Introduction to Copyright Law

What is Copyright Law?

Meaning of Copyright Law: – Copyright law (or author’s right) is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works from unauthorized duplication. Copyright law is simple law that suggests that if you make something, you own it and only you have to decide what happens next with it. Copyright law protects creators of original material from unauthorized duplication or use. Copyright law protects expressions of ideas rather than the ideas themselves. Under section 13 of the Copyright Act 1957, copyright protection is conferred on literary works, dramatic works, musical works, artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recording. For example, books, computer programs are protected under the Act as literary works.

In India, the law relating to copyright is governed by the Copyright Act, 1957. The objective of this copyright law is mainly twofold: – first to assure authors, composers, artists, designers and other creative people, who risk their capital in putting their works before the public, the right of their original expression, and second to encourage others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. The history of copyright law in India can be traced back to its colonial era under the British Empire. The Copyright Act 1957 was the first post-independence copyright legislation in India and the law has been amended six times since 1957. The most recent amendment was in the year 2012, through the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012.

Copyright Law

Definition of Copyright

As per Section 14 of the Act, “copyright” means the exclusive right subject to the provisions of this Act, to or to authorize to do any of the following acts in relation to a deed or any significant part thereof, namely: –

  1. In the case of a literary, dramatic or musical work, which is not a computer program: –
    1. To reproduce the work in any physical form including storing it in any medium by electronic means;
    2. Copies of works to be issued to the public that are not copies already in circulation;
    3. To act publicly, or to communicate it to the public;
    4. The making of any motion picture or sound recording in connection with the work;
    5. To make any translation of the work;
    6. To make any adaptation of the work;
    7. In connection with the translation or adaptation of work, any act specified in connection with the work sub-clauses (i) to (vi);
  2. In the case of a computer programme: –
    1. To do any of the acts specified in clause (a);
    2. Offer for sale or for letting or for sale or for commercial hire
    3. Any copy of a commercial rental computer program; Provided that such commercial rent does not apply in respect of computer programs where the program itself are not rental essentials.
  3. In the case of an artistic work: –
    1. The reproduction of the work in any physical form, including the depiction in three dimensions of a two dimensional work, or dimensions of three-dimensional work;
    2. To make the work accessible to the public;
    3. For issue to the public copies of works which are not copies already in circulation;
    4. The inclusion of the work in a motion picture;
    5. To make any adaptation of the work;
    6. To do in relation to the adaptation of any work the work referred to in sub-clauses (i) to (iv) in relation to the work;
  4. In the case of a motion picture film: —
    1. To make a copy of the film, including the photograph of any part of creating an image;
    2. For sale or rent, or offer for sale or rent, any copy of the film, whether such copy has been sold or rented out on earlier occasions;
    3. To take the film to the public;
  5. In the case of sound recording: —
    1. To include therein any other sound recording;
    2. To sell or to let, or to offer to sell or to let, any copy sound recording regardless of whether there is such a copy has been sold or let on an earlier occasion;
    3. To make the sound recording accessible to the public.

Evolution of Copyright Laws in India

Pre-Independence Copyright law in India: –

India’s copyright law was enacted by and like most acts of the British colony at the time, it was an imitation of English law.

In India, the earliest law of copyright was enacted by the British during the realm of East India Company that is the Indian Copyright Act, 1847 which was passed for the enforcement of rules of English copyright in India. After it, by Copyright Act 1911, this law was repealed, replaced and applied to all British colonies including India. Further, it was again modified in 1914 by the Indian Copyright Act, 1914, which remained applicable in India until replaced by the Copyright Act, 1957 by the Parliament of Sovereign India.

India’s first Copyright Act was enacted in 1847 during the rule of the East India Company. As per the Act, the duration of copyright was either 7 years or 42 years for the lifetime of the author. If the copyright owner refused permission, the government had the power to license the publication after the author’s death. All copyright-related lawsuits and infringements are subject to the jurisdiction of the highest local civil court. This act was replaced by the Copyright Act of 1914.

The Act of 1914 was India’s first ‘modern’ copyright law. This was the first law to include all works of art and literature within the ambit of copyright. It was a replica of the English law of 1911. This was done by the British to ease the passage of literature in the colonial subcontinent. In addition, it was again amended in 1914 by the Indian Copyright Act, 1914, which remained in force in India until the Copyright Act, 1957 was replaced by the Parliament of Sovereign India.

Post-Independence Copyright law in India: –

The Copyright Act of 1957 came into force on January 21, 1958, replacing the Act of 1911. Apart from amendments to the Copyright Act, the Act also contains significant changes such as the provision of setting up a Copyright Office under the control of the Copyright Registrar for the registration of books and other works of art. It also established a Copyright Board to deal with copyright-related disputes.

Copyright Law

Indian Perspective On Copyright Protection

The Copyright Act, 1957 provides copyright protection in India. It confers copyright protection in the following two forms: –

1. Economic Rights of the Author: –

The copyright subsists in original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works; cinematographs films and sound recordings. The authors of copyright in the aforesaid works enjoy economic rights under section 14 of the Copyright Act. The rights are mainly, in respect of literary, dramatic and musical, other than computer program, to reproduce the work in any material form including the storing of it in any medium by electronic means, to issue copies of the work to the public, to perform the work in public or communicating it to the public, to make any cinematograph film or sound recording in respect of the work, and to make any translation or adaptation of the work.

In the case of computer program, the author enjoys in addition to the aforesaid rights, the right to sell or give on hire, or offer for sale or hire any copy of the computer program regardless whether such copy has been sold or given on hire on earlier occasions. In the case of an artistic work, the rights available to an author include the right to reproduce the work in any material form, including depiction in three dimensions of a two dimensional work or in two dimensions of a three dimensional work, to communicate or issues copies of the work to the public, to include the work in any cinematograph work, and to make any adaptation of the work.

In the case of cinematograph film, the author enjoys the right to make a copy of the film including a photograph of any image forming part thereof, to sell or give on hire or offer for sale or hire, any copy of the film, and to communicate the film to the public. These rights are similarly available to the author of sound recording. In addition to the aforesaid rights, the author of a painting, sculpture, drawing or of a manuscript of a literary, dramatic or musical work, if he was the first owner of the copyright, shall be entitled to have a right to share in the resale price of such original copy provided that the resale price exceeds rupees ten thousand.

2. Moral Rights of the Author: –

Section 57 of the Act defines the two basic ‘moral rights of an author. These are: –

  • Right of paternity, and
  • Right of integrity.

The right of paternity refers to a right of an author to claim authorship of work and a right to prevent all others from claiming authorship of his work. Right of integrity empowers the author to prevent distortion, mutilation or other alterations of his work, or any other action in relation to said work, which would be prejudicial to his honour or reputation.

The proviso to section 57(1) provides that the author shall not have any right to restrain or claim damages in respect of any adaptation of a computer program to which section 52 (1)(aa) applies (i.e. reverse engineering of the same). It must be noted that failure to display a work or to display it to the satisfaction of the author shall not be deemed to be an infringement of the rights conferred by this section. The legal representatives of the author may exercise the rights conferred upon an author of a work by section 57(1), other than the right to claim authorship of the work.

Subject Matter of Copyright Law

All content protected by copyright is called ‘works’. Thus as per Section 13 of the Copyright Act 1957, it can be subjected to the following: –

  1. Original Literary Work: – It is the product of the human mind which may consist of a series of verbal or numerical statements, not necessarily having aesthetic merit, capable of being expressed in writing, and which have come from the exercise of sufficient independent skill, creative labour, or decision. The Copyright Act, 1957 provides an inclusive definition of literary work, according to which literary work includes compilations including computer programming, tablets and computer databases.
  1. Original Dramatic Work: – According to the Section 2(h) Copyright Act, 1957, dramatic work includes singing in dumb show, choreographic work or any piece for entertainment, natural arrangement or acting form which is written or otherwise fixed but does not include a cinematography film. Since the definition is an inclusive one, other things fall within the general sense of a dramatic work, and may also fall under the definition.
  1. Original Musical Work: – According to the Copyright Act, 1957, musical work means any work consisting of music and includes any graphical representation of such work, but does not include any words or any action which is sung, spoken or performed with music. To qualify for copyright protection, a musical work must be original.
  1. Original Artistic Work: – According to the Section 2(c) Copyright Act, 1957, artistic works include any painting, sculpture, drawing, engraving photograph of any work having artistic qualities. However, it also includes the architecture and artistic craftsmanship of such works.
  1. Cinematographic Films: – Cinematographic films in accordance with the Copyright Act, 1957 include any work of visual recording and such visual recording shall include any work produced by any process analogous to cinematographic to a sound recording and expression cinematograph including video films.
  1. Sound Recording: – According to the Copyright Act, 1957, sound recording refers to a recording of sounds from which that sound may be produced, regardless of the medium by which such recording is made or the method by which sound is produced.

Clauses (a) of this section 13 provide the definition of the original work while clauses (b) and (c) protect the by-product works. This section stipulates that the copyright is subject to the provisions of the aforesaid section and therefore the various provisions of the Act do not exist and are outside the purview of the Act, it is a right created under the statute and there is no right outside the aforesaid act.

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