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Delhi High Court directs Humans of Bombay and People of India not to use each other’s content

The Judge clarified that ideas cannot be copyrighted although a plagiarized the expression of the same idea can qualify as copyright infringement

What’s the news: The Delhi High Court on October 11, 2023, directed storytelling platforms Humans of Bombay (HoB) and People of India (PoI) to not use each other’s copyrighted work, reported Live Law. The order also stated that while the entities cannot use each other’s work, the idea itself like the creation of such platforms cannot be copyrighted.

“Ideas cannot be copyrighted but expression can”: HoB asked for an “injunction restraining infringement of copyright of its copyrighted content,” including photos and write-up, by PoI. It also accused PoI of replicating its business model.

It may be noted that HoB too is a storytelling platform inspired by the Humans of New York (HONY) that seeks to present diverse stories of the people who live in the concerned city.

During the case, PoI argued that HoB cannot raise any grievance of copyright since HoB imitates HONY. However, HoB argued that it did not object to PoI’s platform itself but the copying of its images and stories.

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After hearing both arguments, Justice Prathiba M. Singh said that it is a settled legal position that there is no copyright in an idea but that copying of the “expression of an idea” does constitute an infringement of copyright, as per Live Law.

HoB clarifies its stand: Shortly after the decision by the court, HoB posted a formal statement on social media wherein it said:

“Our legal case, however, was not about inspiration, but in fact, about – as the Delhi High Court termed it – ‘substantial imitation.’ If there had not been explicit plagiarism at play (where the exact content shot, written and created by us was published on another creator’s page), the Indian courts would not have been so willing to listen, let alone issue summons to the party in question.”

The statement also stated that its members, including Mehta, received death and rape threats during the course of this case.

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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