In the recent case of Fermat Education v. Sorting Hat Technologies, the Madras High Court dealt with a copyright infringement dispute relating to content uploaded on an intermediary platform. The Court held that where the intermediary exercised considerable control over, and regulated the nature of the content uploaded on the platform, the intermediary would also be liable for copyright infringement.
The facts of the case, briefly, are that the Plaintiff, Fermat Education, provides coaching and online courses for competitive exams. Sorting Hat Technologies, the Defendant, operates an online platform for coaching, where third parties can upload study materials. The Plaintiff discovered that certain content uploaded on the platform was a reproduction of the works belonging to the Plaintiff, and thus filed a suit seeking injunctive and other reliefs. The Court, satisfied that a prima facie case for infringement was made out, granted an interim injunction, following which the Defendant preferred an application for vacating the interim injunction, contending that they are an intermediary who merely allow third parties to upload content on its platform, and accordingly sought exemption from any liability. The Defendant also sought refuge under Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act, 1957 stating that the content was for educational purposes and hence does not constitute infringement.
The Madras High Court held that the Defendant would not be exempted from liability, since they exercised considerable control over the content uploaded on the platform, and also, monetary consideration was being paid to third parties for uploading said content, who were restricted from uploading the same content elsewhere. Thus, the contention that the Defendant is merely an intermediary wasn’t valid. The Court also held that exemption under Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act, 1957 would not be available, as the Defendant was involved in a commercial activity. Therefore, the Court did not find any valid grounds to interfere with the injunction order granted earlier.