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What is copyright?

Nowadays, it is very common for the original or creative work of an individual to be copied or duplicated within a few seconds and circulated through social media platforms. It is extremely wrongful and discouraging for the real author as his creative work is being used in the market without his permission or any acknowledgement. To protect the interest of the original author, copyright is an extremely important weapon as it strictly prohibits the unauthorised duplication of the original work. Copyright can be understood as a bundle of legal rights which are granted to the author to protect his intellectual or creative work. Copyright protects numerous works, such as websites, computers, music, art, literature, poetry, etc.

In this article, we will discuss the meaning, definition, and description of copyright in India. Further, the rights of copyright owners will be elaborately explained. Furthermore, the article will shed light on the civil and criminal remedies against the infringement of copyright.

What is Copyright?

In India, the copyright law is governed by the Copyright Act, 1957 wherein numerous legal rights are given to the copyright owner for protecting his invention, discovery, or creativity for a specific time. In simple words, the term copyright refers to certain rights or safeguards which is given to a person to protect his creative or original work. Copyright is an intangible right which enables an individual to exclusively use any dramatic, artistic, sound-related work, etc without any external disturbance or misuse. The main objective of copyright protection is to encourage creativity and empower the intellectual growth of the society. A copyright owner is vested with numerous rights, such as the right to reproduce, the right to publish, the right to communicate, the right to make translations, etc.

Copyright law is also covered in Intellectual property rights where all Intellectual properties such as patents, designs, trademarks, copyrights etc are covered. You can check our article related to these different types of IPRs on this website. If you want to know about what is patent, then you can go to the Patents category.

It is a settled law that a copyright must be the original work of the author. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the landmark judgment of Burlington Home Shopping v. Rajnish Chibber held that for determining originality, there must be a compilation of time, labour and skills in creating something new which is not in the public domain. It is popularly known as the ‘sweat of the brow’ theory which is widely followed in copyright-related cases.

Definition and Description of Copyright

Though the term copyright is not defined under the Copyright Act, of 1957, it is understood as a series of rights which are protected under Section 14 of the Act.  It includes the following works:

  • Literary Works: It includes all the works that are in writing and contain the element of originality. It is neither limited to any particular quality of work nor it is limited to prose or poetry. All the works which fall within the scope of literature can be termed as literary works, which are protected under the Copyright Act, of 1957.
  • Dramatic Works: It Includes all the works relating to entertainment, dumb show or any other arrangement on stage in front of the public for entertainment. It is mainly fictional.
  • Musical Works: As the name suggests, it includes all the works relating to music but does not include any action done along with the music. It is not important that the musical work must be in writing to claim copyright protection.
  • Artistic Works: It include painting, drawing, photographs, etc, which shows any art or any artistic craftsmanship.
  • Sound Recording: As the name suggests, all the recording of sounds, irrespective of the medium, will be considered as copyright and adequate protection shall be given.

Copyright Laws in India

In our country, copyright law is governed by the Copyright Act, of 1957 along with Copyright Rules, 2013. Under the Act, there are numerous provisions to grant exclusive ownership to the copyright owner in order to prevent the infringement of copyright. It is pertinent to note that the Copyright Act only protects the expression and not the idea or knowledge. When the idea is expressed by the author, it becomes a subject of copyright protection. Also, the copyright can be claimed either by the copyright owner or the person who has inherited such rights from the copyright owner.

The main objective of copyright protection is to provide economic benefits to the copyright owner by giving him the exclusive right to publish, reproduce, or translate the work. To prevent copyright infringement, initially, the Copyright Board was established by the government which was dissolved in 2017 and all the necessary powers were given to the Intellectual Property Appellate Board. However, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board was also abolished in 2021 and all the copyright cases were transferred to the Commercial Courts.

 You can file your copyright on the website given below:

Rights of a Copyright Owner

A copyright owner is vested with numerous rights, which are discussed below:

Right to Reproduce

Copyright grants the copyright owner an exclusive right to reproduce his work. This means that no one other than the copyright owner can make copies or duplicate a significant portion of the work in any format, including sound or film recording, without his permission. For example, if someone purchases a film CD and then duplicates it to sell to others, it constitutes an act of copyright infringement.

Right to Communicate

In copyright law, Communication means making a work available for viewing, listening, or enjoyment by the general public, directly or indirectly through any means of display. No member of the public needs to view, listen to, or enjoy the work for it to be considered communication to the public. For instance, if a cable operator transmits a film that no member of the public watches, it still qualifies as communication to the public. The mere availability of the work to the public is sufficient to classify it as communication to the public and copyright protection can be claimed.

Right to Translate

Similarly, the copyright owner is vested with the exclusive authority to translate his work from one language to one or multiple other languages. Any other party interested in doing so must obtain prior permission from the copyright owner. For example, if a film is originally in English, it can only be dubbed or remade by the owner or by someone else with the owner’s consent. If any unauthorised work is done, it will constitute copyright infringement.

Moral Rights

The moral rights of a copyright owner are defined under Section 57 of the Copyright Act, of 1957, which includes the right of paternity and the right of integrity. The right of paternity means the exclusive right to use one’s original work and prevent others from claiming authorship of the same. Similarly, the right of integrity strictly prohibits duplication, alteration, or distortion of the original work, which can be detrimental to the interest of the copyright owner. As per Section 57, a copyright owner is empowered to claim damages against the duplication or unauthorised usage of his work.

Whether Registration of Copyright Mandatory in India?

Since India is a signatory to the Berne Convention, the registration of copyright is not mandatory in India to avail the protection of law. Consequently, the Copyright Act, of 1957 doesn’t provide for mandatory registration. However, getting your copyright registered will have numerous benefits and additional protection in the eyes of the law. For instance- after getting registered, the copyright becomes a part of the public record and the copyright owner is entitled to claim statutory damages against its infringement.

Also, it is important to note that India is obliged to give equal and adequate protection to the work which is originated outside India but is being used within the territorial jurisdiction of our country. Concerning the registration, there are contrary judicial pronouncements but the current status is that the registration is mandatory given the Berne Convention.

Steps for Registration of Copyright in India

To register a copyright, the copyright owner must apply with the copyright office coupled with the necessary fee as prescribed in the Copyright Rules, 2013. After submission of the application, it is scrutinised thoroughly and objections (if any) are communicated to the author for removal. After all the defects are cured, the details of the copyright are maintained in a statutory Register, known as the Register of Copyright (RoC).

Copyright Protection

In our country, comprehensive protection is given to safeguard the interest of the copyright owners. The original literary and artistic work is protected for a prolonged period of 60 years in addition to the life span of the copyright owner. In case, there are more than one author, the period of protection is 60 years after the demise of the last author. For cinematograph films and works of international organisations, the period of protection is 60 years from the date of the publication. Notably, the sound recording is protected for 60 years from the date on which the recorded sound was published for the very first time. Similarly, the right of a performer is protected for 50 years from the date of the performance.

Copyright Infringement in India

When the original and creative work of an individual is being used or duplicated without his authorisation, it is termed copyright infringement. For better understanding, copyright infringement is divided into 2 categories; namely, primary infringement and secondary infringement.

Primary Infringement

It refers to that infringement wherein a person without the permission of the copyright owner does anything which was not permissible, such as copying, issuing copies of work to the public, renting the work to the public, making authorised communication to the public, etc.

Secondary Infringement

It refers to that infringement where a person having sufficient knowledge of the same, performs some acts, which constitutes a violation of the exclusive rights of the copyright owners. It includes authorised trade exhibits in public, unauthorised imports into India, etc.

Remedies Against Copyright Infringement

To prohibit copyright infringement, there are 2 types of remedies, which are discussed below:

Civil Remedies

Civil remedies for copyright infringement aim to compensate the copyright holder for losses incurred due to unauthorized use of their work and to deter future violations. The most widely used civil remedy against copyright infringement is an interlocutory injunction against the unauthorised usage of the work. In some severe cases, the copyright owner can seek monetary compensation for the infringement. There are two types of damages: actual damages and statutory damages. Actual damages are calculated based on the actual harm suffered by the copyright owner, such as lost profits or licensing fees. Statutory damages are predetermined amounts set by law and can be awarded without proof of actual harm, which makes it easier for copyright owners to seek compensation.

Criminal Remedies

Criminal remedies for copyright infringement are measures implemented by legal systems to deter and punish individuals or entities that violate copyright laws. These remedies serve to protect the rights of creators and owners of original works. Typically, criminal remedies are invoked when infringement is considered severe or wilful. As per the Copyright Act, 1957, the offender will be liable for a minimum period of imprisonment of 6 months, which can be extended to 3 years coupled with a fine ranging between Rs. 50,000/- to Rs. 2,00,000/-.


In conclusion, copyright serves as a vital tool for protecting the intellectual and creative works of individuals, ensuring that their original works are protected against unauthorized use or duplication. Under the Copyright Act of 1957, various legal rights are granted to copyright owners to protect literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works and sound recordings. The law aims to foster creativity and encourage the intellectual growth of society by providing exclusive rights to copyright owners. While registration of copyright is not mandatory in India, it offers additional benefits and protection under the law.

Copyright infringement, whether primary or secondary, is a serious offense, subject to civil and criminal remedies. Civil remedies aim at compensating the copyright holder for losses incurred and deterring future violations, while criminal remedies serve to punish severe or wilful infringement. In essence, copyright law in India aims to balance the interests of creators with the public’s right to access and use creative works. The main objective of copyright law is to promote the intellectual and economic growth of the society.

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