A member of the general public, on any given day, experiences and is around numerous intellectual properties. From the user interface of their mobile phones to the Bluetooth technology in their cars, a billboard with advertisements to a movie at the theatre, all activities involve the production, distribution and commercialization of intellectual property in its various forms. A copyright is a right bestowed under the law upon the creator of any literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings. In India, the rights of creators and authors of the aforementioned works are governed by the Copyright Act, 1957 (‘Act’).
The Act as such protects original literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recordings from unauthorized use. It is pertinent to note that the Act in India only provides protection to the expression of an idea and not the idea itself. The process as defined under the Act, while may seem utterly simple is riddled with nuances that shall be dealt with in the forthcoming paragraphs.
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What is Copyright?
Imagining a world without copyright laws would ideally make quite a fraction of this world’s population’s heads reel. However, it is to be noted that modern copyright as we know it came into existence only a few centuries ago. A famous tale concerning a certain Spanish author, Miguel de Cervante, the writer of the original Don Quixote is remembered for the cruel picture painted of a world devoid of copyright law. Cervante suffered for the entirety of his writing career because back in the early 1600s there were no copyright laws, only the emperors exercising their arbitrary judgement and granting licenses. The King of Spain granted exclusive license over the book to the publisher for a decade and the moment the period expired, another writer, Alonso Fernandez de Robles, continued the expedition of Don Quixote without much regard to the original author, Cervantes. The issue gained prominence when the version of the tale as told by Robles gained traction and left Cervantes miffed and penniless. It wasn’t long before Spain enacted its own copyright law before the turn of the century. However, the damage had already been done.
In essence, a work (be it literary, artistic, musical or dramatic in nature) would only be eligible if it is an original expression of an idea. In simpler words, while an idea might be possessed by numerous individuals, it is the original expression of that idea which would be eligible for copyright protection. This concept is often referred to idea-expression dichotomy under the jurisprudence of copyright law.
Documents Required for Registration of Copyright in India
The Act and the Rules framed thereunder state that the following documents are essential to procure the protection afforded to original creative works under the Act:
The Act requires the creator to submit at least two copies of their work, the format of which shall depend upon the type of artistic work which is being submitted for protection. For instance, when it comes to literary work, the same is to be submitted in a version that is readable by a computer (in case the application is being filed through the online portal). Additionally, when it comes to literary work that is software, the source code and the object code are both required to be submitted. However, protection for sound recording shall require the submission of the song in the format as updated by the Copyright Office from time to time.
2. No Objection Certificate
Certain works as protected under the Act require the contribution of a number of people, for instance, a cinematograph film, under such circumstances the Act mandates that a No-Objection Certificate is obtained from the appropriate parties that contributed to the work so as to ensure there is no claim from their end to the copyright protection being sought.
3. Demand Draft
The Act requires applicants of copyright to either submit a demand draft in favour of the authority with the requisite fee or pay the same online through their portal. The fee varies depending upon the work that is sought to be protected.
Steps to register Copyright in India
After having collated the documents as explained above, the same is to be submitted to the Copyright Office. It is important to note that each work requires separate applications for its protection. It is additionally important to ensure that the documents are as per the directives issued for the particular work and is accompanied by the requisite fee as prescribed. The application thereafter needs to be signed by the applicant or an advocate (if preferred by the applicant). A power of attorney is additionally required in cases where the creator of the work has engaged the services of a lawyer. Upon the receipt of a compliant application, the Copyright Office provides a diary number to the applicant. Thereafter, the Act mandates that the work should be open to opposition by members of the general public for a period of thirty days, post which the Copyright Office’s examiner examines the application and the examiner can either flag a discrepancy or process the application whereafter the work is registered. In case a discrepancy is raised, the applicant is provided an opportunity to respond to the same as well as a hearing could be scheduled. Based upon the examiner’s decision the application could either proceed to registration or be ordered dismissed.
In conclusion, it is to be noted that the right of a creator exists even in case the creator chooses to not register the same. The Copyright Act, 1957 bestows the following rights on the creator/owner of the work:
- The owner/creator has the right to reproduce the work and/or authorise someone else to do the same;
- The owner/author additionally has the right over any derivative work that stems from the original work;
- The owner/creator has the right to distribute copies of their work to the public in any form, including but not limited to sale or transfer of ownership, leasing, etc.;
- The creator/owner also has the right to perform and display the work for the general public.
Registration under the Act assists the owner/creator to better protect the rights over their work and is mostly a hassle-free process which could take less than a few months in an ideal scenario. It is therefore important for owners/creators to be aware of the benefits of copyright protection and register their works with the authority under the Act.
Frequently asked questions
1. Who can file for registration of a piece of work with the Registrar of Copyrights?
Under the Act, the following class of people have the right to file for registration of a piece of work with the Registrar of Copyrights:
- The Author which shall include the person who created the work or if made under a work made for hire contract, then the employer or the person at whose behest the work has been created.
- The Owner of Exclusive Rights which shall include a person to whom exclusive rights to control and use and distribute an original work has been granted. The owner of such exclusive rights is permitted to apply for registering their claim in the work.
- The Copyright Claimant includes either the author or a person or an organization that has obtained ownership rights from the author through a written contract, will, etc.
2. What kinds of work can be registered under the Act?
The Act stipulates protection to the following (non-exhaustive) broad category of original works:
- Musical works;
- Literary works like books and manuscripts;
- Dramatic works
- Cinematography films;
- Artistic works including paintings, fashion designs, etc.;
- Software and other computer programs and compilations.
3. Is copyright registration mandatory in India?
It is essential to note that while the Act does not in fact make the registration of copyrightable works under the Act mandatory, however, such registration under the Act provides an added advantage in circumstances that require the defensive/offensive protection of rights as well as convincing the authorities as to the title of one’s claim over a piece of work.
4. What are the benefits of getting your work protected under the Act?
The benefits of registering a work under the Act are many, however, a few of the major ones have been captured below:
It assists one in creating a public record for the work;
It also assists in cases where one has to defend their right over the work or pursue any action of unauthorized use of such work;
It also the author/owner to establish legal evidence of ownership over such work.
5. Whether an unpublished work can be registered under the Copyright Act, 1957?
Yes, both unpublished and published works can be registered under the Act. The Act additionally allows one to register works that were published even before the Act came into force. In the case of unpublished work, the applicant has the additional option to send only extracts of the unpublished work instead of the entire work and ask for the return of the same from the Copyright Office after it has been stamped and sealed by them.