A Bollywood filmmaker wins copyright case against Google, YouTube — but gets paid only $700 in damages

Sundeel Darshan wins copyright infringement case against YouTube and GoogleNeedPix
  • Indian filmmaker, Suneel Darshan, won the copyright infringement case filed against Google and its platform video platform, YouTube.
  • It took eight years for the case to come to a close.
  • The court has awarded Darshan ₹50,000 in damages and ordered Google and YouTube to restrain from infringing on his work.
Not a lot of people can say that they emerged triumphant against Google’s army of lawyers. But, Suneel Darshan — a Bollywood producer — s one of them

The Indian filmmaker behind Bollywood hits like Andaaz and Barsaat emerged triumphant against Google and its video-sharing platform, YouTube, after an eight-year-long courtroom battle over copyright infringement.

The District Court of Gurgaon ruled in his favour, ordering Google and YouTube from infringing on his works but doled out only ₹50,000 in damages ($700).

“It was a long battle, but the order made me felt vindicated. I would calculate and file for total damages soon,” Darshan told Box Office India.

YouTube’s only a service provider — not responsible for the actions of its users

Darshan, the proprietor of the film production company Shree Krishna International, accused the pair of circulating and sharing his work with the public without any prior permission or authorisation — making for infringement of copyright.

His lawyers argued that the defendants were profiting from the ‘unauthorised exploitation’ of Darshan’s work through ad revenue.

Google and YouTube argued — as always — that they were only service providers, and not responsible for what users do with the service, well within the parameters of the IT Act, 2000. This is why most people file cases against whoever uploaded the video rather than the platform itself.

The question of prior notification

The pair also argued that Darshan or his company-issued no prior communication that their content was infringing the Copyright Act. They claimed that it was the plaintiff’s responsibility to provide the specific URLs, which are in violation.

Normally, in cases of copyright infringement, victims are supposed to file a takedown request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Even though DMCA is a part of US copyright law, anyone around the world can file a DMCA takedown request with Google. The tech giant reportedly respects more than 97% of the DMCA requests that it receives.

YouTube also makes a strong case that it doesn’t do anything to ‘induce’ infringement by rolling out multiple tools to stop infringement on its platform, like Content ID and Copyright Match Tool.

Yet, Darshan lawyers called YouTube an ‘unauthorised downloader’ infringing on sound recording, cinematograph films, and audio-visual songs without a license.

The court held that if the defendants were aware of the content, they could have easily located the URLs and removed them.

YouTube is not the only platform accused of profiting content without adequately compensating the artists. Taylor Swift’s issues with Spotify and, Beyonce and Jay Z’s development of Tidal arose from the same problem.

See also:
A gamer who made and sold cheat software for 'Grand Theft Auto V' now owes the game's creators $150,000 for copyright infringement

Amazon Prime Video has a bootleg movie problem and many subscribers probably have no idea

Facebook's new video business is awash with copyright infringement and celebrities are some of the biggest offenders
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