Introduction to Copyright in India

Copyright can be described as a bundle of rights that the creators of artistic, dramatic, musical and literary works receive. This right is conferred upon by the provisions of the Copyright Act, which also defines the scope and duration of such protection.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a type of Intellectual Property Protection recognised and granted by the Indian laws to original works of authorship.  Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957, refers to exclusive rights vested to the creators of certain works. These include: 

  • Literary works such as books, poems, tables and compilations, computer programs expressed in codes or words.
  • Dramatic works and theatrical plays
  • Cinematographic films and videos  
  • Original musical works and sound recordings, excluding any actions and words to be included while performing the musical work
  • Artistic works such as paintings, photographs and technical drawings including architectural designs

What does a Copyright Protect?

Unlike Patent Law, the expression of the idea is protected under the Copyright Law, rather than the idea itself. There is no copyright on ideas.

For instance, suppose an artist paints a picture of a fruit bowl, the finished painting is protected. No one else would be able to create an exact replica or use the painting without the permission of the artist. However, the copyright law will not stop other from paint pictures of fruit bowls using their own skill and interpretation.

Protection of Names

Copyright does not protect names, slogans, short word combinations, titles, plots, processes or other factual information. Names and short word combinations used for branding and trading can be protected by way of a trademark registration. Processes, concepts, and products can be protected by filing a patent registration.

Rights Under Copyright

The rights vested can only be exercised by the owner of the copyright. The owner can also license the copyright to a third-party on payment of royalty. This right includes:

  • Right of Adaptation
  • Right of Reproduction
  • Right of Publication
  • Right to make Translations
  • The right of Communication to the Public

Based the nature and type of work, there can be slight variations in the composition of the various rights to the creator.

Need for Copyright Protection

Creativity acts as the keystone of progress and development, the main purpose and need for protection are to safeguard the rights of the creators and encourage further progress and creation. The copyright material is usually created using significant labour, investment, and skill. Without the protection, the creators would be easily exploited. A copyright protection:

  • Safeguards the interests of the creators and rewards their creativity in the form of recognition and monetary gains
  • Encourages economic and social development
  • Sharing and expressing ideas without the fear of piracy and unauthorised use
  • Increases access to culture, knowledge, and entertainment

Is Copyright Registration Mandatory?

The creation of a copyright is not based on official or legal procedures. In most countries (including India) that are party to the Berne Convention, no formalities are required. The copyright is created when the work comes into existence and as is considered to be protected immediately when it is created.

However, a copyright registration serves as prima facie evidence in the Courts of law should the creators or registered owners want to file a suit for infringement of rights. Also, the owner of the copyright would be able to seek damages against such infringement only if the copyright is registered.

Infringement of Rights

The copyright material is considered as infringed only when a ‘substantial part’ of the material is used by another person without prior permission. Substantial part varies from work and is more based on quality than quality.

For instance, if a songwriter copies a very catchy phrase from another’s work, then it could amount to infringement despite the fact that only a phrase was infringed upon.

Use of a work without Permission of the Owner

The copyright law allows the use of the copyright material under the provisions of fair use by providing certain exceptions. Subject to certain provision, the material can be used:

  • For research, study, reverence
  • In a library and educational institutions
  • In connection with any legal proceedings
  • For criticism, review and news reporting
  • For performance by an amateur club or a performance before a non-paying audienc

Economic and Cultural Developments

The exceptions under the copyright law have been provided to ensure that the laws are enacted in such a way that maintains a balance in the community.

Related Articles