Copyright in India: Law & Procedure


The Indian law of copyrigts is enshrined in the Copyright Act, 1957. The Act seeks to provide for the registration of copyrights in India. The object of copyright law is to encourage authors, artists and composers to create original works by rewarding them with exclusive right for a fixed period to reproduce the works for commercial exploitation.

What is Copyright

COPYRIGHT is a right given by the law to creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings. In fact, it is a bundle of rights including, inter alia, rights of reproduction, communication to the public, adaptation and translation of the work. There could be slight variations in the composition of the rights depending on the work.

Copyright is the legal protection given to the creator of an original literary or artistic work. It is the exclusive right granted by the law to creator of such original work, to do, authorize, or prohibit certain acts in relation to such work, thereby protecting and rewarding creativity.

Copyrights subsist in following class of works:

a) Original literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works.

b) Cinematograph films

c) Sound recordings

The rights vary according to the class of work. Copyright also subsists in translations, abridgements or compilations of such works, provided the permission of the Copyright holder is obtained. Computer programmes are considered as literary works and are protected under the Copyright Act. There is no copyright in an idea.

Rights conferred by registration

In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. Under Indian law, registration is not required either for acquiring copyright or for enforcing it in an infringement action. However, registration has evidentiary value in a court of law with reference to dispute relating to ownership of copyright.

Author of copyright

Under the copyright law, the creator of the original expression in a work is its author. The author is also the owner of copyright, unless there is a written agreement by which the author assigns the copyright to another person or entity, such as a publisher. In cases of works made for hire, the provider of the work is considered to be the author.

Filing and Prosecuting Copyright Applications

An application for copyright on Form-IV accompanied by four copies of the work is to be made on Form IV ( Including Statement of Particulars and Statement of Further Particulars) along with the prescribed fee at Copyright Office of the Department of Education, New Delhi. The Copyright Office initially provides a filing number and filing date and issues a filing receipt. Thereafter the application is formally examined by the Office. Defects will be communicated to the applicant. Once the application is found to be in order it is accepted and the Copyright Office issues the registration certificate.

Duration of registration

The duration granted for works of copyright varies depending on the type of work. Literary or musical works or artistic works, other than photographs, have a life span, which extends for the life of the author and 60 years from the end of the year in which the author dies. However, if the work has not been published, performed, or offered for sale or broadcast during the life of the author, the copyright protection shall continue for a period of 60 years from the end of the year in which any of these acts are done relating to the work.

Cinematograph films, photographs and computer programs are protected for 60 years from the end of the year in which the work is made available to the public with the consent of the owner of the copyright or published, or, failing such an event, for 60 years from the end of the year in which the work is made. Sound recordings are protected for 60 years from the end of the year in which the recording is first published.

In the case of anonymous or pseudonymous works, the copyright is for 60 years from the end of the year in which the work is made available to the public with the consent of the owner of the copyright or from the end of the year in which it is reasonable to presume that the author died, which ever term is shorter.

Use of the “©” symbol

Anyone who claims copyrights in a work can use copyright notice to alert the public of the claim. It is not necessary to have a registration to use the designations though it is highly advisable to incorporate a copyright notice like the symbol, etter “c” in a circle or the word “Copyright” followed by name of copyright owner and year of first publication. For example, © ipfirmsdirectory 1999.

Remedies For Infringement

It is the sole responsibility of the owner to see that his copyright is not being infringed upon by someone else. It is the owner’s duty to file a suit of infringement against the infringer. The reliefs which may be usually awarded in such a suit are –

i. Injunctons whether interim or final.

ii. Damages.

Criminal action also can be taken on the basis of copyright registration. The minimum punishment for infringement of copyright is imprisonment for six months with the minimum fine of Rs. 50,000/-. In the case of a second and subsequent conviction the minimum punishment is imprisonment for one year and fine of Rs. one lakh.

International copyright protection

India is a member of both Berne and Universal Conventions and Indian law extends protection to all copyrighted works originating from any of the convention countries. Foreign works first published in a country which is a member of either of the Conventions would be accorded the same copyright protection in India as Indian works without undergoing any formalities, on the assumption that the home country accords reciprocity to Indian works.

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