top of page


Article submitted by Aatmaja, SASTRA Deemed to be University.

The case R G Anand v. Deluxe Films was a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of India in the matter of Copyright under the Intellectual Property Rights. The case primarily deals with a copyright infringement in case of cinematography.

Copyright infringement is a violation of intellectual property right where there is an illegal usage or a copy of an original creative work without the authority of the original creator. It is the use of works protected by copyright law without the permission required, thereby infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works.

Under the Copyright Act 1957, Section 51 specifies when a copyright is infringed. According to Section 51 of the Act, Copyright is deemed to be infringed if:

  • A person without obtaining the permission of the copyright holder does any act which only the copyright holder is authorized to do.

  • A person permits the place to be used for communication, selling, distribution or exhibition of an infringing work unless he was not aware or has no reason to believe that such permission will result in the violation of copyright.

  • A person imports infringing copies of a work

  • A person without obtaining the authority from the copyright holder reproduces his work in any form.

This case deals with an infringement of the copyright against the movie “NEW DELHI” made by Mohan Sehgal. It was filed by the appellant R G Anand, for violation of copyrights of his drama “HUM HINDUSTANI” which was also produced by him. He contended that the plot of the movie “NEW DELHI” was modeled on the plot of his play.

The Supreme Court of India held that a case for infringement may be made out only when such infringement may be identifiable by a reasonable man; and, in this case, the court observedthat no prudent person could get an impression that the film appears to be a copy of the original play. The Supreme Court did not find any violation of copyright and dismissed the appeal. The Court observed: 'Where the same idea is being developed in a different manner, it is manifest that the source being common, similarities are bound to occur. In such a case, the Courts should determine whether or not the similarities are on fundamental or substantial aspects of the mode of expression adopted in the copyrighted work with some variations here and here. In other words, in order to be actionable the copy must be a substantial and material one which at once leads to the conclusion that the defendant is guilty of the act of piracy.

The Supreme Court held some guidelines:

(i) There can be no copyright in an idea, subject-matter, themes, plots or historical or legendary facts and violation of the copyright in such cases is confined to the form, manner and arrangement and expression of the idea by the author of the copyrighted work.

(ii) Whether the viewer after having read or seen both the works is clearly of the opinion and gets an unmistakable impression that the subsequent work appears to be a copy of the original.

(iii) It has to be seen whether similarities are fundamental or substantial aspects of the mode of expression adopted in the copyrighted work. Copying should be substantial or material.

(iv) If the same theme is used but it is expressed and portrayed differently, then there is no infringement of copyright.

(v) When there are material dissimilarities or unintentional coincidences in the published work, then it does not amount to infringement of copyright.

(vi) If the viewer after the incident gets the idea that the film is by and large a copy of the original play, violation of the copyright may be said to be proved.

(vii) Burden of proof is on the plaintiff in cases where a stage play has been infringed by a movie director.


The Copyright Act, 1957 gives copyright protection in India. It provides the copyright protection in the following two forms:

(i)Economic rights of the author

A copyright can be claimed on original, literary, musical, dramatical and artistical creative works. Under Section 14 of the Act, the authors of the copyright can exercise their economic rights. In the matters of literary, dramatic and musical creative works, these rights protect the creators’ works from reproducing the work in any form like storing it in any electronic form, issuing illegal copies of the original work, performing or communicating the work in a public domain without the authority of the original creator, making any cinematograph film or sound recording of the work or translating or adapting the original work.

In the matter of computer programs, the creator enjoys the right to sell or give on hire, or offer for sale or hire any copy of the computer program regardless whether such copy has been sold or given on hire on earlier occasions. In matters of artistic works, the rights provided to an author consists of the right to reproduce the work in any material form, including portrayal in three dimensions of a two dimensional work or in two dimensions of a three dimensional work, to communicate or issue copies of the work to the public domain, to contain the work of any cinematograph work, and to make any adaptation of the work.

In matters of cinematograph films, the author enjoys the right to make a copy of the film including a photograph of any image forming part thereof, to sell or give on hire or offer for sale or hire any copy of the film and to communicate the film to the public. These rights are correspondingly available to the author of the sound recording. The author of a painting, sculpture, drawing or of a manuscript of a literary, dramatic or musical work, if he was the first owner of the copyright, shall be entitled to have a right to share in the resale price of such original copy provided that the resale price exceeds rupees ten thousand.

(ii)Moral Rights

Section 57 of the Act defines the two basic 'moral rights of an author. These are: (i)Right of paternity:

The right of paternity refers to the right of an author to entitle authorship of work and a right to avert all others from claiming authorship of his work.

(ii)Right to integrity:

The Right of integrity accredits the author to prevent distortion of his work, or any other action in relation to the mentioned work which would be biased to his recognition or reputation.


(I) The authors of literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works can protect their published works for their lifetime in addition to 60 years post their demise.

(II) The creators of cinematograph films and of sound recordings can protect their works for 60 years from the year the original work is published.


Online internet copyright issues are also protected. To meet the challenges, along with the changing situations and the latest modern technology, existing laws should be amended as per the requirements of the situation. The existing law can also be supplemented with newer ones, specifically touching and dealing with the contemporary issues and problems. Till the country has such a strong legal base for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights, the judiciary should play an active role in the protection of these rights, including the copyright. This situation is not the worst because the existing legal system can effectively take care of any problems associated with copyright infringement. But it can definitely be a lot better and a lot faster if it is amended properly in terms of the present problems and situations faced in the modern life.



bottom of page