Topic: Eastern Book company v Navin J.Desai - Copyright law Judgment

Eastern Book company v Navin J.Desai
Equivalent citations: 2001 IVAD Delhi 612, 92 (2001) DLT 403, 2001 (58) DRJ 103 - Bench: A Kumar, A Sikri - Date of judgment: 9 March, 2001

“It is not denied that under section 2(k) of the Copyright Act, a work which is made or published under the direction or control of any Court, tribunal or other judicial authority in India is a Government work. Under section 52(q), the reproduction or publication of any judgment or order of a court, tribunal or other judicial authority shall not constitute infringement of copyright of the government in these works. It is thus clear that it is open to everybody to reproduce and publish the government work including the judgment/ order of a court. However, in case, a person by extensive reading, careful study and comparison and with the exercise of taste and judgment has made certain comments about judgment or has written a commentary thereon, may be such a comment and commentary is entitled to protection under the Copyright Act”.

The court further observed:

“In terms of section 52(1)(q) of the Act, reproduction of a judgment of the court is an exception to the infringement of the Copyright. The orders and judgments of the court are in the public domain and anyone can publish them. Not only that being a Government work, no copyright exists in these orders and judgments. No one can claim copyright in these judgments and orders of the court merely on the ground that he had first published them in his book. Changes consisting of elimination, changes of spelling, elimination or addition of quotations and corrections of typographical mistakes are trivial and hence no copyright exists therein”.


Arun Kumar, J.

1. This appeal is directed against a judgment of the learned Single Judge dated 17th January, 2001 whereby application of the plaintiff under Order XXXIX Rules 1 and 2 and that of the defendant under Order XXXIX Rule 4 CPC were disposed of. The learned Single Judge dismissed the application of the plaintiff for interim relief while the application of the defendant under Order XXXIX Rule 4 CPC was allowed. As a matter of fact, by the impugned judgment similar applications under Order XXXIX Rules 1 and 2 CPC of the plaintiff and under Order XXXIX Rule 4 CPC of the defendant in two suits were disposed of. The plaintiff is common in both the suits while the defendants are different. The cause of action pleaded and interim relief sought is similar in the two suits. Since plaintiffs applications in both the suits stood dismissed, these appeals have been filed by the plaintiff in both the suits.

2. This order will dispose of the applications for interim relief filed by the appellant in both the appeals.

3. Briefly the facts are that plaintiff/appellant claims to be a publishing house of repute. The appellant is mainly engaged in publication of law books. With the advent of computerisation, legal reporting also took to it. The appellant claims that it developed a data base package available on CD-ROM for finding Supreme Court rulings on diverse legal issues and topics. The software developed by the appellant is known as "SCC Online Supreme Court Case Finder." The "Case Finder" includes over 84,000/- cases based on headnotes published in the plaintiffs journal SCC. The appellant claims copyright in the headnotes to the judgments as well as in the selection, arrangement and copy-editing of the judgments. The appellant further claims that it has a complete team of editorial staff which goes through the judgments of the Supreme Court and prepares the headnotes according to the issues propositions of law, statutes involved in each case. This requires considerable skill, labour and expertise. The appellant concedes that it is not claiming any copyright in the text of the judgments. It claims copyright only in the headnotes, in the selection of judgments for publication, their arrangement and copy-editing whereby various inputs are provided in the judgments. The case of the appellant is that they are the owners of this copyright and the same cannot be allowed to be used or copied by anyone else. The appellant contends that the respondent is copying in toto the headnotes, the selection, arrangement and the manner of presentation of the judgments of the Supreme Court as contained in the publication of the appellant. According to the appellant, the respondent in Suit No. 624/2000 have developed a software package called "THE LAW" published in two CD-ROMS while the respondent in FAO (OS) No. 43/2001 have developed a software package called "GRAND JURIX" published in three CD-ROMs. As per the case of the appellants, the short notes and the headnotes of the respondents' software in both the cases are identical to the short notes and headnotes contained in the plaintiffs software package. Further it is submitted that not only short notes and headnotes have been slavishly copied but also the entire text of the copy-edited judgments published in the law reports published by the appellant including its style and format, paragraph numbers, foot numbers and cross references have been copied. All this is done without the permission of the appellant and thus it amounts to infringement of the copyright of the plaintiff,

4. An ex parte interim injunction in terms of the prayers made by the. plaintiff/appellant had been granted by the learned Single Judge while issuing summons in the suit which was, however, modified when the defendant/respondent in Suit No. 624/2000 (FAO (OS) No. 45/2001) moved an application under Order 39 Rule 4 CPC. The said application was listed before the court for the first time on 17th July, 2000 when counsel for the appellant was present in court and accepted notice of the application. In the presence of counsel for both the parties, the court passed the following order :-

"In the meantime, the defendants will be entitled to sell their CD-ROM with the text of the judgment of the Supreme Court along with their own headnotes which should not in any way be copy of the headnotes and the text of the plaintiffs."

5. This order held the field till the applications of both the parties were finally disposed of by the impugned order.

6. We have considered the rival contentions of the counsel for both the parties. The learned counsel appearing for both the parties have argued their respective cases on the same lines as it was before the learned Single Judge. We have already set out the case of the appellants. The defense raised by the respondents is basically that there is no copyright in a judgment of a court. What is being published by the respondents are the judgments of the Supreme Court in which no party can have a copyright. So far as the question of copying the headnotes and the short notes etc. is concerned, the learned counsel for the respondents in both the appeals accept the arrangement before the learned Single Judge during the pendency of the applications for interim relief vide order dated 17th July, 2000. The respondents are agreeable not to copy the, headnotes or short notes of the plaintiff for the judgments published by them in their publications or CD-ROMs. The respondents dispute and deny the allegation that they are copying plaintiffs selection, arrangement and the manner of copy-editing of the judgments of the Supreme Court. The learned Single Judge has by a very detailed judgment considered the various points in issue and has reached a finding which is at this stage against the plaintiff/appellant. The issues raised in the appeal by both the sides required further consideration particularly in view of the fact that some of the issues are new, the appeals have been admitted to regular hearing. However for purposes of interim relief we find that no case for a complete stay as prayed has been made out. We are refraining from expressing any opinion on the issues raised by the parties in order not to cause prejudice to either party at the stage of final hearing of the appeal. Suffice it to say at this stage that no ease for injunction as prayed is made out. Considerations of balance of convenience and irreparable loss and injury persuade us to allow the same arrangement as prevailed before the learned Single Judge to continue, which, as already noted above, counsel for respondents appearing in both the appeals have consented. Accordingly, it is ordered that during the pendency of these appeals the respondents will be entitled to sell their CD-ROM with the text of the judgment of the Supreme Court along with their own headnotes which should not in any way be copy of the headnotes and the text of the plaintiffs.

7. The applications for interim relief in both the appeals stand disposed of in above terms.