The Pomegranate Series, Episode 3 (Copyright)

The Pomegranate Series

IP Fundamentals

Season 1, Episode 3: The Original IP- Part I  

A great man once said that in the absence of art and literature, human beings would be nothing but animals. Entire civilizations have been (and are) based upon the cultural treasures such as plays, paintings, and manuscripts. Given the kind of position these works occupy in our society as in our hearts, it is only fair that their creators must receive the same respect and reward as they do. Those among you, who’ve had the opportunity to author any such creative work, would surely know that ownership over your work is a very strong emotion even if it is something as commonplace as a YouTube video. Nations of the world have therefore come up with copyright law to award protection to creators of such valuable intellectual property.

A copyright is just as simple as it sounds: a right to copy (to reproduce / recreate). Unlike the right to life, a copyright is not a natural right; it is has been created by statute (enacted law): The Copyright Act, 1957. The Indian Parliament enacted this law with the purpose of granting a (limited) monopoly to creators for those original works which qualify as copyrightable under this Act. Such works include all artistic and literary works such as drawings, photographs, music, dance, books, movies as well as computer programs to name a few. The only other condition is that the work must be an original expression of the creator’s idea; it cannot be a copy or a plagiarized version of an already existing work.

A copyright comes into existence at the moment a copyrightable work is created. Even though the law provides for registration, no person is under any compulsion to register the copyright. An unregistered copyright can be equally protected from misuse / infringement. When any person tries to or exercises any of the rights given to the creator of the work by making, using, distributing or selling any copy of the work; the latter has the right to initiate proceedings against such a person (infringer) in the court and to ask for compensation for such an unauthorized act of infringement. After creation of a copyrightable work, a copyright is generally granted for a period of 60 years after the death of the author.

After knowing this, you may ask “So whenever any person makes a copy of any original work, such a person will be liable for an infringement action? If I take a photocopy of a Chapter from my History Textbook because I did not want to buy the entire book, would that make me an infringer?”

If this question popped up in your head, you are either thinking in the right way or you took too many photocopies of a book. The answer to such a query is NO, it shall not be an infringement; but you could avail of this exception only because it was for an educational purpose. If on the other hand you would have sold the said photocopies on the internet, you may have well become an infringer. Certainly, this exemption for infringement is not limited to educational purposes; it is also extended to various other fair uses which are enumerated under Section 52 of the Copyright Act, 1957.

I hope this gives out a clear idea about what exactly is a copyright, what it is granted for and how it is protected by the courts. But just one more question.

Does the law grant a copyright over a creative (artistic or literary) idea which has not yet been penned down on?

Watch the next episode of The Pomegranate Series to find out.

Ritvik M. Kulkarni


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