Recently, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (Plaintiff), filed a suit seeking permanent injunction restraining infringement of copyright, damages, etc., against several John Doe websites and mobile applications (Defendants) for making available the Plaintiff’s copyrighted works without their authorization.
The Plaintiff was established by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (‘the author’), a renowned scholar and author of religious books and scriptures, known for creating simplified versions of scriptures that are easy to understand. He is also the founding father of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The Plaintiff, a trust established by the author, claimed that it owns the copyright in all his work, pursuant to his death in 1977, and that it earns royalties from the commercial exploitation of these works. As per the Plaintiff, it has and continues to spread the teachings of the author in various forms, including through print and electronic media. The Plaintiff submitted that the Defendants do not have any license to reproduce the Plaintiff’s copyrighted works and the deception is evident from the fact that they are citing the Plaintiff’s name as the source.
The Delhi High Court, at the outset, observed that there can be no copyright in scriptures. However, copyright may subsist in adaptations of scriptures, including providing explanations, summaries, meanings, exegesis/interpretations or any audio-visual, dramatic works, etc., since they are transformative. In the instant case, the court observed that the Defendants were engaged in large scale piracy, and were not merely reproducing scriptures but the summary, introduction, preface, cover, etc., of the Plaintiff’s copyrighted works.Accordingly, the court restrained the Defendants from reproducing, printing, communicating, etc. any part of the Plaintiff’s works, and directed takedown of the websites and mobile applications.
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, India v.HTTPS://BHAGAVATAM.IN/#GSC.TAB=0 & Ors., CS(COMM) 657/2023, Order dt. September 21, 2023