An artist Deva had drawn a sketch of the music composer Saint Thyagaraja and published the same in his art blog hosted by blogspot on February 9th 2011. The blog did not have restrictions in downloading the photo from the internet. A book, Pancharatna Kritis of Thyagaraja in Ghana Ragas was published in December 2013 which had the sketch drawn by Deva on its cover page. Also, the name / signature of the artist had been removed in the cover page.

Deva was enraged that his creative work was used without his permission and that they had edited his name on the sketch as well. He wrote a mail to them, but there hasn’t been a response ever since.

The photos were taken from my mobile camera, and edited using mobile app
The photos were taken from my mobile camera, and edited using mobile app

Meanwhile, let us review if this was a case of copyright infringement?

From the Copyright Act, 1957, Chapter III – 14: Copyright means “(c) in the case of an artistic work,- (i) to reproduce the work in any material form including depiction in three dimensions of a two dimensional work or in two dimensions of a three dimensional work; (ii) to communicate the work to the public; (iii) to issue copies of the work to the public not being copies already in circulation; (iv) to include the work in any cinematograph film; (v) to make any adaptation of the work; (vi) to do in relation to an adaptation of the work any of the acts specified in relation to the work in sub-clauses (i) to (iv);

This needs to be looked at in 3 levels:

  • Ownership: Establishing the work is protected under the copyright, exists – The blog still hosts the scanned copy of the sketch and the original sketch is in possession of the artist.
  • Copying: The alleged infringing act falls within the scope of exclusivity offered for that work – Copying can be proved by inference. It can be inferred that the book publisher has in fact copied the Deva’s work from the fact that the publisher had access to the the art work through the internet and from the similarities between the cover page and the blog post. The rationale behind this is that given the sufficient opportunity that the defendant had to copy the plaintiff’s work in addition to the striking similarity between the two works, the evidence in hand is indicative of copyright infringement.
  • Improper Appropriation: The act is actually infringing in nature – There is substantial similarity between the two works and the book was published 2 years after the sketch was posted on the internet.

The artist Deva signs his sketches in a particular way and there is evidence thus in all his artworks. This work of visual art can be identified thus by the signature of the author. However, the book cover did not have the signature in the location as in the original. Could we call this a safety measure from the publisher?

Even Google, which owns blogspot (where the blog was hosted), says that the content uploaded is still Deva’s own. “Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”

Psst… Ennala post dhan poda mudiyum, varanjavanga dhan case podanum! What to do…

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

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