The Delhi High Court has, in the much discussed and debated copyright infringement suit filed byHumans of Bombay (“HOB”) against People of India (“POI”), reaffirmed that copyright law does not protect the mere idea but only its creative expression and the imitation of which would constitute copyright infringement under Section 51 of the Copyright Act, 1957 (“Copyright Act”). It was HOB’s case that, it operates a platform where it turns tales from various persons into interviews, posts, and audio-visuals and publishes such material to its website and social media platforms. POI, which operates a similar platform, has imitated many of HOB’s stories, infringing on HOB’s copyright over its content, including photographs, literary works, films, and creative expressions published on its website and social media platforms. HOB had, initially, obtained an interim injunction based on the Court’s prima facie finding that, there was “substantial imitation”, and in some instances, the images were “identical or imitative”. During the oral hearing scheduled on October 11, 2023, POI submitted that HOB’s platform is not unique and there are many such platforms operating with a similar concept all of which are based on the concept first introduced by Humans of New York. POI also submitted that since the images used in the stories were sourced from the subjects themselves, there appears to be an imitation of images HOB has used in its stories. POI also pointed out that some of the images appearing in HOB’s stories are replicas of images used in POI’s stories. The Court while reiterating that HOB cannot claim monopoly over running of a storytelling platform, ruled that, communication and dissemination of stories to individual in a specific manner is “expression” of such idea, which cannot be imitated or copied, and any such imitation would amount to infringement of copyright under the Copyright Act. The Court further ruled that, while, neither platform could claim copyright ownership over photographs of individuals from their own private collection, copyright in commissioned photographs and videos of any individual would vest in the platform which commissioned such work. The Court, accordingly, restrained both the platforms from using each other’s copyrighted works.
Humans of Bombay Stories Pvt. Ltd. vs. POI Social Media Pvt. Ltd. & Anr., CS (COMM) 646 of 2023, Order dated October 11, 2023