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Overview: The Indian Copyright Law Structure (IPR)

Published on : 04 Aug 2019

The Indian Copyright Law Structure (IPR)

“The right to be attributed as an author of a work is not merely a copyright, it is every author’s basic human right”

― Kalyan C. Kankanala

The copyright law in India is in equal parity with the standards set by the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The Copyright Act, 1957 (the Act) has evidenced amendments on quite numerous occasions, pursuant to which it clearly reflects the features of the Berne Convention for Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 1886 as well as the Universal Copyrights Convention.

For keeping up with the international requirements of organisation and harmony, the Act has effectively brought the Indian copyright law on the same lines as that of the developments in the technology sector. The Act provides for the minimum standards for safeguarding the rights of the authors and to protect and reward their creativity. The protection is awarded to the creativity of the artists, writers, dramatists, architects, musicians, etc.


The term ‘work’ under section 1(y) of the Act states that

“(y) “work” means any of the following works, namely: — (i) a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work; (ii) a cinematograph film; (iii) a sound recording”

It briefly comprises of artworks, sculptures, paintings, drawings, etc. It subsists in the following classes of works:

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works;
  • Cinematograph films; and
  • Sound recordings.

Authorship and Ownership:

The basis of ownership under the Act means that, if the work is literary or dramatic, it is the person who has created the work, the composer is the owner in case of a musical work, the producer is the author in case of a cinematograph film or a sound recording, and in case of a photographic picture, it is the photographer.

Assigning rights under the Act:

The owner of the copyright in the existing work or future work may at his own wish and will assign whole or partial rights in the copyright to any person. The assignment has to be in writing by the person assigning the rights or any of his authorised agents. The deed of assignment shall specify the assigned rights as well as the duration and the extent of its territorial jurisdiction. It shall also mention the consideration to be paid by the assignee to the assignor as well as any limitation, extensions and terminations on the conditions and the contractual terms agreed upon.

Registration guidelines:

The status of copyright comes into existence as soon as the work is created. It is implied that the actual creator is the owner and the author of the created work and subsequently not formal acquisition is required. But the Copyright Authorities make it a point that the ‘work’ is registered legally and the records in the copyrights register shall be of evidentiary value.

Term of copyright:

As per the Indian Copyright Law, the interests in the copyright lasts for a term of 60 years. For original literary, musical and dramatic works, the term of the copyright is calculated from the year following the author’s death. For cinematograph films, photographic films, publications, and other works of international entities, the term is counted from the publication date.

Civil Action against infringements:

There are certain critical aspects to be considered when initiating an action against the infringer. Following are the requirements:

  1. Proof of the ownership of the copyrighted work
  2. Significant similarities between the infringed copy and the original work

The Copyright law mandates and provides for a step by step procedure to initiate and action in the following manner:

  1. A legal notice to be sent to the person alleged to have committed infringement
  2. A civil action can be brought against the accused as per Section 55 of the Act and the court is empowered to grant interlocutory injunction in order to prevent the infringer to commit any kind of infringement of copyright
  3. Secondly, a financial relief can be granted as per the provisions of Section 55 and 58 where the claim can be for the profits made through unlawful acts, conversion damages and compensatory damages
  4. Further, the Anton Pillar Order will restrain the accused from dealing with the infringing goods or even destroying the said goods. It permits the owner to gain entry and search the premises in order to take the goods in the owner’s custody. The court makes it mandatory for the infringer to make disclosures with regards to the specific details of the customers and the suppliers of the goods that have been infringed.
  5. Additionally, the Mareva injunction acts as an order where the court can obtain the standby custody of the infringed goods to ensure that the disposal is prevented
  6. Finally, the Norwich Pharmacal Order can be obtained to discover and gather critical details from a third-party source.

Copyright Societies:

Copyright collective administration is a newly developed concept. In this the course of protection and management of the copyright work is undertaken by a society or a group of owners. It is to be noted that an owner is not in the capacity to track the usage of his copyright work. Upon becoming member of an international organisation or a society, the copyright owner has the capability to keep up on the usage of the work. There is a high chance of the copyright owner to have the membership in international treaties as well as have agreements with likewise conventions in other countries. It is in the best interest of the owners to become a member of such organisations for ensuring better protection and achieving optimum utilization of the copyrighted work and benefits thereof.

Copyrights societies is one of a registered collective administration which is formed by copyright owners coming together. There is only one registered society for doing business with respect to one class of work.

  1. R. G. Anand vs Deluxe Films [AIR (1978) SC 1613]

It is prominent to note that the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in this case held that the play and the film were surrounded by similar theme. But it is an established principle that a simple idea is not to be considered as the subject matter of copyright. In this case, the story put forth two apprehensions of the theme. Going further, it also dealt with the tribulations caused by caste discrimination and dowry.

It was held not to be an instance of copyright infringement, since the resemblance was minimal and not substantive replica of the original play. Here the court stated that the dissimilarities countered more over the similarities. Consequently, when the play was watched together with the film, a prudent individual would not conclude that both are similar. All the elements including the scene by scene depiction, the climax, representation, etc, is significantly picturised different from what is depicted in the play. Finally, this case failed to fulfill the requirements of copyright infringement.

  1. Eastern Book Company & Ors vs D.B. Modak & Anr [(2008) 1 SCC 1]

In this case, Eastern Book Company (“EBC”) was a registered partnership firm established for carrying out the task of publishing legal books. The defendant-respondent who was Spectrum Business Support Limited Ltd. where it introduced software to be published on CDs. EBC alleged that the information and the case laws on the CDs were in exact same order and style and formatting as that of the legal books published by EBC. EBC filed for an interim injunction which was disposed off and the defendant-respondent was permitted to use the CDs till the pendency and duration of the appeal.

The Supreme Court finally held that the respondents were entitled to execute the sale of the CDs for the texts of the judgements, but they should refrain from using the headnotes and footnotes as well as the editorial notes as appearing on the plaintiff’s journal.

It was further held that the defendant shall not make use of the paragraphs in the edited version for internal references. The Supreme Court held that the judgement of the High Court stands to be modified in the extent to the interim relief which was already granted.


The Copyright Act, 1957 along with the Copyright Rules, 1958 and the amendments thereof intend to protect the rights and interests of the creators and owners of the intellectual property as well as protecting the interests of the world at large.

It is to be noted that the Act is a full comprehensive regulation which stands on the pillar that the works of the owners shall not be stolen. This Act is drafted in consonance with the English and the American Intellectual Property Laws. This Act is determined to provide safeguards to the owner as well as the ‘work’. In India, copyright is considered as an architectural work which will subsist only if the work is located in the country of its origin that is India.