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Doctrine Of De Minimis In The Context Of Fair Use: A Case Study

Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd. Vs News Nation Network Pvt. Ltd., a recent judgement issued by the Hon'ble High Court of Mumbai, dealt with the Defendant's "De minimis" defense.

The term "De minimis" is derived from Latin and means "minimum." In a legal sense, this doctrine refers to a situation in which a party asserts that an act, activity, or fact is too insignificant to be taken into account by the Court. This decision was rendered on April 27, 2022 in Commercial IP Suit (L) No. 434 of 2021 by Hon'ble Justice Shri N. J. Jamadar of the Hon'ble High Court of Mumbai.

This case involves copyright infringement, account rendition, and other issues. The Plaintiff, Shemaroo Entertainment Limited, filed this suit of copyright infringement against the Defendant, News Nation Network Private Limited.

Shemaroo Entertainment Limited, the Plaintiff, claimed to be in the business of producing, exhibiting, distributing, and exploiting of cinematographic films, plays, dramas, telefilms, and songs, among other things.

In addition, the plaintiff claimed that it had been granted licenses to other broadcasting organization for its copyrighted content.

In a license agreement dated 19.07.2019, the plaintiff granted the defendant permission to exploit its copyrighted music, cinematographic scenes, and other intellectual property.

The Plaintiff also claimed that the license agreement was terminated on August 1, 2020. Despite this, the Defendant continued to use the Plaintiff's copyrighted work. Being dissatisfied with the situation, a subject matter suit was filed.

At the one hand, the Defendant admitted unauthorized use of Plaintiff's Contents after the Plaintiff terminated the agreement in this case. The Defendant, on the other hand, raised the defense of "fair dealing and de minimis".

The Defendant asserted that the length of Plaintiff's content used by the Defendant was extremely short and minimal. It was too minimal, and thus insufficient to attract Copyright Infringement.

The Court rejected the Defendant's argument and issued an injunction in favor of the Plaintiff, prohibiting the Defendant from exploiting the Plaintiff's copyrighted content.

The reason for this finding is that the qualitative test, not the quantitative test, determines whether or not copyright infringement has occurred.

In other words, the length of infringing materials is irrelevant when assessing copyright infringement. In fact, the quality of the infringing content is the deciding factor.

This is why the Hon'ble High Court of Mumbai was pleased to reject the Defendant's contention that the Plaintiff's contents were only used for minute or a second.

The fact that the Defendant had already admitted Plaintiff's right by entering into a license agreement with Plaintiff was also significant in this case. This was another reason why the Defendant was denied the benefit of the "de minimis" and "fair usage" defense.

Written By: Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd. Vs News Nation Network Pvt. Ltd., a recent judgement issued by the Hon'ble High Court of Mumbai, dealt with the Defendant's "De minimis" defense.

The term "De minimis" is derived from Latin and means "minimum." In a legal sense, this doctrine refers to a situation in which a party asserts that an act, activity, or fact is too insignificant to be taken into account by the Court. This decision was rendered on April 27, 2022 in Commercial IP Suit (L) No. 434 of 2021 by Hon'ble Justice Shri N. J. Jamadar of the Hon'ble High Court of Mumbai.

This case involves copyright infringement, account rendition, and other issues. The Plaintiff, Shemaroo Entertainment Limited, filed this suit of copyright infringement against the Defendant, News Nation Network Private Limited.

Shemaroo Entertainment Limited, the Plaintiff, claimed to be in the business of producing, exhibiting, distributing, and exploiting of cinematographic films, plays, dramas, telefilms, and songs, among other things.

In addition, the plaintiff claimed that it had been granted licenses to other broadcasting organization for its copyrighted content.

In a license agreement dated 19.07.2019, the plaintiff granted the defendant permission to exploit its copyrighted music, cinematographic scenes, and other intellectual property.

The Plaintiff also claimed that the license agreement was terminated on August 1, 2020. Despite this, the Defendant continued to use the Plaintiff's copyrighted work. Being dissatisfied with the situation, a subject matter suit was filed.

At the one hand, the Defendant admitted unauthorized use of Plaintiff's Contents after the Plaintiff terminated the agreement in this case. The Defendant, on the other hand, raised the defense of "fair dealing and de minimis".

The Defendant asserted that the length of Plaintiff's content used by the Defendant was extremely short and minimal. It was too minimal, and thus insufficient to attract Copyright Infringement.

The Court rejected the Defendant's argument and issued an injunction in favor of the Plaintiff, prohibiting the Defendant from exploiting the Plaintiff's copyrighted content.

The reason for this finding is that the qualitative test, not the quantitative test, determines whether or not copyright infringement has occurred.

In other words, the length of infringing materials is irrelevant when assessing copyright infringement. In fact, the quality of the infringing content is the deciding factor.

This is why the Hon'ble High Court of Mumbai was pleased to reject the Defendant's contention that the Plaintiff's contents were only used for minute or a second.

The fact that the Defendant had already admitted Plaintiff's right by entering into a license agreement with Plaintiff was also significant in this case. This was another reason why the Defendant was denied the benefit of the "de minimis" and "fair usage" defense.

Written By: Ajay Amitabh Suman

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