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Indian Case Summary

John Wiley & Sons Inc. & Ors. vs Prabhat Chander Kumar Jain & Ors. on 17 May, 2010 – Case Summary

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In the case of John Wiley & Sons Inc. & Ors. vs Prabhat Chander Kumar Jain & Ors. on 17 May, 2010, the Delhi High Court was presented with a complex copyright dispute. The case was presided over by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Manmohan Singh.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in the case were John Wiley & Sons Inc., Wiley India Pvt. Ltd, Cengage Learning Inc., Cengage Learning India Pvt. Ltd, Pearson Education Inc., and Dorling Kindersley India Pvt. Ltd. These plaintiffs are renowned publishers of academic, scientific, and other educational books, which are circulated worldwide. They claimed to own the copyrights in the books they publish, and these books are available globally at prices set by the plaintiffs.

The defendants were Prabhat Chander Kumar Jain and others, including Technischer Overseas Pvt. Ltd., a bookseller in Delhi trading under the website ‘www.alibris.com’. The defendants were accused of offering online sale and worldwide delivery of the Low Price Editions of the plaintiffs’ publications.

The plaintiffs had introduced Low Price Editions of their books in India and other Asian countries to make them available to students in a cost-effective manner. These books were subject to territorial restrictions and were meant for sale only in specific countries. The plaintiffs contended that any attempt to sell, distribute, or circulate the books outside the prescribed territories would cause infringement of the copyright.

Issues Raised

The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were exporting the Low Price Edition books, meant for sale in India and its neighbouring states, to the USA, UK, and other countries for which the books were not meant. This, they claimed, amounted to infringement of their copyright in the said books. They argued that placing the said books in circulation in countries for which they were not meant, without the plaintiffs’ permission, was a clear infringement of their copyright.

The defendants, on the other hand, raised several defences. They argued that the export of the books did not amount to copyright infringement, and that no act of infringement was done within the territory of India. They also contended that the plaintiffs had no privity of contract with them and thus they were not bound by the conditions mentioned on the books.

Court’s Observations

The court heard arguments from both sides at length. The plaintiffs relied on Section 14 of the Copyright Act, which provides the meaning of ‘copyright’, and Section 51 of the Copyright Act, which defines what constitutes infringement of copyright. They also referred to a previous judgment of the Delhi High Court in Penguin Books Ltd. Vs. India Book Distributors and Others, which held that import of Britain published books from USA without seeking licence from exclusive licencee amounts to infringement of copyright.

The defendants, meanwhile, relied on the rule of ‘exhaustion of rights’ in the copyright regime, which states that the rights of the copyright holder are lost once the first sale of the article is effected. They also argued that the suit for injunction filed by the plaintiffs was not maintainable in view of the provisions of the Specific Relief Act, 1963.

The judgment of the case was decided on May 17, 2010. The detailed observations and final verdict of the court are not provided in the source.