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Copyright Laws- an Introduction

Copyright Laws- an Introduction

What is copyright?

Copyright is a right given by the law to creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings. In fact, it is a bundle of rights including, inter alia, rights of reproduction, communication to the public, adaptation and translation of the work. There could be slight variations in the composition of the rights depending on the work.

Why should copyright be protected?

Copyright ensures certain minimum safeguards of the rights of authors over their creations, thereby protecting and rewarding creativity. Creativity being the keystone of progress, no civilized society can afford to ignore the basic requirement of encouraging the same. Economic and social development of a society is dependent on creativity. 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 it not true that strict application of the principle of protection of copyright hampers economic and cultural development of the society?

Yes. If copyright protection is applied rigidly, it can hamper progress of the society. However, copyright laws are enacted with necessary exceptions and limitations to ensure that a balance is maintained between the interests of the creators and of the community.

To strike an appropriate and viable balance between the rights of the copyright owners and the interests of the society as a whole, there are exceptions in the law. Many types of exploitation of work which are for social purposes such as education, religious ceremonies, and so on are exempted from the operation of the rights granted in the Act. Copyright in a work is considered as infringed only if a substantial part is made use of unauthorizedly. What is ‘substantial’ varies from case to case. More often than not, it is a matter of quality rather than quantity. For example, if a lyricist copy a very catching phrase from another lyricist’s song, there is likely to be infringement even if that phrase is very short.

Does the law allow any use of a work without permission of the owner of the copyright, and, if so, which are they?

Subject to certain conditions, a fair deal for research, study, criticism, review and news reporting, as well as use of works in library and schools and in the legislatures, is permitted without specific permission of the copyright owners. In order to protect the interests of users, some exemptions have been prescribed in respect of specific uses of works enjoying copyright. Some of the exemptions are the uses of the work

i.          for the purpose of research or private study,

ii.         for criticism or review,

iii.       for reporting current events,

iv.       in connection with judicial proceeding,

v.         performance by an amateur club or society if the performance is given to a non-paying audience, and

vi.       the making of sound recordings of literary, dramatic or musical works under certain conditions.

What is the scope of protection in the Copyright Act, 1957?

The Copyright Act, 1957 protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and cinematograph films and sound recordings from unauthorized uses. Unlike the case with patents, copyright protects the expressions and not the ideas. There is no copyright in an idea.

Does copyright apply to titles and names ?

Copyright does not ordinarily protect titles by themselves or names, short word combinations, slogans, short phrases, methods, plots or factual information. Copyright does not protect ideas or concepts. To get the protection of copyright a work must be original.

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