Copyright - Common law remedy cannot override specific statute
24 September, 2013
Examining the claim to protection of quasi-property rights in (match related) information as against the rights envisaged in Section 16 of the Copyright Act of 1957, the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court held that there are no proprietary rights over facts and information and cannot be created by judicial intervention.
The dispute revolved around cricket match - live score cards, match updates and score alerts through Short Messaging Service (SMS)/Mobile Value Added Services (MVAS) disseminated by the plaintiff. The respondents held broadcast rights, which, according to them was a bouquet of rights and by dissemination of the same contemporaneously the plaintiff had infringed copyrights, indulged in commercial misappropriation and unfair competition resulting in unjust enrichment. The Single Judge had earlier accorded relief to the respondent finding force in the plea of rights in common law.
The Division Bench of Delhi High Court did not agree with the ‘Hot News Doctrine’ or time –sensitive nature of the information which would be need to be protected so as to enable the right holder who has expended time, effort and money to fully enjoy the same. In denying injunction to the respondent the court reasoned that the information passes into public domain as soon as the event occurs (bowling, fall of wicket etc.) and mere information cannot be the subject matter of protection under common law.
As regards misappropriation the court held that copyright law allows copying of facts and the same cannot be equated to ‘reproduction’ / ’misappropriation’ to support the charge of unfair competition. On unjust enrichment, the court held that since no misconduct except those ‘subsumed within the claim of copyright infringement’ was alleged, de hors the Copyright Act, no protection could be sought for facts, ideas and expressions. Further, restitution for unjust enrichment is different from restitution for wrong doing. In the instant case, there had been no enrichment at the expense of the right holder. [Akuate Internet Services Pvt. Ltd. & Anr v. Star India Pvt. Ltd., Delhi High Court decision dated 30-8-2013]