Copyrights: Definition, Types and Copyright Law in India

What is a Copyright?

Simplistically speaking, a Copyright is an intellectual property which gives to its owner, the exclusive right to make copies of a creative work. A copyright gives a bundle of rights to the copyright-holder, including, inter alia, rights of reproduction, communication to the public, adaptation and translation of the work. While this explanation may be enough for a lay person, with no legal background to understand copyrights; it is too basic and simplistic for a student of law, and is devoid of details and specific features to be supplied to it.

The Copyright Act, 1957 (Act No.14 of 1957) (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”), defines “work” under Section 2(y) to mean the following categories of works:

  1. a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work;
  2. a cinematography film;
  3. a sound recording”

Registration of a copyright is not necessary in India, to afford the creator of the “work” rights. The registration does not create or confer any new right and is not a prerequisite for initiating action against infringement. The rationale behind protecting the works of an author is to safeguard their creativity and original creations, from theft, plagiarism, etc. 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.

IP Protected Under Copyright

Under the Copyright Act, 1957 the definition of the term “work” is very wide. It covers a broad variety of works, belonging to different classes and categories. So what are these categories of works, and what nature of protection is afforded to the authors/creators of each of these works?

  1. Artistic work:

An artistic work comprises paintings, sculptures, drawings (including a diagrams, maps, charts or plans), engravings, photographs, works of architecture or artistic craftsmanship; irrespective of whether the work possess any artistic quality. The rights available to the author/creator of an artistic work are, the right to:

  • reproduce the work;
  • communicate the work to the public or perform the work in public;
  • issue copies of the work to the public;
  • include the work in any cinematograph film; and
  • make any adaptation of the work;
  1. Dramatic work:

In case of a dramatic work, such as a play, copyright means the exclusive rights to:

  • reproduce the work;
  • communicate the work to the public or perform the work in public;
  • issue copies of the work to the public;
  • include the work in any cinematograph film;
  • make any adaptation of the work; and
  • make translation of the work.
  1. Literary work:

In the case of a literary work (except computer programme), copyright means the exclusive right to:

  • reproduce the work;
  • communicate the work to the public or perform the work in public;
  • issue copies of the work to the public;
  • perform the work in public;
  • include the work in any cinematograph film;
  • make any adaptation of the work; and
  • make translations of the work.
  1. Musical work (including music as well as graphical notations) In case of a musical work also, copyright means the exclusive right to:
  2. reproduce the work;
  3. communicate the work to the public or perform the work in public;
  4. issue copies of the work to the public;
  5. perform the work in public;
  6. include the work in any cinematograph film;
  7. make any adaptation of the work; and
  8. make translations of the work.
  • Cinematograph Films:

A cinematograph film means any work of visual recording, and includes sound recording accompanied by visual recordings. In the case of a cinematograph film, copyright means the exclusive right to:

  • make a copy of the film including a photograph of any image forming part thereof;
  • sell or give on hire or offer for sale or hire a copy of the film; and
  • communicate the cinematograph film to the public.
  • Sound Recordings:

A sound recording “means a recording of sounds from which such sounds may be produced regardless of the medium on which such recording is made or the method by which the sounds are produced”. In case of a sound recording, copyright means the exclusive right to:

  • Make any other sound recording embodying it;
  • Sell or give on hire, or offer for sale or hire, any copy of the sound recording; and
  • Communication the sound recording to public.

Copyright Law in India

The Copyright Law in India is governed primarily by the Copyright Act, 1957. The Act however, indirectly enforces the numerous multilateral treaties to which India is a signatory, by complying with the obligations imposed on India, by way of these treaties. These treaties comprise inter-alia of the Berne Convention for Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 1886; the Universal Copyrights Convention; the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Rights of Producers of Phonograms; the International Copyright Order, 1999, WIPO Copyright Treaty (“WCT”); WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (“WPPT)” and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

The Act was amended time and again, to ensure complete consonance with the afore-referred international obligations. However, the most significant of these amendments was the recent Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 (Act No. 27 of 2012), which brought the Act in line with the WCT and WPPT. Some of the prominent changes brought by the 2012 Amendment were:

  • Section 14 (which relates to the exclusive rights in respect of a work) was amended to clarify he rights in artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recordings, by providing that the right to reproduce an artistic work, to make a copy of a cinematograph film or embodying a sound recording now includes ‘storing’ of it in any medium by electronic or other means.
  •  The obligation under Article 11 of the TRIPS Agreement, Article 7 of WCT and Article 9 of WPPT is to provide for ‘commercial rental’ rights for computer programmes and cinematograph films. This right was introduced in section 14 by including the word ‘hire’.
  • The new Section 38A provides for performer’s right as an exclusive right to do or authorize the doing of any of the acts in respect of the performance without prejudice to the rights conferred on authors. The proviso to the section enables performers to be entitled for royalties in case their performances are subjected to commercial use.
  • Section 31 (which relates to compulsory licenses) has been amended to amplify the applicability of this section from ‘Indian work’ to ‘any work’. The word ‘complainant’ is also replaced with the words ‘such person or persons who, in the opinion of the Copyright Board is or are qualified to do so’. In continuum, sub- section (2) is omitted so as to enable the Copyright Board to grant compulsory license to more than one person.
  • A new Section 31C provides for statutory license to any person desiring to make a cover version of a sound recording in respect of any literary, dramatic or musical work. The amendment provides that the person making the sound recording shall give to the owner prior notice of his intention in the prescribed manner, provide the copies of all covers or labels with which the version is supposed to be sold, and pay in advance the royalty at the rate fixed by the Copyright Board.
  • Numerous provisions have been amended to grant fair use right for the disabled. The new clause (zb) added to section 52(1) providing for fair use of the work for the benefit of the disabled, facilitates adaptation, reproduction, issue of copies or communication to the public of any work in any accessible format, for persons with disability to access works including sharing with any person with disability for private or personal use, educational purposes or research.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.