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 history of copyright law in India can be traced back to its colonial era under the British Empire.[2] The Copyright Act 1957 was the first post-independence copyright legislation in India and the law has been amended six times since 1957.[3] The most recent amendment was in the year 2012, through the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012.[4]

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).[5] But India is not a member of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).

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.[6] 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.[6] The scope and duration of protection provided under copyright law varies with the nature of the protected work.

Types of works protected[edit]

The Indian copyright law protects literary works, dramatic works, musical works, artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recordings.[7]

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

  • Literary
  • dramatic,
  • musical and
  • artistic works
lifetime of the author + sixty years[8] 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[8] from the beginning of the calendar years next following the year in which the work is first published [9]

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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

Exceptions to copyright infringement in India[edit]

The Copyright Act 1957 exempts certain acts from the ambit of copyright infringement.[16] 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.[17] India follows a hybrid approach that allows-

  • fair dealing with any copyrighted work for certain specifically mentioned purposes[18] and
  • certain specific activities enumerated in the statute.[19]

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,[20]
  2. criticism or review,[21]
  3. reporting of current events and current affairs, including the reporting of a lecture delivered in public.[22]

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.[23]

Remedies available against copyright infringement in India[edit]

The Copyright Act 1957 provides three kinds of remedies - administrative remedies, civil remedies and criminal remedies.[24] The administrative remedies provided under the statute include detention of the infringing goods by the customs authorities.[25] The civil remedies are provided under Chapter XII of the Copyright Act 1957 and the remedies provided include injunctions, damages and account of profits.[26] 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).[27]

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 statues – 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. ^ Arul George Scaria, Piracy in the Indian Film Industry: Copyright and Cultural Consonance (Cambridge University Press 2014) 47-53
  3. ^ Jatindra Kumar Das, Law of Copyright (PHI Learning Private Ltd. 2015) 88
  4. ^ (WIPO Lex)
  5. ^ (WIPO Lex)
  6. ^ a b (WIPO Lex)
  7. ^ Sec. 2(y) of Copyright Act 1957.
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ "The Copyright Act, 1957, Term of Copy Right (Sec. 22-29)". Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  11. ^ Section 17 of the Copyright Act 1957
  12. ^ Sec. 17(c) of the Copyright Act 1957
  13. ^ Sec.19(2) of the Copyright Act 1957
  14. ^ Sec 19(5) and 19(6) of Copyright Act 1957
  15. ^
  16. ^ Sec. 52 of the Copyright Act 1957
  17. ^ Sandeep Kanak Rathod,'Fair Use: Comparing US and Indian Copyright Law'
  18. ^ Sec. 52(1)(a) of the Copyright Act 1957
  19. ^ Secs.52(1)(aa)to(zc) of the Copyright Act 1957
  20. ^ Sec. 52(1)(a)(i) of the Copyright Act 1957
  21. ^ Sec. 52(1)(a)(ii) of the Copyright Act 1957
  22. ^ Sec. 52(1)(a)(iii) of the Copyright Act 1957
  23. ^ N.S. Gopalakrishnan and T.G. Agitha, Principles of Intellectual Property (Eastern Book Company 2014)369-393
  24. ^ Copyright Act 1957
  25. ^ Sec. 53 of the Copyright Act 1957
  26. ^ Sec. 55 of Copyright Act 1957
  27. ^ Secs. 63 and 63A of the Copyright Act 1957

External links[edit]