India is a land of creatives. Each day, thousands of millennial and gen-x youngsters indulge in creative expression through writing, blogging, music creation and other channels of self-expression. Thus, it is no surprise that each day many of these creatives and creative business houses end up committing copyright infringements unknowingly. A single copyright infringement can lead to lakhs of monetary compensation. Therefore, it is very important to know what constitutes copyright and copyright infringement in India.

Copyright Law in India is governed by the Copyright Act, 1957 and is at par with its international standards. Unlike many other laws, copyright infringement is not limited to territorial infringement. This means that a person can commit copyright infringement even against someone sitting in another country. Originally, the law of copyright evolved out of a need to extend protection to Literary and Artistic works. Thus, copyright is a way of protecting and ensuring that the creator remains the rightful owner of his creative efforts or creative labour.

To begin, one must know what forms of "work" are protected under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957. In one line, “ideas are free from copyright, but not the expression of these ideas.” Thus, there is no copyright over "Raag Bihaag", but if Sonu nigam sings Raag Bihaag in a certain way, then such musical work will be protected by Copyright Law in India (because it has been produced through his creative labour). Similarly, you may blog about SEO tools and the unique ways to use them, but you cannot copy Neil Patel's blog verbatim. Application of mind to create a new expression of a known idea is what copyright law protects.

The Act of 1957 provides a broad definition of creative “works”.

1.  It includes artistic work such as painting, a sculpture, a drawing (including a diagram, a map, chart or plan), an engraving, a photograph, a work of architecture, and any other artistic craftsmanship, cinematograph films such as sound recording, visual recording, any process analogous to cinematography including video films.

2. It doesn't matter if the work possesses any artistic quality, since that is largely a matter of perception.

3.  The creator of the artistic work is usually the first creator of the work. Thus, in relation to literary or dramatic work, it is the author of the work; musical work - composer; artistic work - the artist; photograph- person taking the photograph; cinematograph film or sound recording - the producer; in case of computer generated work - the person who causes the work to be created.

4. With advent of a booming IT industry, the copyright of computer programmes is also relevant today.

5.  Computer programme includes any set of instructions expressed in words, codes, schemes or in any other form, including a machine readable medium, capable of causing a computer to perform a particular task or achieve a particular result;

6. Dramatic works include any piece for recitation, choreographic work or entertainment in dumb show, performances by performers, the scenic arrangement or acting, form of which is fixed in writing or otherwise but does not include a cinematograph film;

7. Even Government Work are defined in the Act of 1957 as any work that is made or published by or under the direction or control of Government or any department of the Government, Legislature, court, tribunal or other judicial authority in India.

8. Special emphasis is laid on copyright of phonographic works, which are sound recording s in various forms such as phonograms, CD-ROMs etc. 

In today’s largely virtual world, even blogging and blog articles should be considered literary works and therefore protected under the Act of 1957. It is not mandatory for artists and creators to get their works registered. Copyright Registration is not a requirement to prove ownership of one’s own work. Thus, the moment a work is created, the law of copyright becomes applicable.

Infringement of any of the above mentioned works, that is, unauthorized reproduction of the work in any form (whether print, sound, video, copies like cassettes, digital recordings, unauthorized broadcasting, translations in different languages etc.), copying of the work etc. is prohibited and the act of infringement is punishable under the Act of 1957. The amount of damages suffered by the artist due to the infringement is determined from case to case basis. Apart from damages (compensatory and conversion damages), the artist/creator can also seek remedial actions including permanent injunctions in form of John Doe orders (injunction against any member of the public who might or may indulge in infringement). Infringement is also a cognizable offence punishable with imprisonment up to three years. An FIR can also be registered against the offender.

Thus, the indian legal framework for Copyright Protection is robust and expansive. Apart from The Copyright Act of 1957, Intellectual Property in India is protected through various other laws as well such as Patents Act, Industrial Designs Act etc.


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