Sorting Hat Technologies Pvt. Ltd. v. Fermat Education

Gitanjali SadanCase Summary

Intermediary liability under Section 79 for copyright violation

Sorting Hat Technologies Pvt. Ltd. v. Fermat Education
In the High Court of Madras
OSA 7/2019, CMP 529/2019
Before Addl. Chief Justice (Dr) Vineet Kothari and Justice C. Saravanan
Decided on November 08, 2019

Relevancy of the case: Intermediary liability under Section 79 for copyright violation

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Section 79)
  • The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act, 2015 (Section 13(1))

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • The appellant-defendant is operating an online educational platform called Unacademy.
  • The respondent-plaintiffs filed a suit seeking a permanent injunction restraining the appellant-defendants from using any form of literary works such as tutorial videos, set of questions and other content, which amounts to the violation of the plaintiff’s copyrights.
  • Therefore, the court granted an ex parte ad-interim relief to the respondent-plaintiff. Subsequently, the appellant-defendant filed an application to set aside the interim order. The learned court rejected this application.
  • However, the aggrieved appellant has filed the present appeal.

Prominent Arguments by the Advocates

  • The appellant’s counsel submitted that they were hosting questions provided by the tutors. It was not possible for them to know whether these questions were copied from the respondent-plaintiff’s website.
  • The respondent’s counsel submitted that their website has several unique questions that are available for free as well as on paid basis. The appellants have regularly copied the questions on their website. The appellant has further admitted to copyright violation in multiple email correspondences. However, they did not take down any questions.
  • The appellant is not acting as an intermediary. Therefore, it cannot seek protection under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Opinion of the Bench

  • The appellant cannot plead ignorance to the guidelines issued under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • However, mere exchange of email correspondence between the appellant and the respondent is not sufficient to serve as proof.
  • The Trial Court of the Learned Single Judge may pass an appropriate order allowing the respondent-plaintiff to demonstrate that the appellant had violated their copyrights.

Final Decision

  • The court disposed of the appeal.