BANUMATI ARUNACHALAM & ARULMOZHI v. THE STATE (REPRESENTED BY STATION HOUSE OFFICER) & Ors. (2021)
(Submitted by Shivam Bhattacharya, GNLU)
Citation: Crl. O.P.No.12212 of 2017 and Crl. M.P.No.7983 of 2017
Court: High Court of Madras
Decided on: 16th November 2021
Coram: Justice N. Satish Kumar
FACTS OF THE CASE
The brief facts of the case is that the petitioner was the owner of a theatre. It was alleged in the FIR that the petitioner had copied a film ‘Managaram’ and had allegedly taken a video of it. The petitioner had however denied the charges of copying or infringement of the film. The complainant was the Assistant to the secretary of ‘Tamil Nadu Film Producers Council. The complainant had filed an FIR filed under Section 7 (1)(a) (i) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 and Section 51 and 63 (a) of the Copyrights Act 1957 on the grounds of infringement of the film. The petitioner has challenged this complaint.
CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES
The main ground taken by the petitioners’ counsel was that the FIR was filed merely based on hearsay information, without having any material proof. It was also contended that Section 7(1) of the Cinematography Act can only allows the copyright owner of the movie to file a claim, and in this case the complainant was not the owner.
The respondents’ counsel contended that the FIR was filed on the basis of the information received regarding the copying of the movie. The contents of the FIR make it sufficient to initiate proceedings against the petitioner.
APPLICABLE LEGAL PROVISIONS
Section 7(a) (1)(i) of the Cinematograph Act 1952 states the penalty if any person exhibits a film which has not been certified for unrestricted public exhibition. Section 51 of the Copyright Act 1957 provides for the offence of copyright infringement. Section 63 of the Copyright Act 1957 provides for fine and a maximum imprisonment upto three years in case of copyright infringement.
HOLDING AND JUDGMENT OF THE COURT
The Court on consideration of the claims made under Section 51 of the Copyright Act 1957 held that neither the complainant nor the producer council were the owner of the film. Section 51 confers the power only on the owner of the work for claiming copyright infringement. On the question of Section 63 of the Copyright Act 1957, the Court observed that only the author, assignee or the license can maintain an action for the protection of the work. In this case, however, the complainant does not fall into either of the categories. The Court further added that since the allegations in the FIR were based only on hearsay evidence, without having any direct knowledge, therefore it cannot be continued, since it would become a futile exercise. It was also noted that the allegations under Section 7  [a] [i] of Cinematograph Act is also not maintainable since it was not proved that the film had not been certified.
The Court thus allowed the petition and quashed the FIR filed by the complaint, and stated that continuing the prosecution against the petitioner is sheer waste of time. The main reasoning applied in this case was that a claim for copyright infringement can only be filed by the owner of the work, and an action based only on hearsay information regarding an infringement cannot be maintained.