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Criminal Liability Under Section 64 Of The Copyright Act 1957

Under the provisions of copyright Act 1957, criminal complaint can be filed in order to initiate criminal proceeding. The provision of Section 63 of the Copyright Act 1957 provides for the offence under the Copyright Act 1957.

Section 63 of the Copyright Act 1957 talks about infringement of copyright, but it does not define the infringement. While Section 64 of the Copyright Act of 1957 empowers police authorities to seize infringing goods.

Now the question arises as to whether a police authority can register an FIR against any person after invoking the provisions of Section 64 of the Copyright Act 1957. Or in other words, can it be said that Section 64 of the Copyright Act 1957 provides for criminal liability?

The Hon'ble High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad , vide its Judgment dated 14.09.2022 passed in Criminal Misc Application No.8581 of 2022 titled as Mahesh Bhai Vs State of Gujarat, was having an occasion to address this issue.

Now coming to the facts of the case, an FIR has been registered against the applicant at the behest of a criminal complaint filed by Respondent No.2.

The subject matter FIR was registered on the grounds of inter alia alleging violation of Section 64 of the Copyright Act 1957.

The applicant claimed to be the registered owner of the copyright. Hence, the mentioned FIR could not have been registered against the applicant.

In order to appreciate the argument of the applicant, let us see what Section 51 of the Copyright Act 1957 provides for.

51.Copyright in a work shall be deemed to be infringed:
  1. When any person, without a license granted by the owner of the Copyright or the Registrar of Copyrights under this Act or in contravention of the conditions of a license so granted or of any condition imposed by a competent authority under this Act.

From bare perusal of Section 51 of the Copyright Act 1957 it is apparent that if a person does have license from the Registrar of Copyright, then such act does not amount to be infringement of Copyright.

In the facts of the case, the High Court interpreted the copyright registration granted in favor of the Applicant, to be such license given by the Registrar of Copyright.

The Hon'ble High Court of Gujarat observed that since the Applicant is registered proprietor of the copyright. Hence necessary ingredients of Section 51 of the Copyright Act 1957 has not been satisfied.

The Hon'ble further observed that there is no any question of registration of FIR by the Police authorities against the Applicant herein as Section 64 of the copyright Act 1957 provides the power to the police authorities only to investigate the matter. Let is see what Section 64 of the Copyright Act 1957 stipulates?

64. Power of police to seize infringing copies
  1. Where a magistrate has taken cognizance of any offence under section 63 in respect of the infringement of copyright in any work, it shall be lawful for any police officer, not below the rank of sub-inspector, to seize without any warrant from the magistrate, all copies of the work wherever found, which appear to him to be infringing copies of the work and all copies so seized shall, as soon as practicable, be produced before the magistrate.
Thus, it is apparent that Section 64 of the Copyright Act 1957 does not define an offence. It is only the enabling section which empowers the police authorities to seize the infringing products.

The Hon'ble Court rightly observed that under Section 64 of the Copyright Act, the police authorities can only seize the infringing goods. Section 64 of the Copyright Act does not provide for any offence. Hence, the police authorities wrongly registered the FIR against the applicant.

The conclusion would be like this: a police authority can not register an FIR against any person after invoking Section 64 of the Copyright Act 1957. It is only a provision that provides power to a police authority to investigate the matter and seize the infringing product. No criminal liability can be affixed on the basis of Section 64 of the Copyright Act 1957. Of course, aid under Section 51 and 63 would be required in order to fix criminal liability on any person.

This is so because neither Section 63 nor Section 64 of the Copyright Act 1957 provides for what constitutes an infringement. Without satisfying the necessary ingredients of Section 51 of the Copyright Act 1957, an FIR solely registered on the basis of Section 64 of the Copyright Act 1957, would not be maintainable.

Case Law Discussed:
Mahesh Bhai Vs State of Gujarat
Judgement Date:14.09.2022
Case No. Criminal Misc Application No.8581 of 2022
Hon'ble High Court of Ahmedabad
Niral R Mehta , H.J

Written By: Ajay Amitabh Suman, IPR Advocate, Hon'ble High Court of Delhi.
aja[email protected], 9990389539

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