No translation without permission of Right holder holds Court

delhi high court logo building

Unauthorised translation and sale of popular student textbook restrained by Delhi High Court. Summary judgment recognises royalties as an integral source of livelihood.

Bharati Bhawan, a publisher and distributor of school and college textbooks in English, Hindi and Bengali languages, filed a copyright infringement suit after learning of the sale of unauthorised Hindi translations of a book in its catalogue titled ‘Concepts of Physics’.

Written by Dr. H.C. Verma, professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, ‘Concepts of Physics’ is widely popular with students in India. Read not only at high school, it is also used in the preparation for Indian competitive examinations, such as the IIT Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) and All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE).

The book received acclaim from students and teachers at its launch in 1992. Such has been its influence, it continues to be accepted as the most comprehensive book on physics for students over two decades later.

The defendants sold literal translations of the book in Hindi, purporting to be the publisher and author of the book. Its title was changed to ‘Bhautiki Ke Moolbhoot Sidhant’, a verbatim translation of ‘Concepts of Physics’. Content, including diagrams, equations, exercises and unique examples had been copied and translated too.

Noting a lack of justification of their infringing activities, the court passed a summary judgment on the basis that defendants had no real prospects of defending the claim. In addition to a permanent injunction, the court awarded actual costs of the suit in favour of the plaintiffs.

The ruling upholds the right of copyright owners to prohibit unauthorised translation of their work. As the copyright owners, the plaintiffs held all rights under Section 14(1)(a) of the Copyright Act 1957, and enjoyed the exclusive right to translate it.

Notably, in its observations, the court pointed to the eight years of research and labour in the preparation of the book and that Dr. Verma, a professor at IIT, Kanpur, depended on the royalties from the sale of the book for his livelihood.

Bharati Bhawan & anr v M/s Shree Jee Prakashan & ors; before the Delhi High Court; summary judgment dated 24.8.2017