26 Sep 2023 4:00 AM GMT
Observing that no copyright can be claimed in religious scriptures, the Delhi High Court has ruled that adaptions of such work, including making TV series or creating dramatic works, would be entitled to copyright protection. Justice Prathiba M Singh made the observation while dealing with a suit filed Bhaktivedanta Book Trust created by a renowned scholar and spiritual leader Srila...
Observing that no copyright can be claimed in religious scriptures, the Delhi High Court has ruled that adaptions of such work, including making TV series or creating dramatic works, would be entitled to copyright protection.
Justice Prathiba M Singh made the observation while dealing with a suit filed Bhaktivedanta Book Trust created by a renowned scholar and spiritual leader Srila Prabhupada, against various websites, mobile applications and social media accounts which were allegedly disseminating its copyrighted works, including Bhagavat Gita and other religious books.
The court said that there can be no doubt that the Bhagavad Gita is one of the most revered ancient scriptures in the world which, along with other scriptures like Bhagavatam, written by the Author are all “public domain” works.
“There can be no copyright claimed in the Scriptures. However, any adaptations of the said work including providing explanation, summary, meaning, exegesis/interpretation or creating any audio visual works for eg., television series like Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana or B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharata; dramatic works created by drama societies based on scriptures etc., being transformative works, would be entitled to copyright protection - being original works of the Authors themselves,” the court added.
Furthermore, the court said that there can be no objection in the actual reproduction of the text of Bhagavad Gita or similarly other spiritual books. However, it added, that the manner in which the same is interpreted by different gurus and spiritual teachers being varied in nature, copyright would vest in respect of the original parts of the literary works which preach, teach or explain the scripture.
It was the trust’s case that the author “attained Mahasamadhi” in the year 1977 and that copyrights in all the works written by him subsisted with it.
It was submitted that the said works were available to the general public through its various religious establishments and online platforms and that it earns royalty from the sale and commercial exploitation. However, the defendant entities were making the works available without its consent or permission.
Perusing the extracts from infringing websites, mobile applications and social media handles, Justice Singh observed that there was a large-scale infringement being carried out in the reproduction of a substantial number of copyrighted works of the plaintiff trust.
The court also observed that since the Author had himself set up the Plaintiff Trust and had over the copyrights to be administered by it, the copyrighted works cannot be reproduced without authorization, licence or the permission of the trust.
“A perusal of the record would show that the books being made available by the Defendants 1 to 14 are complete reproductions of the works of the Plaintiff, which were authored by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ‘Srila Prabhupada’. These are not mere reproductions of the original scriptures as it is, i.e., the shlokas but their अनुवाद (Anuvaad) and तात्पर्य (Tatparya), summary, introduction, preface, cover etc., have all been reproduced,” the court said.
Therefore, the court restrained the defendants from printing or disseminating any part of the trust’s copyrighted works to the public either in print or in audio-visual form, including websites, mobile applications, weblinks, or social media posts.
The court directed Google LLC and Meta to take down the infringing mobile applications from their respective platforms. It also directed Godaddy.com to immediately block and suspend the domain name or website ‘www.bhagavatam.in’.
“Defendant No.18 to 26 are directed to block access to the above mentioned infringing websites/other platforms. Defendant Nos.27 and 28 are directed to issue blocking orders in respect of all the infringing links/URLs/websites,” the court said.
Advocates Saikrishna Rajagopal, Deepshikha Sarkar and Bhanu appeared for the plaintiff.
Advocates Debarshi Dutta, Mrinal Ojha, Anand Raja, Tanya Chaudhry and Shivam Tiwari appeared for the defendants.
Case Title: THE BHAKTIVEDANTA BOOK TRUST, INDIA v. HTTPS://BHAGAVATAM.IN/#GSC.TAB=0 & ORS.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 889
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