first used in the 15th century when the printing machine brought about a necessity to safeguard written works. However, before The Copyright Act, of 1957, the roots of copyright legislation in India were established under British rule. The British government passed the first valid copyright law in India in 1847. This was followed by an expansion of the same principles[vii], resulting in the Indian Copyright Act of 1914.[1]The criminalization of copyright infringement reflected the idea that such an offence goes beyond mere financial loss and that a civil lawsuit is an insufficient compensation for the harm. The criminalization of copyright infringement is one of the most significant aspects of the new law, making it not just punitive but also a deterrent, as loss of credibility and literal theft warrant it to be a criminal offence. Only in 1957 did a new Act for post-independence India replace the Act of 1914, keeping some of its original provisions while introducing fresher ideas. Since then, it has undergone five amendments to keep up with technological advancements, and one aspect of the law—the criminalization of copyright infringement—has been preserved.

Penalties for copyright infringement-

The criminal penalties and sanctions for copyright infringement are explained in considerable depth in the Copyright Act of 1957, Part XIII, Sections 63-70. The criminal sanctions for copyright infringement include the copyright Act, as well as several articles of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and the IT Act, 2000. Although the idea is derived from the Act of 1914, the definitions are far more specific, the penalties are harsher, and the extent of the gaps is considerably smaller. The Act’s purview includes not only fines and prison sentences for crimes, but also ideas of seizure, injunctions, and the functions of numerous bodies in such cases.

TRIPS on copyright infringement-

The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) duties under international law do not mandate that all forms of copyright infringement be made illegal.

According to Article 61 of the TRIPS agreement, criminal sanctions must be used at the very least for “wilful copyright piracy” on a “commercial scale.” A World Trade Organization panel in the China — Enforcement of intellectual property rights issue noted that the law does distinguish between copyright infringement and copyright piracy even if the word copyright piracy itself is still not defined in TRIPS.[2]

The panel cited negotiation records to demonstrate that the term “copyright infringement on a commercial scale” was expressly rejected. As a result, all copyright infringement is piracy of the work in question, but not all infringement is piracy.

Therefore, copyright piracy would include, for instance, the bulk duplication of works protected by copyright without the owner’s consent. However, a disagreement between two publishing companies over content that is comparable in their textbooks would only be considered copyright infringement and not copyright piracy.

Complexities in copyright infringement-related cases-

This is a crucial distinction created by TRIPS since the majority of instances of copyright infringement that do not amount to copyright piracy entail complex legal issues. Given the murky nature of the law, it is nearly impossible to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in certain situations.

Even if the issue of originality is uncontested, it is still unclear whether the use of copyrighted work is permitted in accordance with all of Section 52 of the Copyright Act’s restrictions and exceptions to copyright infringement.

A vexatious legal issue, “fair dealing,” is addressed in one of Section 52’s sections. Then, there are specific provisions in the Copyright Act that, in certain situations, nullify the copyright in works that are protected by it. [3]For instance, if a work qualifies for protection under the Designs Act of 2000, it can no longer be protected by the Copyright Act once it has been copied more than a certain amount of times. The court would need to use the standard of substantial similarity (both qualitative and quantitative) on a case-by-case basis even to determine whether copyright infringement ever existed.[4]

All of the aforementioned concerns, many of which have perplexed even the most seasoned attorneys, judges, and scholars, must be taken into account in any police inquiry into copyright infringement. Given their current levels of training and resources, as a nation, we have no faith in the competence of the typical police sub-inspector to efficiently investigate copyright infringement, particularly when it comes to complex legal issues.

Landmark judgement on copyright infringement-

Girish Gandhi, Etc. v. Union Of India And Anr.

This case resulted from a civil writ petition and is arguably one of the most significant criminal statutes or case laws in India on the criminalization of copyright infringement. Girish Gandhi argued that even though he had obtained the necessary documentation and valid copyrights for each movie in his video cassette business, “he anticipates the invocation of Article 64(1) against him without a requirement.” He said that because Article 64(1) gives the police extra broad powers, he is perpetually in dread of “harassment by the police and unnecessary litigation” even if no action has been taken against him. As a result, he requested that the article’s assertion be deemed extra vires. The court cited the cases Pooranmal v. Director of Inspection of Income-tax, M/s. Devi Das Gopal Krishnan v. State of Punjab, and The Collector of Customs v. Nathella Sampathu Chetty argue that the section was neither ultra vires nor arbitrary because, despite errors by the executive branch, the section’s provisions provided sufficient guidelines. The petition was denied because no overt conduct had been committed with the complainant and that Section 64(2) of the Act provided instructions for “satisfaction means” from unlawful and arbitrary seizure. This case was historic in that the court explicitly outlined the rules outlined in the Act and demonstrated how the Act is not arbitrary, despite what the police officers may think.


With ongoing cases, writ petitions, and revisions, the criminalization of copyright infringement in India has developed gradually. Despite the fact that India’s copyright rules still require improvement, it is wonderful to see that movement is still being made. The aforementioned cases are significant not because they have been quoted frequently but rather because of the improvements they have made to the law. Even if a change in the law only reiterates an essential idea, it is still vital. Changes in the law are not always obvious or spectacular. Therefore, it is obvious that learning about and working toward the growth of Copyright Law—the core of the intelligentsia—is crucial.

[1] Ipleaders,

[2] Dhyeya IAS,

[3] Dhyeya IAS,

[4] Girish Gandhi and Etc. v. Union Of India And Anr., AIR 1997 Raj 78

About Shreyasi 2 Articles
I'm Shreyasi, a penultimate year student of law, from KIIT SCHOOL OF LAW, BHUBNESWAR. My interest areas include IP and Commercial laws. I have published several blogs based on the aforementioned areas of law.

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