Copyright law of India

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The Copyright Act, 1957 (as amended by the Copyright Amendment Act 2012) governs the subject of copyright law in India.[1] The Act is applicable from 21 January 1958.[2] The history of copyright law in India can be traced back to its colonial era under the British Empire.[3] The Copyright Act 1957 was the first post-independence copyright legislation in India and the law has been amended six times since 1957.[4] The most recent amendment was in the year 2012, through the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012.[5] India is a member of most of the important international conventions governing the area of copyright law, including the Berne Convention of 1886 (as modified at Paris in 1971), the Universal Copyright Convention of 1951, the Rome Convention of 1961 and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).[6] But India is not a member of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).

Applicable Copyright Act before 1958[edit]

Prior to 21 January 1958, The Indian Copyright Act, 1914 was applicable in India and still applicable for works created prior to 21 January 1958, when the new Act came into force.[2] ( the Copyright Act of 1911 passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom as modified in its application to India by the Indian Copyright Act, 1914).[7][2] According to this Act, the period of copyright for photographs was 50 years from the time it was first published. ( Act language is:"the term for which copyright shall subsist in photographs shall be fifty years from the making of the original negative from which the photograph was directly or indirectly derived, and the person who was owner of such negative at the time when such negative was made shall be deemed to be the author of the work, and, where such owner is a body corporate, the body corporate shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to reside within the parts of His Majesty's dominions to which this Act extends if it has established a place of business within such parts.")[8] For photographs published, before 21 January 1958 in India, the period of copyright is thus 50 years, as for them the old Act is applicable.[2] Films are governed separately by the Indian Cinematographic Act, 1952.[9] Before this Act, the Indian Cinematographic Act, 1918 was in force.[10]

Definition of copyright[edit]

Copyright is a bundle of rights given by the law to the creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and the producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings.[11] The rights provided under Copyright law include the rights of reproduction of the work, communication of the work to the public, adaptation of the work and translation of the work.[11] The scope and duration of protection provided under copyright law varies with the nature of the protected work.

In a 2016 copyright lawsuit, the Delhi High Court states that copyright is "not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations. It is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public. Copyright is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. It is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors in order to benefit the public."[12]

Types of works protected[edit]

The Indian copyright law protects literary works, dramatic works, musical works, artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recordings.[13]

Duration of copyright protection under the Copyright Act 1957[edit]

  • Literary
  • dramatic,
  • musical and
  • artistic works
lifetime of the author + sixty years[14] from the beginning of the calendar year next following the year in which the author dies.
  • Anonymous and pseudonymous works
  • Posthumous work
  • Cinematograph films
  • Sound records
  • Government work
  • Public undertakings
  • International Agencies
  • photographs
until sixty years[14] from the beginning of the calendar years next following the year in which the work is first published [15]

Foreign works[edit]

Copyrights of works of the countries mentioned in the International Copyright Order are protected in India, as if such works are Indian works. The term of copyright in a work shall not exceed that which is enjoyed by it in its country of origin.[16]

Ownership of copyright under the Copyright Act 1957[edit]

The author of a work is generally considered as the first owner of the copyright under the Copyright Act 1957.[17] However, for works made in the course of an author's employment under a "contract of service" or apprenticeship, the employer is considered as the first owner of copyright, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary.[18]

Section 19 of the Copyright Act 1957 lays down the modes of assignment of copyright in India. Assignment can only be in writing and must specify the work, the period of assignment and the territory for which assignment is made.[19] If the period of assignment is not specified in the agreement, it shall be deemed to be 5 years and if the territorial extent of assignment is not specified, it shall be presumed to be limited to the territories of India.[20] In a recent judgement (Pine Labs Private Limited vs Gemalto Terminals India Limited), a division bench of the Delhi High Court confirmed this position and held that in cases wherein the duration of assignment is not specified, the duration shall be deemed to be five years and the copyright shall revert to the author after five years.[21]

Exceptions to copyright infringement in India[edit]

The Copyright Act 1957 exempts certain acts from the ambit of copyright infringement.[22] While many people tend to use the term fair use to denote copyright exceptions in India, it is a factually wrong usage. While the US and certain other countries follow the broad fair use exception, India follows a different approach towards copyright exceptions.[23] India follows a hybrid approach that allows-

  • fair dealing with any copyrighted work for certain specifically mentioned purposes[24] and
  • certain specific activities enumerated in the statute.[25]

While the fair use approach followed in the US can be applied for any kind of uses, the fair dealing approach followed in India is clearly limited towards the purposes of

  1. private or personal use, including research,[26] and education,[27]
  2. criticism or review,[28]
  3. reporting of current events and current affairs, including the reporting of a lecture delivered in public.[29]

While the term fair dealing has not been defined anywhere in the Copyright Act 1957, the concept of 'fair dealing' has been discussed in different judgments, including the decision of the Supreme Court of India in Academy of General Education v. B. Malini Mallya (2009) and the decision of the High Court of Kerala in Civic Chandran v. Ammini Amma.[30]

In September 2016, the Delhi High Court ruled that a copyshop at Delhi University which sold photocopies of chapters from academic textbooks was not infringing on their publisher's copyright, arguing that the use of copyright to "stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public" outweighed its use by the publishers to maintain commercial control of their property.[12][27]

Remedies available against copyright infringement in India[edit]

The Copyright Act 1957 provides three kinds of remedies - administrative remedies, civil remedies and criminal remedies.[31] The administrative remedies provided under the statute include detention of the infringing goods by the customs authorities.[32] The civil remedies are provided under Chapter XII of the Copyright Act 1957 and the remedies provided include injunctions, damages and account of profits.[33] The criminal remedies are provided under Chapter XIII of the statute and the remedies provided against copyright infringement include imprisonment (up to 3 years) along with a fine (up to 200,000 Rupees).[34]

Jurisdiction [Place of Suing] Under Copyright Act, 1957 - Recently in 2015 the Jurisdiction law regarding Copyright Violation has gone a drastic change by the following judgement of the Hon'ble Supreme Court - Jagdish Singh Khehar and Arun Mishra, JJ. – Civil Appeal Nos. 10643 – 10644 of 2010 with 4912 of 2015 [arising out of SLP [c] No. 8253 of 2013], Dated 01/07/2015 – Indian Performing Rights Society Ltd. Vs. Sanjay Dalia and another - - Copyright Act [14 of 1957 ] , Section 62 – Trade Marks Act [47 of 1999], Section 134 – Civil Procedure Code Section 20 – Suit for infringement of Copyright of Trade Mark – Place of suing – Place where plaintiff resides or carries on business or works for gain – Is an additional forum made available to plaintiff by Section 62 of 1957 Act and Section 134 of 1999 Act – Applicability of Section 20 of Civil Procedure Code is not completely ousted thereby – If cause of action has arisen wholly or in part in place where plaintiff resides or is doing business suit has to be filed at such place – Plaintiff cannot drag defendant to far off place under guise that he carries business there also. --- Interpretation of statutes – Mischief Rule – Construction that suppresses even counter mischief has to be adopted. – Interpretation of statutes – words notwithstanding anything contained in any other law – do not always completely exclude applicability of other law. ---- Words and phrases – "Notwithstanding anything contained --- being in force" – Do not necessarily exclude applicability of other law.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d
  3. ^ Arul George Scaria, Piracy in the Indian Film Industry: Copyright and Cultural Consonance (Cambridge University Press 2014) 47-53
  4. ^ Jatindra Kumar Das, Law of Copyright (PHI Learning Private Ltd. 2015) 88
  5. ^ /en/details.jsp?id=13230 (WIPO Lex)
  6. ^ (WIPO Lex)
  7. ^,_1914
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b (WIPO Lex)
  12. ^ a b "Indian Court Says 'Copyright Is Not An Inevitable, Divine, Or Natural Right' And Photocopying Textbooks Is Fair Use". Techdirt. Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  13. ^ Sec. 2(y) of Copyright Act 1957.
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ "The Copyright Act, 1957, Term of Copy Right (Sec. 22-29)". Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  17. ^ Section 17 of the Copyright Act 1957
  18. ^ Sec. 17(c) of the Copyright Act 1957
  19. ^ Sec.19(2) of the Copyright Act 1957
  20. ^ Sec 19(5) and 19(6) of Copyright Act 1957
  21. ^
  22. ^ Sec. 52 of the Copyright Act 1957
  23. ^ Sandeep Kanak Rathod,'Fair Use: Comparing US and Indian Copyright Law'
  24. ^ Sec. 52(1)(a) of the Copyright Act 1957
  25. ^ Secs.52(1)(aa)to(zc) of the Copyright Act 1957
  26. ^ Sec. 52(1)(a)(i) of the Copyright Act 1957
  27. ^ a b "Publishers lose copyright case against DU's photocopy shop". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  28. ^ Sec. 52(1)(a)(ii) of the Copyright Act 1957
  29. ^ Sec. 52(1)(a)(iii) of the Copyright Act 1957
  30. ^ N.S. Gopalakrishnan and T.G. Agitha, Principles of Intellectual Property (Eastern Book Company 2014)369-393
  31. ^ Copyright Act 1957
  32. ^ Sec. 53 of the Copyright Act 1957
  33. ^ Sec. 55 of Copyright Act 1957
  34. ^ Secs. 63 and 63A of the Copyright Act 1957

External links[edit]