Shaping Lives, Defending Rights: The Humans of Bombay vs. People of India Copyright Clash

Shaping Lives, Defending Rights: The Humans of Bombay vs. People of India Copyright Clash


The concept of storytelling has greatly advanced in recent decades. Beyond just a social activity, it has emerged as a career choice for many. In the modern times, storytelling is serving as a great medium to shed light on humans’ lives and experiences.

In the midst of this, two storytelling platforms, ‘People of India’ and ‘Humans of Bombay’, can be seen sparring in a legal battle. The issue raised by the latter underscores the importance of intellectual property rights.

Humans of Bombay in a copyright infringement suit filed against People of India claimed that the latter copied their content including stories, images, videos and even their creative expression which includes the manner of presenting stories and cited various examples of the same.

Copyright and its Infringement

Copyright, here, refers to an exclusive right subject to the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957, to do or authorize the doing of any of the acts, namely literary, artistic, cinematographic, dramatic, musical, and sound recordings. In general, it aims at preventing unauthorized duplication or use.

The use or reproduction of a copyrighted work without the due permission of the owner results in copyright infringement. Measures prescribed against copyright infringement under the Copyright Act of 1957 aim at ensuring unwarranted replication.

Legal Proceedings

The defendant submits that contrary to the Plaintiff’s claims, some of the photographs, of which the imitation is alleged by the Plaintiff, are not original photographs of the Plaintiff. These photographs had already been published on a third-party platform prior to the Plaintiff publishing the same. Therefore, in respect of the images that originated from third-party platforms, there cannot be a case of copyright infringement.

After extracting the said images in the order, the Delhi High Court had issued notice in the application I.A. 18038/2023 and come to the prima facie conclusion that there was substantial imitation in respect of the photographs/images on the part of the defendant.

The case of Eastern Book Company v. D.B Modak was cited which observed, “The Copyright Act is not concerned with the original idea but with the expression of thought. Copyright has nothing to do with originality or literary merit. Copyrighted material is that what is created by the author by his own skill, labour and investment of capital, maybe it is a derivative work which gives a flavour of creativity.”

The verdict of Delhi HC given on 11 October, 2023 laid emphasis on the idea-expression dichotomy. They explained that there exists no copyright infringement in an idea. However, it is its expression which, if copied, constitutes infringement of the copyright under Section 51 of the Copyright Act, 1957.

Expression here refers to such storytelling platforms’ own creative ways to communicate such heart-warming stories and that’ll be protectable under the Copyright law.

Also, both the parties were restrained from copying each other’s works including “(1) commissioned photographs; (2) literary works such as interviews scripts and original pieces written by authors on the respective platforms; (3) videos that may have been commissioned by the platforms themselves; (4) the manner of presentation of the stories published by the platforms in respect of a particular subject”

Brandon Stanton: Statement for HoB

Interestingly enough, Brandon Stanton, the founder of Humans of New York, the OG platform that began sharing real-life experiences, criticized Humans of Bombay for monetizing stories far past anything he would feel comfortable doing on HoNY and highlighted that the latter can’t raise questions on the same matter it wasn’t made to give answers to in the first place.


Such stories of resilience, hope, and determination shared or presented by such mediums are not just tales but also constitute the sedulous efforts made by any of them to inspire people. While it must be noted that storytelling should be treated as an Inclusive endeavour. This art of sharing lived experiences to change lives must not be subject to a legal tussle.

Concluding, this copyright clash is a crucial point that should make people consider the fine line between protecting intellectual property and allowing a free exchange of stories. In this digital age, stories shared by these platforms connect us and shape our understanding of the world. This meticulous spirit, despite such legal battles, must be maintained.

Author:- Shivangi Agarwal, a Student of
Galgotias University

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