IGNOU vs. Dominant Publishers and Distributors: An Overview

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Written by: Ms Nikita Kumari

The defendants in the present case have infringed the copyright of the plaintiffs by copying the verbatim of the book published by the plaintiff.

Facts

In the present case, the plaintiff- IGNOU provides distant education in different courses to lakh(s) of students across India. There is a Post Graduate Diploma course in Journalism and Mass Communication (PGJMC) conducted by the plaintiff and they have prepared the course material for studying this course.

There is one course material OF PGJMC with the title ‘New Communication Technologies’ being Course-I, Unit No.4 of Block No.3’. Shri V. Rama Rao is the author of the work. It is a literary work. Defendant-1, Dominant Publishers and Distributors published a book with the title ‘Modern Communication Technologies’. The author of this book was defendant-2, Mr. Y.K. D’Souza.

The defendant’s book has reproduced several pages of the plaintiff’s book on pages 74 to 90 and pages 207 to 222. The plaintiff has filed for permanent injunction restraining infringement of copyright, for the rendition of accounts, and grant costs.

Laws Involved in this case

Copyright Act of 1957

  • Section 13- Copyright exists in-
  • Literary Work (including computer programs, tables, and compilations including computer literary databases) 
  • Dramatic Work
  • Musical Work
  • Artistic Work
  • Cinematograph Films
  • Sound Recordings
  • Section 14- Copyright is an exclusive right to do or authorize the following actions-
  • Reproduce the work in any form including storing the work in any form
  • Issue copies of the work to the public
  • Perform the work in Public
  • Make any cinematographic film in respect of the work
  • Translate the work
  • Make an adaptation of the work
  • Section 51- Copyright is said to be infringed when,
  • Any person without the permission of the copyright holder does any act which comes only under the authority of the copyright holder.
  • A person permits the place to be used for communication, selling, distribution, or exhibition of an infringing work unless he was not aware or has no reason to believe that such permission will result in the violation of copyright.
  • Infringing copies of a work are imported by any person.
  • Any person reproduces the work of the copyright holder without his prior consent or permission.
  • Civil Remedies: Section 55(1) –
  • In case of infringement of copyright, the copyright owner has a remedy of seeking an injunction. Injunction restraints the other party from doing an act immediately or restore the matter to the position which was there before the act.
  • The copyright holder is also entitled to get compensation/damages for copyright infringement. 

Issues Involved

  1. Whether the cause of action against defendant-1is maintainable?
  2. Whether the Plaintiff is the owner of the copyright in ‘New Communications Technologies?
  3. Whether the Defendants work titled “Modern Communication Technologies” is not a substantial and material copy of the Plaintiff’s work titled “New Communications Technologies?
  4. Whether the defendants have infringed Plaintiff’s copyright in “New Communication Technologies?
  5. Whether the defendants are liable to pay the Relief to the plaintiffs.

Judgment

The Hon’ble High Court passed a decree of permanent injunction against the defendant. The court further passed another decree to pay the damage of Rs. 50,000 in the favor of the plaintiff. The Hon’ble court also awarded the actual cost in the favor of the plaintiff. 

Analysis of the Judgment

In the present case, the counsel of defendant-1 claimed that defendant-1 has stopped the use of impugned content of the book ‘Modern Communication Technologies’ and has no intention of using the same in the future. He suggested that the defendant pay a reasonable cost because only one lot of books was printed with a very low-profit margin.

The impugned text was the exact copy of the text from the original work. The course material of the plaintiff was published in 1995 for the first time and the defendant’s work was published in 1999. The defendant claimed that the part which was exactly copied was based on the general knowledge of electronics or physics but it is still not acceptable to copy the work verbatim.

As per section 2(o) of the Copyright Act, 1957 the plaintiff’s work was an original literary work and only the plaintiff has the exclusive right to reproduce the content of his work. The defendants have copied around two full chapters from the original work of the plaintiff with prior permission or consent or license from the plaintiff.

This act of the defendants is clearly an infringement of the copyright of the plaintiff. Defendant-2 appeared like a fictitious person created by the defendant-1 to publish the book with the copied content from the plaintiff’s book. He appeared fictitious because he didn’t appear in any court proceedings, refused to accept the service, and there was no person found by the same name at the address provided.

Moreover, there was no introduction or any kind of educational qualifications information given in the book. All these claims of defendant-2 being a fictitious person only make it stronger. Defendant-1 made 200-300 copies of the book with the impugned text and the maximum selling price of the book was Rs. 475/-. With the total margin of profit to be 30% and the total sales of the books would be Rs. 1,42,500/-, damages the plaintiff should be entitled to would be Rs. 50,000/-. The court found the defendant to be guilty of infringement and ordered the defendant to pay the damages of Rs. 50,000/- and granted a permanent injunction in the favor of the plaintiff.


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