Adaptation under Copyright

Under Indian law, an adaptation is essentially a format shift, in which a copyrighted work is changed from one medium to another. If a work is developed by adding a substantial quantity of new content, it is not regarded an adaptation under the Indian Copyright Act. The copyright in a derivative work solely applies to the material contributed by the adapter, and therefore has no bearing on the copyright protection afforded to the source material.

Adaptation, according to copyright theory, is a work that is basically the same as the original work, while the format may differ. It may be feasible to claim that adaptations, derivations, and transformations are unique species, albeit belonging to the same family, if we refer to copyright theory and read it in conjunction with copyright law. Adaptation and derivation are both in the same genus, but transformation is in a different genus. The term “adaptation” refers to a work that is substantially the same as the original work, however the format may differ.


In the absence of a licence from the owner of the copyright in the original work, both adaptation and derivation would infringe on the original work. However, transformation would not infringe on the copyright in the original work and would not require any licence from the owner of the copyright in the original work. This is because both an adaptation and a derivation would heavily rely on the original work, whereas a transformation would merely employ the original work’s raw data, i.e. concepts that aren’t protected by copyright in any case. In the absence of a permission from the original work’s copyright owner, adaptation would infringe on the original work’s copyright. The court held in Blackwood v. Parasuraman, AIR 1959 Madras 410, that a translation of an original literary work is deemed a literary work in and of itself. Such work is entitled to copyright protection under the law. However, this only applies if the piece is original and the writer has put in sufficient time and talent into it. It was also decided that publishing a translation of an original copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright owner constituted copyright infringement.


Some of the most well-known landmark decisions on the concept of adaptation and how it can lead to a copyright violation. The Copyright Board of Goa held in Hindustan Pencil Ltd. V. Alpana Cottage Industries that if similarities between the parties’ artistic works are fundamental and substantial in material aspects, then it is a violation of copyright, and the defendant’s copyright is liable to be expunged from the register of copyright. “Where the same idea is being developed in a different method, it is manifesting that the source is common, parallels are bound to appear,” the court said in R.G. Anand v. M/s Delux Films. In such a situation, the Courts should evaluate whether the parallels are on essential or substantial parts of the method of expression used in the copyrighted work, with minor differences.” To put it another way, for a copy to be a breach of copyright, it must be a substantial and material copy that leads to the judgement that the defendant is guilty of piracy right away.


The Indian courts’ treatment of works that are inspired by previous copyrighted works is exceedingly uncertain. If the infringing work does not fall under the definition of adaptation or the Indian Copyright Act, it is difficult to ascertain the author’s rights. As previously stated, Indian law’s definition of ‘adaptation’ is highly restrictive and constrained, and this limitation has produced another another grey area in Indian Copyright law.

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 adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

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:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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.