Sep 9, 2022

Brahmastra Strikes Against Digital Piracy

Guest post by Pallavi Mohan

Recently, the Delhi High Court prohibited 18 websites from illegally streaming the new movie ‘Brahmastra’ in a suit for copyright infringement filed by the producers of the movie.

What is a copyright?

A copyright is an intellectual property right that protects a person’s exclusive ownership right on:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works (including computer programmes);
  • cinematograph films; and
  • sound recording.

In India, the Copyright Act of 1957 governs the law of copyright. It lays out the various rights available to the owner of a copyright for the use, reproduction, or distribution of their work. The copyright in a piece of ‘work’ lasts only for a limited period. The period varies depending on the kind of ‘work’ it is. The Copyright Act lists the period applying to different works. 

What is copyright infringement?

As per Section 51 of the Copyright Act, the copyright of a ‘work’ is said to be infringed when any person uses, reproduces, shares, displays, exhibits for profit or does anything, for which the exclusive right lies with the copyright owner. Section 55 of the Act provides the remedies that the owner of a ‘work’ has if their copyright is infringed. These remedies include injunction (to stop the action causing the infringement), damages (to compensate for the infringement), accounts (to make the infringer reveal the profits they made from it), etc. 

Why did the producers of the movie ‘Brahmastra’ approach the Delhi High Court?

The producers of the movie ‘Brahmastra’ approached the Delhi High Court claiming that: 

  • the movie is a ‘cinematographic film’, and 
  • they are the authors of the film, so 
  • they have exclusive rights in the movie under the Copyright Act. 

They claimed that rogue websites (such as, the defendants in the suit) make infringing copies, which the public can view or download, at the same time as the theatrical release of the film. This results in the infringement of their copyright and causes significant losses to the producers. So, the producers asked for an injunction against the rogue websites prohibiting them from streaming illegal copies of the movie.

The producers also relied on one of the Delhi High Court’s earlier judgements [UTV Software Communications Ltd. and Others v. 1337X.To and Others], where the question of digital piracy was discussed. In the said judgement, the court also laid down the factors to be considered for determining whether a website would be considered a rogue website or not. 

What were the findings of the Delhi High Court in this case?

The Court found in favour of the producers, holding that irreparable harm would be caused to them if an injunction was not granted against the rogue websites. The court restrained the websites from hosting, streaming, retransmitting, exhibiting, making available for viewing and downloading, providing access to and/or communicating to the public, displaying, uploading, modifying, publishing, updating and/or sharing on their websites through the Internet or any other platform, the film ‘Brahmastra’ till the next date of hearing. 

The court also directed: 

  • domain name registrants to suspend/block the domain names of such rogue websites, and
  • Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) to issue notifications to various ISPs to block access to such rogue websites.