Copyright in News Media

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Copyright is an Intellectual Property which protects the creations and expressions of mind related to original Literary, Dramatic, Musical and Artistic works. Copyrights also lay protection on the Cinematographic Films and Sound Recordings. 

News/Press Media is a mass media, which aims to deliver news to the public at large. Forms of News Media Includes –

  • Print Media – Newspapers, News-Letters and News Magazines
  • Broadcast News- Television and Radio 
  • Internet News Media- Online Newspapers, News Blogs, Online News Streaming and Live News Streaming 

Topics covered in the blog:

Applicability of Copyrights in News Media

Justice Rajagopala Ayyangar in the case of Blackwood & Sons Ltd and Ors. vs. A.N. Parusuraman and Ors. stated, ‘What is protected is not original “thought” or “information” but the “expression of thought” or “information” in some concrete form’. 

Copyright resides in the ‘Expression of fact’ and not in the ‘Fact’ itself. As facts are discovered and not created, it cannot be copyrighted and resides in the ‘Public Domain’. 

News is regarded as a fact. Thus, copyright does not subsist in the news itself, but in the way it is expressed or reported. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals in the case of Wainwright Securities Inc. v. Wall St. Transcript Corp. held that, ‘There is no copyright in news. However, copyright does subsist in the manner of its expression, the author’s analysis or interpretation of events, the way he structures his material and marshals facts, his choice of words, and the emphasis he gives to particular developments.’ Copyright subsists in the articulation or expression of a news/current affairs/events into a form. News articles in Newspapers, News-Letters, magazines and online news blogs are protected as ‘Literary work’ under the Copyright act, 1957. While, the television and online broadcasting of news, can be protected as a cinematographic work. Whereas, radio broadcasting and online podcasting of news gets copyright protection under the purview of ‘sound recording’ under the Copyright act, 1957.

Ownership of Copyright in News Media

Even though it is not compulsory to register your work as copyright, it is

Section 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957 recognizes the ‘author’ as the first owner of copyright. The question which we will discuss in this section is, who owns the copyright in a news article or photograph published in any form of news media, the author (journalist/photographer) or the proprietor ? 

Since a photograph comes under the purview of artistic work and News articles/content under the ambit of ‘Literary work’, the concept of ownership in copyrights as given under section 17(a) of the copyright act, 1957 will be applicable on a journalist and photographer. An author, in this case a journalist and photographer, will always be the first owner, unless the work is created in the course of employment under a contract of service or apprenticeship for publication in newspaper or magazine, etc, in absence of an agreement to the contrary. 

According to Section 17(a) of the Copyright act, 1957, in absence of an agreement to the contrary, when the author creates a literary, artistic or dramatic work under a contract of service or apprenticeship, in the course of his employment by the proprietor of a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, for the purpose of publication; the said proprietor shall be the first owner of copyright in the respective work, in so far as the copyright relates to the publication or reproduction of the work in newspaper/magazine. However, in all other respects the author shall be the first owner of the copyright in the work.

Furthermore, according to section 57 of the act, independent of the author’s/photographer’s copyright and even after the assignment either wholly or partially of the said copyright, the author/photographer of a work shall have the right to claim authorship of the work; and to restrain or claim damages in respect of any distortion, mutilation, modification or other act in relation to the said work if such acts is prejudicial to his honour or reputation. 

Fair Dealing in reporting news

Reporting of current events and affairs is regarded as ‘Fair dealing’, which does not constitute a ‘copyright infringement’ under Section 52(1)(a)(iii) of the Copyright Act, 1957. 

According to Section 52(1)(m) of the Act, unless the author of a news article has reserved a right in its reproduction, any reproduction of an article on current economic, political, religious or social topics in a newspaper, magazine or periodical, is not regarded as a copyright infringement and comes under the ambit of ‘Fair Dealing’. 

In the case of Super Cassettes Industries and Yash Raj Films vs Mr Chintamani Rao & Ors. The exception of Fair use, as claimed by the defendant, was rejected by the Delhi High Court on the account that there was hardly any intellectual input in making of the programme by the defendants. Neither the sound recordings, the clips of cinematographic films or the literary or musical works as performed, were under review or criticism as laid down under the exception. Instead the programme contributed to the commercial exploitation of the copyright works of Super Cassettes and Yashraj Films.The defendant-IndiaTV was restrained from either engaging or authorizing, the public performance / communication to the public, reproduction, recording, distributing, broadcasting or otherwise publishing or in any other way exploiting any cinematograph films or sound recordings of the Plaintiffs. 


Copyright subsists in the manner of expression of a news material and not in the news itself. 

Ownership of a copyrighted news article or photograph used for the purpose of reporting news would rest with the proprietor of such newspaper/magazine, for the purpose of publication or reproduction of the work in the newspaper/magazine. 

Unless an agreement to the contrary exists, Telecasting of Copyrighted works in a programme of a news channel, purely for the purpose of entertainment without the intent of reporting news, review or criticism would amount to copyright infringement, as observed in the case of Super Cassettes v. Chintamani Rao case. It is necessary to obtain a license before such commercial use of copyrighted works.

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