Copyright and Current Reporting: FilmFAIR!

The Filmfare Awards. One of the biggest and most publicised events for the Hindi film industry. However, for the Indian IP enthusiasts, this name could now be synonymous with current reporting and fair dealing!

Recently this award show was screened at a primetime slot on Sony TV (India). As with most important and well publicised functions, Sony had made sure that they had acquired the exclusive license to broadcast the show. However, there were several other channels on television that broadcast excerpts of the show citing fair use as a defence.

Examining the situation under Section 39(b) of the Copyright Act, 1957, the Delhi High Court earlier this month summarily dealt with the case in what I think is an interesting order. Though the order expressly states that it cannot be considered precedent, deciphering the order may help in understanding what this means for reporting in India.

The order lays down two conditions under which excerpts of the show may be broadcast:

Firstly, a precondition. That such broadcast, even if for fair use, may be allowed only 90 minutes after the show was first telecast on Sony TV.

And, secondly, that the excerpts may be broadcast for a maximum of 8 minutes with the Sony TV logo, and comprising solely of information that may be considered “newsworthy” to the public. This would basically imply that while the channel may telecast Kareena Kapoor receiving her award, there could be no telecast of random shots such as her staring lovingly at beau Saif Ali Khan, or even of her performing during the show!

Essentially, the Courts have sought to strike a balance between the rights of the copyright holder and the “fair dealer”. They have emphasised on the right of the copyright holder in broadcasting such work, and at the same time maintained that the news channels may continue to do their job- by focussing on the news and crediting the telecast to its original source. An interesting observation here is that the Court has not only looked into the duration of the clip but also newsworthiness of such content- thereby ensuring that substantial portion of the work is not reproduced and that the relevance of such work for purposes of current reporting continues to be maintained.

Other fair dealing cases involving big players such as ESPN still pending before the Courts. Perhaps then it is high time that Courts start to delve into the nuances of fair dealing, for not all cases will be as simple.

One comment.

  1. Anonymous

    Dear Krutikka,

    Please give me any lead to find out the order from the Delhi High Court’s website.



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