January 27, 2022


The capabilities of our race and a high intellect go beyond imagination time and again since the origin. Over a long period of time, it was felt that such intellectual creation shall be safeguarded and exclusive rights must be provided to the creator. When a person creates a fiction or art or some kind of musical composition, the copyright promises exclusive rights over that content to the creator. Copyright provides absolute rights of use and its distribution for a specific time period. The Copyright Office of India controls, handles and maintains copyright protection at a central level. With the innovation in technology, new and different types of content creation are now possible and popular. The style and content of artistic creation might have changed yet the true nature copyright remains the same. Copyright is the absolute rights of ownership provided to the creator. The creation may be of many kinds not limited to literary art or a musical composition or some kind of architecture among others.

Copyright protects the expression of ideas viz. original art or creative effort. In India, the exclusive rights of creation are governed by The Copyright Act of 1957 (last amended in 2012). The absolute rights over the creation grant the creator an authority to control the rights of use, distribution and commercialization of the same for a specific duration. Copyright in India is provided by the copyright office of India that is, the central law provides territorial rights to the creator and the rights cannot be extended beyond this jurisdiction. Copyright provides an absolute right to use viz.right to reproduce, distribute and translate the same into different languages. It is an acknowledged fact that economic as well as societal development is dependent on innovation and creativity.

What is the subject matter of copyrights in India?

Copyright can be applied to a vast range of creative, intellectual as well as artistic works as conferred in section 13 of the Copyrights Act 1957, which includes of poems and poetry, drama, musical compositions, paintings, cinematographic works, computer software and programs wherein the requirement includes an identifiable level of creativity. As the exclusive user of rights or the owner of the creation, you are accorded with certain rights like the right to produce your work viz. You can produce as well as distribute your creation to your maximum advantage, or you may produce some other form of such original creation, display or publish your efforts for people in general as well as you can perform your work in a public event like an exhibition or a concert. You can also attain economic benefits by monetizing your copyrighted work. You are the creator, and you hold the rights for a certain period of time which cannot be lost until you give them up. The copyright for a literary work exists for the whole life of the artist and beyond that viz. 70 years beyond the artist’s life. In India, there are certain spheres of work for which one cannot claim copyrights like facts, ideas, systems and methods of Operations. The Copyrights Act 1957 intends to protect the economic as well as moral rights of the author.

We can understand the subject matter of copyright in a better manner through the following case laws:

● Case#1

Academy of General Education Manipal versus Malini Mallya, where the court clearly showed the distinction between dramatic and literary works. The difference lies in the fact that dramatic work forms the text or a concept paper upon which the performance of plays rest whereas literary work allows itself to be read.

● Case#2

Zee Telefilms versus Sundial Communications, Where the plaintiff prepared concept notes for the purpose of television film which consisted of notes, sketches as well as characters and plots. The question arose in relation to the copyright-ability of that subject matter where it was held that Zee Telefilms has invested huge amounts of time, intellect, resources and skills in preparing the concept paper, such party is entitled to copyright for the creative work.

● Case#3

Associated Publishers versus Bashyam.

The case in which a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi was made based on two photographs. The court held that a portrait based on photographs will be entitled to a copyright if it produces a result from the photograph and the final result itself is original in nature.

● Case#4

The University of London versus University of Tutorial press, where it was held that the examination papers were set by the University of London. As the plaintiff has invested a considerable amount of resources in preparing the examination question paper, such a party is the author of question paper and the copyright will vest in them.

Author Details: Rohan Sharma (B.L.S. LL.B Student, Dr D.Y. Patil College of Law )

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