ANI Photo | Adaption or dramatic works out of religious scriptures entitled to copyright protection, says Delhi High Court

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New Delhi [India], September 26 (ANI):  The Delhi High Court said there is no copyright on the reproduction of original religious scriptures but adaption or dramatic work out of the same is entitled to copyright protection.
The High Court is dealing with a petition moved by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust created by the scholar and spiritual leader Srila Prabhupada against alleged copyright violation of their work by the Trust by several websites, mobile applications and social media accounts.
HC said that such piracy of the copyrighted works of the Plaintiff-Trust cannot be permitted. If such piracy goes unchecked, the copyright in the said works would be considerably diluted leading to immense loss of revenues to the Plaintiff – Trust.
The High Court has granted ex parte interim injunction and restrained the respondents from printing, reproducing, communicating or disseminating any part of the Plaintiff’s works.
The bench also directed Google and Meta to take down the infringing mobile applications from their respective platforms. It directed the authorities to block access to the infringing websites/other platforms.
Justice Prathiba M Singh said, “There can be no doubt that the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita is one of the most revered ancient scriptures in the world. The Bhagavad Gita along with the other scriptures like Bhagavatam which are written about by the Author are all `public domain’ works.”
“However, any adaptations of the said work including providing an explanation, summary, meaning, exegesis/interpretation or creating any audiovisual works for eg., television series like Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana or B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharata; dramatic works created by drama societies based on scriptures etc., being transformative works, would be entitled to copyright protection – being original works of the Authors themselves,” Justice Singh added.
“Thus, there can be no objection to the actual reproduction of the text of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita or similarly other spiritual books. However, the manner in which the same is interpreted by different gurus and spiritual teachers being varied in nature, copyright would vest in respect of the original parts of the literary works which preach, teach or explain the scripture,” Justice Singh said.
The bench observed, ” A perusal of the record would show that the books being made available by the Defendants are complete reproductions of the works of the Plaintiff, which were authored by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ‘Srila Prabhupada’.
“These are not mere reproductions of the original scriptures as it is, i.e., the shlokas but their (Anuvaad) and (Tatparya), summary, introduction, preface, cover etc., have all been reproduced” the bench added.
The high court perused the record and saw the extracts from the infringing websites, mobile applications, Instagram handles, etc. Justice Singh observed, ” Some of the platforms in fact reveal that there is a large-scale infringement that has been carried out in the reproduction of a substantial number of copyrighted works of the Plaintiff-Trust.”
It is noticed that piracy has been done in several of the languages in which the Plaintiff’s works are published, the high court said. The High Court has listed the matter for further hearing on March 12, 2024 

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