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Copyright law does not bar remedy against breach of confidence

19 June, 2015

In a suit involving breach of confidence action which also alleged infringement of copyright, the Bombay High Court has granted interim injunction restraining the defendant from releasing the offending film alleged to be based on the script/screenplay of the plaintiff. Noting differences between the statutory right of protection of copyright and the common law right of protection of trust or confidence, and observing that protection of confidence is a broader right than the proprietary right of copyright, the High Court considered the facts of the case in the light of the law of breach of confidence. It noted that Section 16 of the Copyright Act does not abrogate any right or jurisdiction to restrain a breach of trust or confidence, and that while copyright protects the expression of an idea or plot, breach of trust/confidence protects the idea/plot itself if the same has been sufficiently developed and communication to the other party proved.

On the question as to whether the screenplay of the petitioner could be termed as ‘novel’ in order to protect the same as copyright or confidence, the court noted that ‘novelty’ or ‘originality’ of an idea or work of art or literature does not imply that it should not have been derived from what is already available as public knowledge. It was found that a number of individual components of the petitioner’s screenplay were known or common but, their unique combination gave ‘novelty’ or ‘uniqueness’ to the material, and hence the same merited recognition as confidential information. Noting that essential elements of the screenplay of the petitioner appeared to have been used in the defendant’s film, the Court in this case of Jyoti Kapoor v. Kunal Kohli as decided on 19-5-2015 was of the view that the plaintiff had arguable case that the material was actually used by the defendant. Granting interim injunction, it held that damages in the case were not capable of being compensated in money.
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