“This Case law is related to Section 63 and 64 of Indian Copyright Act, 1957”
PLAINTIFF: Ani Technologies Private Limited and Ors.
DEFENDANT: State of Karnataka and Lahari Recording Company
COURT: Bengaluru High Court.
JUDGEMENT BY: Justice M. Nagaprasanna.
DECISION DATE: 20th December, 2021
Background of the case:
The Petitioner were engaged in the business of Ola or Ola cabs/taxies. They installed a new feature in their cabs where the audio and television sets are fixed to the seat of the cab. This feature is known to be as Ola Prime. In which several music films were played which are copyrighted and belongs to respondent. The respondent Company i.e., Lahari recording Company filed a case alleging that Ola Company has infringed the copyright ownership over music and films which is an offence under Copyright Act, 1957. Subsequently an F.I.R was filed under Section 63 and 64 of Copyright Act and conducted investigation.
The Petitioner filed this Petition alleging that Section 63 of Copyright Act is non cognizable offence and police have no authority to investigate without approval by magistrate and hence the legal proceeding must be dismissed. While respondents argued that Section 63 of Copyright Act is cognizable offence and hence the police investigate must be continued and Writ petition could be dismissed. The Bengaluru High Court decided this case on 20th December, 2021.
Factual Matrix of the case:
In the present case, Senior Counsel Shri. C.V Nagesh along with Learned Counsel Mr. Mahesh S appeared on the behalf of Petitioners and Shri. R. D Renukaradaya, learned Counsel represented the State. On the behalf of respondent (Lahari Company), Shri. M.S Shyam Sundar represented the case.
In this case, a Writ petition was filed before the Bengaluru High Court by the plaintiff; Ani Technologies Private Limited under Article 226 and 227 of Indian Constitution read with Section 482 seeking to quash all the F.I.R and legal proceedings charged against the Company.
The Petitioners argued that the entire investigation conducted under Section 63 of Copyright Act was invalid and in the cases of the offences relating to Copyright infringement, the Police have no authority to investigate without approval from magistrate. While the respondents, took the view that Police authorities have jurisdiction to investigate cases of Copyright infringement under Section 63 of the Act.
Issue before the Court:
Whether Section 63 of Copyright Act is Cognizable and non-bailable offence?
Whether the investigation conducted by Police authorities without approval from magistrate under Section 63 of Copyright Act in this case is valid and acceptable?
Contentions by the Plaintiff:
The Plaintiff argued before the Court that Section 63 of Copyright Act, 1957 is a non-cognizable offence as because the punishment prescribed for this offence is within 3 years imprisonment and Police authorities have no authority to investigate the matter relating to offence of Copyright under Section 63 of the Act. It was also contended that under Section 155(2) of Cr.P.C provides that police officer shall not investigate offences relating to non-cognizable offences without approval from Magistrate concerned. So, police authorities only get authority once the matter is referred to Magistrate.
The Counsel referred to the case of Sivaji Hi-tech foods Pvt Ltd v. State (2019) wherein, the Madras High Court held the view that “Section 63 of Copyright Act cannot be considered as Cognizable offence and Police authorities cannot register an F.I.R” . So, petitioner Contented to quash the proceeding since the Section 63 of Copyright Act is non-cognizable and Police cannot register an F.I.R without approval from Police authorities.
Contentions by the Respondents:
The Respondents argued that the offences stated under Copyright Act, 1957 are Cognizable offences and there is no ambiguity in deciding the jurisdiction and authority of Police to entertain the complaints relating to Copyright offences. The Counsel relied upon the judgement of Bombay High Court i.e., in the case of Piyush Subhashbai Ranipa v. State of Maharashtra (2021) , wherein the Court interpreted Section 63 of Copyright Act and Section 103 of Trademarks Act and held that offences punishable for term of exact three years imprisonment would be non-bailable and Cognizable as per Schedule II of Cr.P.C.
Further it was contended that initially the term of punishment under Section 63 of Copyright Act was fixed to Six years of imprisonment, but by virtue of Amendment Act 1984, the term of punishment has been increased to three years of imprisonment intentionally to categorize these offences as cognizable. Hence the Section 63 of Copyright Act is cognizable offence and the petition must be dismissed.
Decision of the Court:
On 20th December, 2021 the Karnataka High Court pronounced its judgement and interpreted Section 63 of Copyright Act as to whether the offences are Cognizable or non-cognizable offences. The Court interpreted Section 63 of Copyright Act in plain language that the term prescribed for the punishment is exactly three years of imprisonment not more than it. Hence it will not fall within the ambit of Schedule II category 3 which states offences punishable with term less than three years of imprisonment are non-cognizable. Section 64 of the Act provides the Power to seize Copyright materials without warrant, hence it does not take away Cognizability of offence.
The Court considered the views of Kerala High Court and Andhra Pradesh High Court which have interpreted the question of whether Section 63 of Copyright Act is Cognizable or not. Both High Court held the view that Section 63 of the Act is cognizable and non-bailable. Since the maximum punishment prescribed is three years of imprisonment.
Further the Court rejected the Contentions of Petitioner and held that Section 63 of Copyright Act is cognizable and non-bailable and there is no fault of Police authorities in registration of F.I.R, there is no requirement of approval of magistrate in investigating the matter. Hence the Court dismissed the Petition.
Key takeaways by this Decision:
From this decision of the Court, Section 63 of Copyright Act, 1957 has been considered as Cognizable and non-bailable offence, since the maximum punishment prescribed is three years of imprisonment and Police can file an F.I.R and can seize the Copyrighted materials without approval from the Magistrate under Section 64 of the Act.
 Sivaji Hi-tech foods Pvt Ltd v. State (2019) Crl. O.P. No. 1379/2019.
 Piyush Subhashbai Ranipa v. State of Maharashtra (2021) SCC online Bom 350.
For Full access to the judgment : Click here
Vaishakh V Kulkarni,
Intern at CIPRA NLSIU,
3rd Year B.A, LL. B(Hon’s)
K.S.L.U’s Law School, Hubballi.
Guided by :
Jnana Teja Bandi