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Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd vs News Nation Network Pvt Ltd

Date of Judgment: 27th April 2022

Court: Bombay High Court

Bench: N. J. Jamadar


Facts:

News Nation Network Private Limited (“News Nation”) illegally broadcasted audio-visual songs, clippings, and scenes from copyrighted cinematographic films owned by Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd’s (“Shemaroo”) on its channels. Earlier, both parties had entered into a non-exclusive licensing agreement which permitted News Nation to broadcast Shemaroo’s copyrighted material for two years. Thereafter, News Nation terminated the said agreement. Following the termination, News Nation had agreed not to exploit Shemaroo’s content without obtaining prior permission. Despite this agreement, News Nation broadcasted the copyrighted material without seeking consent.

Consequently, Shemaroo demanded monetary damages for the unauthorised act. But News Nation justified the act by relying on the principles of fair use and de minimis. As a result, Shemaroo filed a copyright infringement suit against News Nation.


Issues:

  • Whether the defense of fair use or fair dealing applies to News Nation’s use?

  • Whether the content was commercially exploited in breach of copyright?


Laws Applicable:

Sections 14, 51 & 52 of the Copyright Act, 1957.


Analysis:

The Bombay High Court observed that for availing the defense of fair use, the used material had to be analysed from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives. It opined that although the length and extent of the copyrighted work are undoubtedly important, the qualitative aspect could not be ignored and hence, the argument of News Nation that the copyrighted content was exploited only for a minute was not considered.

To counter Shemaroo’s contention of material being used for commercial purposes, News Nation had to place records to show that the content was used for reporting on current events and affairs, but they did not do so. On the other hand, Shemaroo's records showed that audio-visual footage, excerpts, and dialogue snippets from numerous cinematographic films containing copyrighted information were exploited in a variety of programmes.


The court held that Shemaroo had a strong prima facie case and granted interim relief to them.

Conclusion:

This case raised important issues related to copyright law, fair dealing/use, and the use of copyrighted content in the news industry. The judgment provided clarity on these issues and set an important precedent for the protection of copyrighted content in India.


 


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