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Laws on Copyright Registration in India

Acquisition of copyright is automatic and it does not require any formality. A certificate of registration of copyright acts as a prima facie evidence with reference to disputes relating to ownership of copyright.

What is a copyright and why should it be protected?

A copyright is a ‘bundle of rights’ that is automatically vested by the law to creators of original work of authorship – like creators of literary work, dramatic work, music, movie or software. These rights include the right to reproduce the work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies, and to perform and display the work publicly.

Copyright ensures certain minimum safeguards of the rights of authors over their creations, thereby simultaneously protecting and rewarding creativity. Since creativity is considered as the keystone of progress, economic and social development of a society is also dependent on it and thus must be encouraged. The protection provided by copyright to the efforts of writers, artists, designers, dramatists, musicians, architects and producers of sound recordings, cinematograph films and computer software, creates an atmosphere conducive to creativity, which induces them to create more and motivates others to create.

Is copyright protected in perpetuity? How long is a copyright registration valid for?

No, the copyright is not protected in perpetuity. The general rule is that copyright lasts for 60 years. In the case of original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works the 60-year period is counted from the year following the death of the author. In the case of cinematograph films, sound recordings, photographs, posthumous publications, anonymous and pseudonymous publications, works of government and works of international organisations, the 60-year period is counted from the date of publication.

Why is it necessary to register a work in order to claim copyright over it?

The object of copyright law is to encourage creators to create original works by rewarding them with the exclusive right over the said work for a limited period of time. This exclusive right granted to the author is a negative right which prevents others from copying or reproducing the copyrighted work.

The intention behind the enactment of copyright registration was not to make the process in itself compulsory or mandatory, but for the purpose of easy enforcement of copyright. The presumption of ownership is not conclusive but where contrary evidence is not forthcoming, it is not necessary to render further proof to show that the copyright vested in the person mentioned in the register. Section 48 of the Copyright Act provides that the registration of copyright shall be prima facie evidence of the particulars entered therein.
  • Acquisition of copyright is automatic and it does not require any formality. However, certificate of registration of copyright and the entries made therein would act as a prima facie evidence in a court of law with reference to dispute relating to ownership of copyright.
  • Copyright registration is a sufficient evidence of ownership of a copyrighted material. Registering a work establishes a public record of copyright claimed.
  • No award for statutory damages or attorney’s fees will be made for any infringement of a copyright in an unpublished work which occurs prior to the submission of the copyright registration documents. The same holds true for published works, unless the copyright registration is made within three months after the first publication.
Rights created for the owner of a copyrighted work after registration:
The Copyright Act, 1957 protects the economic, legal, and social interests of a copyright owner in India. The Act confers exclusive rights on the owner on the following aspects-
  • Right of Reproduction: The Copyright Act mandates that no individual can make copies of or reproduce a protected work, in part or whole, without permission from the copyright owner. Thus, it restricts copying a song, any sound, or any form of video recording in a recording device.
  • Right of Adaptation: The Copyright Act gives exclusive rights to the creator to use his piece of work the way he wants. He can create any derivatives of his original work. He can also prepare a new work in a different format, based on his existing creation. The Copyright Act defines the following actions as “adaptation”:
  1. Converting movies, plays, dramatic works or choreographic shows into literary or non-dramatic works such as novels, poems, and books
  2. Converting artistic and literary works such as photography, sculpture, drawings, paintings, etc. into forms of dramatic work
  3. A pictorial description of the original work
  4. Alteration or modification of non-dramatic and dramatic work
  5. Transcription of a musical piece/work
  • Right of Communication to The Public: The Act gives exclusive rights to the copyright owners to broadcast their original work to the public. They can do this by wireless diffusion in any form of visual images or signs.
  • Right of Public Performance: The Act gives exclusive rights to the owners of artistic and musical work to perform their works in public. An actor can make a public performance in any of his plays. A musician can play his piece of original music for the masses. Similarly, artists can broadcast their performances in public on any platform they want.
  • Right of Paternity and Integrity: The Copyright Act bestows the twin moral rights of integrity and morality on the creators of original work. The right of attribution or paternity implies that the owner/creator can claim the sole authorship over his piece of work. In other words, he can have it attributed to himself. Anyone wishing to adapt or reproduce the original work needs to give the author his due credit. Else, the author will be at liberty to file a legal suit against the ‘unauthorised’ maker. For example, before making a movie based on a particular book, the maker must acknowledge or give credit to the author.
  • The right of integrity provides a different kind of protection to the copyright holder. If any individual mutilates, modifies, or distorts the original work of the copyright holder, he can claim damages from the individual. This is done on the pretext that such an act has caused the loss of reputation to the creator and his original creation.
  • Right of Distribution: The Copyright Act provides exclusive rights on the copyright holder to distribute his work in whatever form he likes (through selling, reproducing, leasing, lending or renting). If he wishes, he can also transfer certain rights to another person to use the copyright in part or whole, subject-specific limitations.
Who all can register their work under The Copyright Rules, 2013?
  • The author: an author of a work is somebody who has actually created the work. Under ‘work for hire’ doctrine, the employer of a person who created a piece work in the scope of their employment, can also be an author of the said work. The employer in this case would be legally allowed to get a copyright for such work.
  • The owner of exclusive rights: The copyright law can grant a person exclusive rights to control and use and distribution of an original work. These rights include the right to reproduce or make copies of the original work, the right to distribute copies of the work, the right to publicly display the work, the right to perform the work and the right to alter the work and make derivatives of the original work. The owner of such exclusive rights is permitted to apply for registering their claim in the work.
  • The copyright claimant: a copyright claimant can be any person or an organization who has obtained ownership rights from the author through a written contract, will, etc.
  • The authorized agent: an authorized agent is any person authorized to act on behalf of either the author, the copyright claimant, or the owner of an exclusive right.
It must also be mentioned here that there is no age bar for getting a copyright and a minor is also entitled to register a copyright. This is because copyright law recognised creativity and understands that age cannot be a restriction on creativity. Also, in case the work is created by two or more people, then the creators of the work are co-owners unless they have agreed otherwise.

Guidelines Regarding Registration of a Work under The Copyright Rules, 2013:

Chapter XIII of the Copyright Rules sets out the procedure for copyright registration of a work:
  • Application for registration should be made through Form XIV ( as prescribed in the first schedule to the Rules;
  • Separate applications should be made for registration of each work;
  • Each application should be accompanied by the requisite fee prescribed in the second schedule to the Rules; and
  • The applications should be signed by the applicant or the advocate in whose favour the Power of Attorney has been executed. The Power of Attorney signed by the party and accepted by the advocate should also be enclosed.
  • Each and every column of the Statement of Particulars and Statement of Further Particulars should be replied specifically.
  • Both published and unpublished works can be registered.
  • An applicant who is applying for registration should give a notice of their application to every person who claims or has any interest in the subject-matter of the copyright or disputes the rights of the applicant to it.
  • If the Registrar of Copyrights receives no objection to the registration and when they are satisfied about the correctness of the particulars given in the application, then within thirty days of the receipt of the application, the Registrar will enter the particulars in the Register of Copyrights.
  • The process of registration is deemed to be completed only when a copy of the entries made in the Register of Copyrights is signed and issued by Registrar of Copyrights or by the Deputy Registrar of Copyrights.
The application for registration of copyright along with statement of particulars and detailed instructions and fee breakup for filling up the statement of particulars are provided on the official website of the Copyright Office of India.

Whether unpublished work can be registered?

Both published and unpublished works can be registered. Copyright in works published before 21st January, 1958, i.e., before the Copyright Act, 1957 came in force, can also be registered, provided the works still enjoy copyright. Two copies of published or unpublished work may be sent along with the application. If the work to be registered is unpublished, a copy of the manuscript has to be sent along with the application for affixing the stamp of the Copyright Office in proof of the work having been registered. One copy of the same duly stamped will be returned, while the other will be retained, as far as possible, in the Copyright Office for record and will be kept confidential. It would also be open to the applicant to send only extracts from the unpublished work instead of the whole manuscript and ask for the return of the extracts after being stamped with the seal of the Copyright Office.

When a work has been registered as unpublished and subsequently it is published, the applicant may apply for changes in particulars entered in the Register of Copyright in Form XV ( as provided under the Copyright Rules with prescribed fee.

The process of registration and fee for registration of copyright is same.


What to do in case of rejection of registration?

As per the rule 70(12) of the Copyright Rules, 2013, an opportunity of hearing must be given. However, only after hearing, it may be decided to register the work or to reject it. The applicant himself or his/her pleader may appear in the hearing.

As per section 72 of the Copyright Act, 1957 any person aggrieved by the final decision or order of the Registrar of Copyrights may, within three months from the date of the order or decision, appeal to the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB).

Worldwide Recognition of a Copyright Registered in India through The Berne Convention, 1886:
The Berne Convention was adopted to protect original work created and the legal rights of its creators. It protects creators such as authors, musicians, poets, painters, etc. with the means to control how their works are used, by whom, and on what terms. The core of the Berne Convention is its provision that, “each of the contracting countries shall provide automatic protection for works first published in other countries of the Berne union and for unpublished works whose authors are citizens of or resident in such other countries”.

Before the Berne Convention, there was very little protection for authors outside their home country. The Berne Convention protects the Literary and Artistic Works is an international copyright agreement that covers an artist when their work is published or produced outside their country of origin. It protects their right to authorize translations, reproductions, adaptations, performances, broadcasts, or other communication of their work.

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