Eastern Book Company and Ors. V. D. B. Modak and Anr.

By- Anjanee Goel


The Eastern Book Company and the Eastern Publishers, plaintiffs in the present case, publish case briefs by the name of “Supreme court cases” comprising of the same. They did some paragraphing, formatting, etc. in such a way to make it easier for users to read them and also added some headnotes and footnotes prepared by them only. The defendant installed the whole module created by the plaintiffs on a CD ROM and created a software named Grand Pix and The Law. Hence, the case was brought.

At first, the appellants went to the single-judge bench of the Delhi High Court where the Court did not grant a temporary injunction against the defendants in favor of the plaintiffs and stated that the edited judgments had no copyright. Then the appellants not satisfied with the judgment went to the division bench of the Delhi High Court where there also, they lost the case to the defendant and the court held that by making some changes in judgment doesn’t change the very characteristics the judgment holds and allowed the defendant the sale of the CD ROM. The defendant also promised that since the appellants themselves made the headnotes and footnotes and had copyright over it so the defendant will not use them.

After this judgment, the aggrieved plaintiffs moved to the Supreme Court and there were two issues raised:

(a) Whether the derivative work is protected under the act and what are the standards of originality with respect to them;

(b) Whether the plaintiffs will be entitled to the copyright of the whole edited judgments or only to the extent of inputs made in editing them.

The court gave judgment in favor of the appellants and held that the appellants applied required substantial mind, labour and money in the derivation of the original work it is not just negligible derivation. The court ordered that the respondent cannot copy the paragraphs of the judgments edited by the appellants and neither can it use them for internal referencing. Also, the respondent was also barred from using the judges’ views in the judgment as to his own while editing the judgments.

The judges applied the rule of sweat of the brow expressing that the author of the work retains the rights over it. The court also referred to the principle of modicum of creativity according to which there should be a minimum amount and degree of creativity used in the derivation of original work. The court hence finally granted interim relief to the appellants and stated that the respondents shall be allowed the selling of CD ROM but it should only contain their own headnotes, footnotes, and edited notes.

[1] Eastern Book Company & Ors. v. D. B. Modak & Anr. (2008) 1 SCC 1.

Case Notes

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