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Film maker wins copyright infringement case against Google, YouTube

Suneel Darshan, the proprietor of film production company Shree Krishna International, had filed a suit for permanent injunction against Google India and YouTube, and their US parent, in 2011, in the district court of Gurgaon for infringement of his copyright.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Dec 06, 2019, 01.50 PM IST
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The court awarded damages of Rs 50,000 to Darshan and restrained Google and YouTube from infringing on his works.
MUMBAI: Indian filmmaker Suneel Darshan has won a copyright infringement case against Google and its YouTube video-streaming platform, after an eight-year-long court battle.

Darshan, the proprietor of film production company Shree Krishna International, had filed a suit for permanent injunction against Google India and YouTube LLC, and their US parent, in 2011, in the district court of Gurgaon for infringement of his copyright. The court awarded damages of Rs 50,000 to Darshan and restrained Google and YouTube from infringing on his works.

Darshan has produced a dozen Bollywood films, including ‘Andaaz’, ‘Barsaat’ and ‘Dosti’. His lawyers argued that the defendants had infringed on his copyright in respect of sound recording, cinematograph films and audio-visual songs, without any licence or authorisation from him.

They argued that the “unauthorised downloader” and the defendants were sharing the ad revenue generated from the “unauthorised exploitation” of the copyrighted works, causing huge financial losses to the petitioner.

Google and YouTube claimed they merely provided a platform for communication and sharing of information without charge. They also said they had no prior knowledge that the uploaded contents were infringing on the Copyright Act.

The court held that the defendants had indulged in infringement of the petitioner’s copyright because of which he had suffered monetary loss.

Talking to ET, Darshan said that it was a long battle, but the order made him felt vindicated. He said he would calculate and file for total damages soon. Google India didn’t respond until press time Thursday to an email seeking comment.

In the court, Darshan’s lawyers argued that neither him, nor his company had given any authorisation to the defendants for storing, telecasting and/or communicating the works to public.

Google’s lawyers said their clients were mere service providers or intermediaries within the meaning of the IT Act, 2000. They also stated that they had no control over the content uploaded by users and hence could not be held liable for the alleged infringement of the copyright.

However, the court held that Google and YouTube cannot be considered to be immune since as per the IT Rules, they were under the obligation of taking down the works at least after being informed by the plaintiff.

On the argument that it was the plaintiff’s responsibility to identify specific URLs and notify the company, the court said since the defendants were aware of the title of the content, they could have easily located the URLs.

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