What is Copyright?

Section 14[1] of the Copyright Act 1957 defines Copyright as the branch of law that deals with the rights of intellectual creators.

“The exclusive right given by law for a certain term of years to an author, composer, etc. (or his assignee) to print, publish and sell copies of his original work”[2]

It deals with the particular form of creativity concerned with[3]

  1. Original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works;
  2. Cinematograph films; and
  3. Sound recording,
  4. Translations, adaptation, arrangement of music, and alteration of other artistic or literal work,
  5. Photographic works,
  6. Works of applied art.

This list of copyright given in the WIPO workbook is not exhaustive. The protection of some categories such as design is optional.

The perfect example is Computer Programs as it is not included in Berne Convention, as they do not qualify as production of artistic, scientific, or literary work. As computer programs are protected in several countries by copyright law and even the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) (1996)[4]. A computer program is a set of rules that instructs a computer that enables it to perform a particular task which may be the storage and retrieval of information.

Copyright shall not subsist[5]

  1. Any cinematograph film which has a substantial part of the film of other work that is copyrighted;
  2. Any sound recording made in respect of a literary, dramatic, or musical work, if in making, copyright in such work has been infringed.

Development of Copyright Act-

Indian Copyright Act, 1847

This act was enacted during the regime of the East India Company and grew out of English common law and statutory law. This act was in operation from 1847 to 1911.

The Imperial Copyright Act, 1911

Then came Imperial Copyright Act which was extended throughout the whole British dominion.

Then this act was replaced by Indian Copyright Act, 1914

Indian Copyright Act, 1914

This was applicable in the whole of India and it was continued until it was replaced by the Copyright Act of 1957. This Act consisted of 15 sections. In this act, only the original work was attracted for the protection of copyright. Under this act, the infringement wasn’t considered a criminal offence, as it gave the power to the owner of the copyright to destroy the infringing copies and prescribe the penalties for the infringement.

The Copyright Act, 1957

It consisted of 15 Chapters containing 79 Sections. Under this act, there were many things included such as Copyright Office, and Copyright Board. In this act, the definition of Copyright was enlarged. There were many amendments made in the area of copyright as an amendment in 1983, 1984, 1994, 1999, and 2012.

Copyright is the bundle of rights-

Copyright is not just a single term it is comprised of three different bundles-

  • The Exclusive Economic Rights[6].

These are the rights that help the author to reap economic benefits.

  • The Reproduction Right
  • The Adaptation Right
  • The Distribution Right
  • The Public Performance Right
  • The Broadcasting Right
  • The Cable Casting Right
  • The Rental Right
  • Moral Rights or Special Rights of Authors.
  • The Paternity rights to claim the ownership of that work
  • The Integrity right as to right against any distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the work.
  • Neighbouring or Related Rights.

These are the rights given to broadcasting organizations and performers under Section 37[7] and Section 38[8] of the Copyright Act

Idea Expression Dichotomy-

So this plays an important role in copyright law as the protection of an idea is not copyright but the protection of expression of that idea is protected[9].

Let’s just understand this dichotomy by an example as

Mr A just thought that he is going to write a love song is that copyrightable? The answer is “NO”, but what if Mr A wrote a love song and that is original means he expressed his ideas. Now, is that song copyrightable? The answer is “YES”.

Only the mere idea to write a song is not going to be protected but the expression in form of lyrics, and sound recording, of that idea is going to be protected.

Rights of Copyright Owner-

The copyright owner has been authorized with the following-

  • They have the right to make any adaptation of their work.
  • They have the right to reproduce, produce or even publish any translation of their work.
  • They have the right to perform the work in public.
  • They have the right to publish their work.
  • They have the right to communicate their work by broadcast through radio, television, and satellite.

Infringement in Copyright-

Infringement in copyright has been divided into two wide categories

  1. Primary Infringement

It refers to the actual copying of the work of the real owner of the work.

For Instance- Photocopying of books for commercial purposes.

It is further divided into two heads-

  • Substantial Taking

It refers to only copying a substantial part of the work. As copying the main phrase of a song.

  • Casual Connection

In this, the owner needs to prove the work that there is a similarity between his and the infringer’s work.

2. Secondary Infringement

It deals with any work related to selling the copies, importing it is not directly related to the work.

It is further divided into four heads-

  • Giving place to keep the work that is infringed.
  • Selling the infringing copies.
  • Distributing the infringing copies.
  • Importing the infringing copies.

Remedies Available-

Civil Remedies

  • Injunction
  • Damages
  • Accounts
  • Delivery of infringing copies
  • Damages for conversion

Criminal Remedies

  • Imprisonment of 06 Months to 03 Years
  • Fine of Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 2,00,000
  • Seizing the copies


Copyright law is to protect the interest of creators, and the rights of creators as well as provide them with incentives and economic benefits. The scope of copyright is vast as it also includes computer software. The registration is not important but it is advised to get the material registered as it becomes proof.



Indian Kanoon-


Chadha and Chadha-



Alka Chawla- Law of Copyright


Understanding Copyright and Related Rights

World Intellectual Property Organization

[1] Section- 14 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1129646/

[2] Oxford English Dictionary

[3] Section- 13(1) https://indiankanoon.org/doc/4010217/

[4] WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT)- https://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/wct/

[5] Section- 13(3) https://indiankanoon.org/doc/4010217/

[6] Section- 14 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1129646/

[7] Section- 37 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1244879/

[8] Section- 38 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1667421/

[9] Jeffrey’s v. Boosey (1854) 4 HCC 815; Deeks v. Wells AIR 1933 PC; Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed., p. 761.

Aishwarya Says:

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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.

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