Copyright Act: An Overview

Copyright law as its name suggests is the simple law that suggests if you create something you own it and only you get to decide what happens next with it. In India, law related 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 Indian Copyright Act, 1957 is enacted with the following two main objectives:

Encouragement to the Original Work:

The main objective of the Copyright Act is to encourage authors, composers, artists, and designers to create original works by rewarding them with the exclusive right for a limited period (usually for the life of the originator plus 50 years) to exploit the work for monetary gain.

The economic exploitation is done by licensing such exclusive rights to the entrepreneurs like publishers, film producers and record manufacturers for monetary consideration. In reality, people who economically exploit the copyright are the greater beneficiaries of the copyright law than the creators of works of copyright. The publishers and authors of books are such examples.

Protection to the Originator:

  • The objective of copyright law is also, in essence, to protect the author or the creator of the original work from the unauthorized reproduction or exploitation of his/her materials. The right also extends to prevent others from exercising without authority any other form of right attached to copyright, for example, in case of literary work, the right of translation, adaptation or abridgement.
  • In recent times, with the rapid advance of technology, copyright infringement in the form of ‘piracy’ has become a serious problem of international character. This is because technological progress has made reproduction of copyright material easy and cheap.
  • Accordingly, the Indian copyright owners can protect their copyright in almost any country in the world. The appropriate actions taken under the Copyright Act 1957 can stop infringement of copyright. Infringement of copyright is also an offence punishable with imprisonment and fine.

Section 2(o) of the Copyright Act, 1957 provides an inclusive definition of word literary works according to which the literary work includes computer programming, tablets, and compilations including computer database. These cover published works including books, articles, journals, and periodicals, as well as manuscripts. Even adaptations, translations, and abridgements are taken as original works and are protected under copyright law.

According to section 2(h) of the Copyright Act, 1957, the dramatic work includes any piece for recitation, choreographic work or entertainment in dumb shows, the scenic arrangement or acting form which is fixed in writing or otherwise but does not include a cinematographic film. Since the definition is an inclusive one, the other things fall within the general meaning of dramatic work, and may also be covered by the definition.

According to section 2(p) of the Copyright Act, 1957, the musical work means any work consisting of music and includes any graphical notion of such work, but does not include any words or any action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music. The words in a song and the music have separate rights and the rights cannot be merged. In order to qualify for copyright protection, a musical work must be original. 

According to the section 2(c) of the Copyright Act, 1957, the artistic work includes any painting, sculpture, drawing, engraving photograph of any work possessing artistic qualities. However, it also includes the architecture and artistic craftsmanship of such works. 

Section 2(f) of the Copyright Act, 1957 defines cinematographic films which includes any work of visual recording and a sound recording accompanying such visual recording and the expression cinematograph shall be construed as including any work produced by any process analogous to cinematographic including video films. It is classified into secondary works as suggested in clause (b) of section 13 of the act.

According to section 2(xx) of The Copyright Act, 1957, sound recording suggests that a recording of sounds from which that sound may be produced regardless of the medium on which such recording is made or the method by which the sounds are produced. Clause (c) of section 13 of the act state sound recordings as a by-product works. 

In addition to the protection of economic rights, the Copyright Act, 1957 conjointly protects the ethical rights, that is due to the actual fact that a literary or inventive work reflects the temperament of the creator, just as much as the economic rights reflects the author’s need to keep the body and the soul of his work out from commercial exploitation and infringement. These rights are supported by Article 6 of the Berne Convention of 1886, formally referred to as a world convention for the protection of literary and inventive works, whose core provision relies on the principle of national treatment, i.e. treats the opposite good as one’s own.

The copyright law is considered as an essential law of protection for a country because it enriches the national cultural heritage of it. However, higher the level of protection given to literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work in any country, automatically higher is the number of intelligent creation, i.e. higher its renown. Thus, in the final analysis, we can say for economic, cultural and social development, it is the basic perquisites.

Author: Madhvi Patidar

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