All You Need to Know About the Copyright Act

All You Need to Know About the Copyright Act

The Copyright Act, which came into effect in 1957, protects its eponymous intellectual property right. Thus providing literary artists exclusive rights over their creations

The copyright law is designed to protect the expressions of ideas, thoughts, notions, philosophies and concepts. Pick up any novel or check any film, audio or video CD/DVD cover; you will find the letter ‘C’ circled on the cover. The ‘C’ here represents copyright. When artistes such as writers, lyricists, authors, and film-makers create a new piece of work, they have every right to ensure that they own the exclusive rights to their creations, without having to file copyrights for the same.

Unlike most other intellectual property rights that protect the idea itself, a copyright is an IPR which protects the way in which the idea is represented. Every original piece of literary creation – whether it is a new novel, a song, a film script, an article, or even a manual – can be protected as an original creation. The creator of the literary piece can file for copyright infringement if another individual or entity uses his or her work without seeking prior permission. The former can take legal action against the latter for wrongful use and copyright infringement under the copyright act of 1957. But this is just one aspect of the copyright law. Let’s understand the law in detail in this article.

What is copyright law?What is copyright law?

As mentioned above, the copyright law is an IPR law that protects literary creations. In India, literary artists are automatically eligible for copyright under the Copyright Act of 1957. The Act serves as a comprehensive statute that provides moral rights (also referred to as the author’s special rights) and corresponding rights – including rights to broadcasting organisations, performers’ rights etc.

As a copyright owner, you become eligible for commercial rights over your artistic and literary creations, which you can transfer as well. The law also protects the creators’ rights to sell or transfer their literary creations during their lifetime or 70 years after their demise. These transfers may be done by the legal representatives of the original copyright owners and are known as the droid de suite rights. Copyrights typically exist in perpetuity and have been vested in the authors as well as their legal representatives.

Rights covered under the Copyright Act of 1957

The Copyright Act covers the following rights

  • Literary, Musical and Dramatic Works

    The copyright law covers the exclusive rights to reproduce literary, musical and dramatic works; including its storage in any medium such as CDs, DVDs, electronic means, public performances, sound recording, translation, adaptation and communication rights.

  • Computer Programs

    The law also covers the rights associated with literary works under the computers programs umbrella. The Copyright Act is an umbrella law which covers the literary works mentioned above, along with rights to sell computer programs, provide them on sale, on hire and on a commercial rental basis.

  • Artistic Works

    Copyright laws pertaining to artistic works protect artistic works as well. It includes reproducing existing works and storing them in various electronic and non-electronic mediums and dimensions (2D, 3D, 4D, etc.). Artistic works’ copyrights also include exclusive public communication rights, issuing copies, translations and adaptations of the artistic works, etc.

  • Cinematograph films and sound recording

    Copyright laws pertaining to cinematograph films as well as sound recording protect the right to make copies of the film in various mediums be it photographs, trailers, selling or giving on hire, commercially renting copies, etc.

    Except for computer programs, the copyrights law is automatically assigned to the owners even if they do not file for the same. In the case of copyright infringement,  the copyright owner or his/her legal representatives can enforce moral rights. Moreover, as per the 2012 Amendment of the Copyright Act, the author’s legal representative may exercise paternity and integrity rights.

Fees Associated with copyright registration applications in India

Creators interested in applying for copyright registration are required to pay specific fees, depending on the type of work being protected under the copyright law. Below is a look at what these fees are for the types of creations.

Copyright Protection For

Fees Charged by Copyright Office

Literary, drama, musical and artistic works

Rs.500 per work

Literary and artistic works used for goods

Rs.2,000 per work

Cinematograph Films

Rs.5,000 per work

Sound Recording

Rs.2,000 per work

Copyright law amendments

Since the Copyright Act of 1957 was enforced, it has been amended six times with the latest amendment coming into effect in March 2012. Furthermore, a new copyright law came into effect in March 2013. As per the new Copyright Rules of 2013, copyright owners can follow adequate procedures to relinquish their copyrights or file for compulsory, voluntary and statutory licenses. The new rule also provides for the necessary procedures pertaining to memberships and administration of matters related to copyright societies as well as performers’ societies.

Enforcing copyright laws in India

In India, copyright owners can enforce their rights and file for infringement in civil and criminal courts. As a copyright owner, you can enforce various civil remedies which include damages, injunction and rendition of accounts. Copyright infringement is also deemed as a criminal offence and can result in penalties including a fine of approximately Rs. 2,00,000 or more. If the offence is deemed severe, it may also result in an additional prison sentence of up to three years. The penalties are enhanced further in the case of second or subsequent convictions under the Copyright Act.

Apart from the above legal methods of enforcing copyright laws in India, there is a formal Copyright Board in India, primarily constituted under the Copyright Act. This board serves as an alternative forum that resolves some specific, limited disputes which pertain to assignments as well as royalty payments. It also provides for copyright border enforcements and miscellaneous rights related to confiscation of infringed copies of works. This rule is carried out by the country’s Customs Department and is supervised by the Commissioner of Customs, so long as the copyright owner files an order within a period of fourteen days from the detention date form the court under which the jurisdiction occurs.

Final note: In India, there are two centralised agencies that enforce the Copyright Act – the Copyright Board and the Copyright Office. While the former maintains the copyright register and fulfils regulatory functions related to copyright societies, the latter, grants licenses, fixes license fee rates and resolves disputes. In the recently passed Finance Bill of 2017, the Copyright Board and the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) has been merged to streamline decisions about copyrights and other IPRs such as trademarks, patents, etc., thus streamlining the IPR filing process.


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