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Meaning of Copyright

WIPO describes copyright as “Copyright (or author’s right) is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture, and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings.[1]

Hence, Copyright is a legal right bestowed upon the creators of literary, artistic, and other creative works, including films and music recordings. It also applies to things like architecture and computer software. It includes various rights, such as the ability to copy, share, adapt, and translate the work. Copyright is designed to protect the creative efforts of authors and artists while also encouraging their innovation. 

For instance, envision yourself as a rock star performing a powerful song live. You put everything you have into making this masterpiece. Copyright is comparable to the velvet rope that greets guests entering a private club. Your song can only be played loudly in movies, advertising, or live events with authorization.

Laws Governing Copyright In India

In 1847, the British introduced the first copyright law in India. The Act was replaced by the Copyright Act of 1911, which was applicable to all British colonies, including India. In 1914, the Indian Copyright Act of 1914 made further modifications and remained in effect until it was replaced by the Copyright Act of 1957 (“Act of 1957“), enacted by the Indian parliament after gaining independence. The Act of 1957[2] along with the Copyright Rules of 2013 govern Indian Copyright scenario.

What can be Copyrighted?

To better understand which works can receive copyright protection, it’s important to first identify the essential criteria that determine a work’s eligibility for such legal safeguards. Factors are:

  1. Originality: Copyright protection hinges on the originality of creative work. It should be crafted independently without direct copying. Even a unique take on a well-known concept qualifies. For example, an artist’s fresh reinterpretation of the iconic Mona Lisa can be copyrighted.
  2. Creativity: Copyright safeguards human creativity by setting rules that require real artistic effort. It ensures that a talented author’s novel or an artist’s masterpiece remains protected, encouraging them to share their exceptional work with the world.
  3. Tangible Form: To gain copyright protection, your work must take a tangible form that can be perceived. For instance, recording a song or writing a novel are tangible forms.

If these three elements are present in a disputed work, then as per Section 13[3] copyright can be granted to:

  1. Original artistic, musical, dramatic, and literary works
  2. Computer software
  3. Video games
  4. Audiovisual works such as – online videos, shows on television
  5. Sound recording
  6. Cinematograph films

What cannot be Copyrighted?

1.     Ideas and Concepts: Concepts and ideas are not protected by copyright; rather, it only shields their expression. For example, the concept of a medieval love story can’t be copyrighted, but a specific book or movie with characters and dialogues can.

  1. Facts and commonly available information: Facts and common information aren’t copyrighted; they belong to the public domain. The fact that the Eiffel Tower is in Paris can’t be copyrighted, but specific photos or guidebooks about it can be.
  2. Procedures and processes: Procedures and processes are not under copyright protection; they may be patented or kept as trade secrets. For instance, a cake recipe can’t be copyrighted, but it could be patented or kept secret.
  3. Functional mandates: Functional mandates, like the layout of a keyboard for efficient typing, are not copyrighted because they serve a functional purpose. However, decorative elements on a keyboard may be copyrighted.

Rights granted by Copyright

The Copyright Act of 1957 under Sections 14 and 57 grants a set of exclusive rights to the copyright holder, protecting their creative works from unauthorized use. These rights are divided into two categories–economic rights and moral rights.

  1. Economic Rights[4]:
  2. Reproduction: This right grants the copyright holder the exclusive authority to reproduce their work in various formats, such as making copies of a book, recording music, or duplicating software. It’s a fundamental economic right that safeguards the creator’s ability to control the distribution of their work.
  3. Distribution: This right enables copyright holders to control the distribution of their work. It ensures that creators have a say in how and where their works are made available to the public. For instance, a musician can determine where and how their music is sold or streamed.
  4. Public Performance: This economic right is crucial in the fields of music, theatre, and film. It empowers creators to decide when and where their works can be performed publicly. A live concert by a band or the screening of a movie in a theatre requires permission from the copyright holder.
  5. Public Display: Visual artists benefit from this right, allowing them to control the display of their artworks in galleries, museums, or other public spaces. It safeguards the presentation and exhibition of their creations.
  6. Derivative Work Right: The copyright holder can authorize or prohibit the creation of derivative works based on their original work. This includes adaptations, translations, or other transformations. For example, an author can decide whether a film adaptation of their book can be made.
  7. Moral Rights[5]:
  8. Paternity: This moral right ensures that the creator’s name is associated with their work. It grants the author the right to be recognized as the originator of the creative piece. For example, a photographer’s name should be attached to their photographs, even when those images are published in various contexts.
  9. Integrity: The integrity right focuses on preserving the creator’s reputation by preventing any distortions, mutilations, or modifications to their work that could harm their honor or reputation. An author, for instance, can object to changes made to their written work if those changes misrepresent their original intent.

Where economic rights primarily protect artists’ financial interests by limiting how and where their works are used, moral rights are more focused on protecting artists’ reputations and personal rights, making sure that their works are properly acknowledged and not altered in a way that would damage their reputations. The combination of these two types of rights offers a thorough framework for copyright protection.

Is Copyright registration compulsory in India?

The Copyright Act of 1957 thoroughly explains the registration process in Chapter X. It’s worth noting that there’s no obligation to obtain copyright registration. However, it is advisable to register your copyright work because it acts as a prima facie evidence in ownership/authorship disputes.


WIPO, https://www.wipo.int/copyright/en/#:~:text=Copyright%20(or%20author’s%20right)%20is,%2C%20maps%2C%20and%20technical%20drawings. (last visited Nov. 4, 2023).

[2] The Act of 1957 underwent an amendment in 2012, named the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012.

[3] Copyright Act, 1957, § 13, No.14, Acts of Parliament, 1957 (India).                                                                                                              

[4] Copyright Act, 1957, § 14, No.14, Acts of Parliament, 1957 (India).

[5] Copyright Act, 1957, § 57, No.14, Acts of Parliament, 1957 (India).

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