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This Article is written by Megha Arora of 5th Semester of Department of Laws, Panjab University, Chandigarh, an intern under Legal Vidhiya.


This article delves into the Copyright Act of 1957, providing a comprehensive exploration of its subject matter, economic rights, and moral rights. It outlines the types of creative works eligible for copyright protection, including artistic, cinematographic, dramatic, literary, musical, and sound recording works. The economic rights granted to copyright holders are detailed, emphasizing their significance in enabling creators to benefit from their works. Additionally, the article discusses moral rights, a distinctive aspect of copyright law, safeguarding creators’ non-economic interests and personal reputation.


Copyright Act, 1957, subject matter of copyright economic rights, moral rights, artistic work, cinematographic films, dramatic work, literary work, musical work, sound recording, exclusive rights, author’s special right, intellectual property protection, creative works, copyright law, authorship, copyright owner’s rights, Indian copyright law.


Copyright law serves as a vital pillar of intellectual property protection, granting creators exclusive rights over their original works and encourages innovation and creativity. It provides legal protection for original works of authors or creators, provides various right to the creators over their work, enabling creators to control how their works are used and prevent others from infringing the copyright without permission. These works can encompass a wide range of creative expressions, including literary, artistic, musical, and dramatic works, cinematograph film, sound recordings, and more.

In the realm of copyright, understanding the subject matter of copyright, economic rights, and moral rights is crucial.


The subject matter of copyright refers to the types of creative works and intellectual creations that are eligible for the protection under the copyright law. It explains what can be copyrighted, and grants exclusive rights to the creators of these works for a specified duration. Understanding the subject matter of copyright is essential for both creators and users of copyrighted material. Here, we will explore the subject matter of copyright in detail.

Section 13 of the Copyright Act 1957 explains about the subject matter of Copyright.

  1.  Artistic Work [Section 2(c)]

According to the Copyright Act, 1957, Artistic works encompass a wide range of creations, including paintings, sculptures, drawings (which can include diagrams, maps, charts, or plans), engravings, and photographs. Importantly, these works are considered artistic regardless of whether they possess what might be traditionally defined as “artistic qualities.” Additionally, this category extends to include architectural works and items of artistic craftsmanship.

In the case of La Chemise Lacoste v. R.H. Garments[1], the plaintiff is a well-known international clothing manufacturer with copyright ownership of an artistic work featuring a crocodile device. They hold registrations for ‘Lacoste and crocodile device’ and ‘crocodile device’ in relation to their clothing products. This copyright protection extends to India as well. However, the defendant began using similar branding, including LACOSTE, CHEMISE LACOSTE, and a crocodile device on their products. The court ruled that the defendant’s reproduction of the artistic work and crocodile device constituted copyright infringement.

To address this copyright infringement, the court issued a permanent injunction against the defendants. Additionally, the court ordered the defendants to surrender all their goods, packaging, and promotional materials bearing the plaintiff’s registered trademarks LACOSTE, CHEMISE LACOSTE, and the crocodile device. The defendants were further instructed to destroy any products, labels, signs, prints, packages, molds, plates, dies, wrappers, or containers displaying the plaintiff’s trademarks. The seized goods, which were in possession of a Local Commissioner, were allowed to be returned to the plaintiff.[2]

  • Cinematographic Films [Section 2(f)]

According to the Copyright Act,1957, a cinematographic film refers to any visual recording, regardless of the medium, that can be used to create a moving image through various methods. This definition encompasses works with accompanying sound recordings. Additionally, the term “cinematograph” is inclusive of any work generated through processes similar to cinematography, such as video films.

In the case, Entertaining Enterprise v. State of Tamil Nadu[3], High Court of Madras held that videotape will fall within the definition of cinematographic film.

In the case, Raj Video Vision v. K Mohana Krishnan[4], High Court of Madras held that both video and television fall within the definition of “cinematograph”.

  • Dramatic Work

According to the Copyright Act of 1957, the term “dramatic work” encompasses various forms of creative expression, such as pieces designed for recitation, choreographic works, and entertainment performed without dialogue (dumb shows). It also includes the written or recorded elements of scenic arrangements and acting forms. However, it’s important to note that this definition is inclusive, meaning that other forms falling within the broader concept of dramatic works may also be covered. Nevertheless, it explicitly excludes “cinematographic films” from the category of dramatic works.

  • Literary Work

The Copyright Act of 1957 offers a comprehensive definition of literary work, encompassing elements such as computer programming, documents, and compilations, which also include computer databases.

Whereas the Copyright Act defines “computer” and “computer programme” as follows:

According to Section 2 (ffb), “Computer” includes any electronic or similar device having information processing capabilities.

According to Section 2 (ffc), A “Computer Programme” is a set of instructions communicated using words, codes, diagrams, or any other method, including machine-readable formats. These instructions have the capability to instruct a computer to perform a particular task or accomplish a specific result.

Any electronic, magnetic, or optical device that stores information received through satellite, microwave, or other communication methods, as well as programmable devices capable of retrieving information through electronic, magnetic, or optical impulses manipulation, qualifies as a computer. Such a computer can function within a computer network and therefore falls under the definition of a “computer programme” as outlined in Section 2(o) of the Copyright Act. Furthermore, it also falls within the scope of a “literary work” as defined in Section 2(ffc) of the Copyright Act. Consequently, these devices are eligible for protection under both Section 13 and Section 14 of the Copyright Act.

  •  Musical Work

According to the Copyright Act, 1957, A “musical work” is defined as a composition primarily comprising music and may include any visual representation of that composition. However, it does not encompass lyrics or any actions meant to be sung, spoken, or performed alongside the music. To be eligible for copyright protection, a musical work must possess the quality of originality.

In case of Indian Performing Rights Society v/s Eastern India Motion Picture Association[5], the Supreme Court clarified that according to Section 2(p), a “musical work” encompasses combinations of melody and harmony, or even just one of these elements, when they are expressed through writing, printing, or any other graphical representation.

Similarly, in another case of Sulmanglam R. Jayalakshmi v. Meta Musical[6], the Madras High Court determined that the definition of “musical work” as outlined in Section 2(p) includes any form of ‘graphical notation’ of music.

  • Sound Recording

According to The Copyright Act, 1957, sound recording means a recording of sounds from which that sound may be produced regardless of the medium on which such recording is made or by which method the sounds are produced.


Under Section 13(2) of the Copyright Act, copyright protection is granted in the following circumstances:

  1. If a work is first published in India.
  2. If a work is published outside India, the author, at the time of publication (or at the time of their death if they were deceased), is an Indian citizen.
  3. For unpublished works (excluding architectural works), the author, at the time of creating the work, is either an Indian citizen or has legal domicile in India.
  4. For architectural works, copyright protection is granted if the work is physically located within India.

Furthermore, in cases of joint authorship, all the authors involved must meet the conditions outlined in sub-section (2) of Section 13 to qualify for copyright protection.[7]


Economic rights, often referred to as copyright owner’s rights or exclusive rights, are a fundamental component of copyright law. These rights grant creators and copyright owners certain exclusive privileges and control over the use and exploitation of their copyrighted works. Economic rights are crucial for creators as they enable them to benefit economically from their creative endeavors.

Section 14 of Copyright Act, 1957 provides the economic rights to the copyright holder to do or authorize the doing of any of the following acts in respect of his work or any substantial part. In this Act different types of rights come with different types of work. Such economic rights with respect to different works are:

  1. Literary, Dramatic, or Musical Work [Section 14(a)]

According to section 14(a), in the case of a literary, dramatic or musical work, not being a computer programme, —

  1. Right to reproduce the work in any material form including the storing of it in any medium by electronic means.
    1. Right to issue copies of the work to the public not being copies already in circulation.
    1. Right to perform the work at public or communicate it to the public.
    1. Right to make cinematography and sound recording in respect of the work
    1. Right to make any translation of the work.
    1. Right to adaptation of the work.
    1. Right to do any other activities related to the translation or adaptation of the work, any of the acts specified in relation to the work in sub-clauses (i) to (vi).[8]
  2. Computer Programme [Section 14(b)]

According to section 14 (b) in the case of a computer programme:

  1. Right to do any act mentioned in Section 14 (a);
  2. Right to sell, rent, offer for sale of the any copy of computer programme.[9]
  3. Artistic Work [Section 14(c)]

According to section 14 (c), in the case of an artistic work, —

  1. Right to reproduce the work in any material form, which includes:
    1. Storing it in any medium, be it electronic or another method.
    1. Creating a three-dimensional representation of a two-dimensional work.
    1. Creating a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional work.
    1. Right to communicate the work to the public.
    1. Right to issue copies of the work to the public and not being copies already in circulation.
    1. Right to make any cinematography and sound recording of the work in any cinematograph film.
    1. Right to make an adaptation of the work.
    1. Right to do any other activities related to the translation or adaptation. [10]
  2. Cinematograph Film [Section 14(d)]

According to section 14 (d), in the case of a cinematograph film:

  1. Right to make a duplicate copy of the film, including—
    1. Capturing a photograph of any image contained within the film; or
    1. storing of the film in any medium using electronic or alternative means.
    1. Right to sell or give on commercial rental or offer for sale or for such rental, any copy of the film.
    1. Right to communicate or present the film to the public.[11]
  2. Sound Recording [Section 14 (e)]

According to section 14(e), in the case of a sound recording, —

  1. Right to make any other sound recording including storing of it in any medium by electronic or other means.
    1. Right to sell or give on commercial rental or offer for sale or for such rental, any copy of the sound recording.
    1. Right to communicate or present the sound recording to the public.[12]

In the case of Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd. V. Sri Sai Ganesh Production & Ors.[13], the plaintiff owned the copyright for the film “Band Baja Barat,” released in 2010. The defendant produced a film titled “JABARDAST” in 2011 without the plaintiff’s authorization. The plaintiff alleged that “JABARDAST” was a copy of their film “Band Baja Barat,” constituting copyright infringement under Section 14(d)(i) of the Copyright Act, 1957. Consequently, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the release of “JABARDAST.”

The Bombay High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd., stating that a comparison between the two films revealed substantial similarities in their core elements. As a result, “JABARDAST” was considered a copy of “Band Baja Barat.” In this case, the court granted an injunction, restraining the defendant from releasing “JABARDAST.” Furthermore, the court clarified that the term “expression to make a copy of the film” in Section 14(d)(i) encompassed more than just physical duplication; it also included similarities in substance, foundation, and core elements between the films.[14]

In the case of Raj Video Vision v. K. Mohana Krishna[15], the Madras High Court interpreted Section 14(d)(ii) of the Copyright Act, 1957, which grants producers the right to sell, give on hire, or offer for sale or hire any copy of the film. The court emphasized that this right applies regardless of whether such copies had been sold or given on hire previously.


According to Section 15, Copyright does not subsist under the Copyright Act in any design which is adjusted under the design act.

Copyright in any design which is capable of being registered under design art but which has not been registered shall seize as soon as any article to which the design has been applied reproduce more than 50 times By an industrial process by the owner of the copyright or with his licensed by any other person.[16]


According to Section 16, a person is entitled to copyright in any work whether published or unpublished only in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957.[17]


Moral rights are a distinct set of rights that are associated with copyright and intellectual property law, primarily in civil law jurisdictions. Unlike economic rights, which focus on the financial interests of creators, moral rights are concerned with protecting the non-economic interests and personal reputation of creators. These rights are deeply rooted in the idea that creators should be recognized and respected for their creative contributions, beyond the monetary value of their works.

Section 57 (Author’s Special Right) of the Copyright Act, 1957 introduces the concept of moral rights, which are distinct from economic rights. It lifts and author’s status beyond the material gains of copyright and give a special status

According to Section 57 (1) of Copyright Act, 1957, an author may even after assigning his copyright in his work partially or wholly to another person has the following special right with respect to his work

  1. To claim the ownership of his work;
  2. To restrain or claim damages in respect of distortion, mutilation, modification or any other act in relation to that work if such distortion, mutilation or modification is prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author.

According to section 57 (2), the author can the claim the right of authorship of the work through his legal representative.[18]


Following are the types of Moral Rights an author have:

  1. The Right of Attribution (Right of Paternity): The Right of Attribution often referred to as the Right of Paternity or Right to Authorship. It establishes ownership of a work and the public’s awareness of the creator. The Right of Attribution requires that the person who created a work must be credited as its author. It serves as a means to prevent plagiarism and ensures that the author’s name is associated with the work, even in reproductions or adaptations. In some regions, asserting the right of attribution may be necessary, typically through a legal contract. This right can also allow the author to use a pseudonym. However, there are exceptions where attribution is not required, such as in reporting current events, newspaper publications, or reference materials like encyclopedias or dictionaries.
  2. The Right of Integrity (Right of Integrity of the Work): Under this right, the creator of a work is protected from any derogatory treatment of their work. Derogatory treatment includes significant mutilation, destruction, or distortions of the work. The Right of Integrity safeguards both the reputation of the author and the integrity of the work itself. It ensures that the work is not modified in a way that harms its quality or the reputation of the author. Negative reviews or comments about the work can also be considered as derogatory treatment. Similar to the Right of Attribution, the Right of Integrity has exceptions, and it comes into play when a work is adapted or transformed into another form.
  3. The Right of Disclosure (Right to Determine Publication): This moral right gives the creator control over when and how their work is published or made available to the public. It allows creators to decide the appropriate timing and context for the release of their creative works. Creators can withhold their work from public view until they are satisfied with its quality or the conditions under which it is presented.
  4. The Right of Withdrawal (Right of Repentance or Right of Recall): In some legal systems, creators have the right to withdraw their work from public circulation or distribution if they have a valid reason to believe that the use of their work is contrary to their moral or ethical values. This right enables creators to reclaim their works if they object to how they are being used or if their work is being associated with something they find objectionable. The ability to withdraw a work from public view can be an additional layer of protection for creators.[19]


Smt Mannu Bhandari v. Kala Vikas Pictures Ltd.[20]

In this case, the plaintiff, a Hindu writer, had assigned the rights to her novel “Aap ka Bunty” to the defendants for the production of a movie. The defendants subsequently created a film titled “Samay ki Dhara” based on the novel. The plaintiff argued that the movie and the novel had differing storylines, which negatively affected her reputation as an author. Consequently, she filed a lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction.

The court ruled that even though the plaintiff had transferred all her rights to the defendant, she still retained moral rights over the work. These moral rights are applicable not only to literary works but also to films and documentaries. The court recognized that some modifications may be necessary when adapting a novel into a movie but emphasized that these changes should not harm the author’s reputation. Regarding the contractual terms between the parties, the court stipulated that such agreements should not contravene Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957. Ultimately, the defendants agreed to remove the plaintiff’s name and the novel’s title from the film, and the plaintiff relinquished any rights over the movie.

Amarnath Sehgal v. Union of India[21]

In this case, the petitioner had been commissioned by the Ministry of Works, Housing, and Supplies to create a mural for India’s inaugural convention center, Vigyan Bhavan. This mural garnered international acclaim and drew visitors from around the world. However, when Vigyan Bhavan underwent renovations, the mural had to be removed. The petitioner, upon learning of this, sought damages from the government, alleging that the mural’s damage was a result of the government’s negligence. The lawsuit was filed under Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957.

The government contended that the petitioner had no grounds to claim damages, as the copyright and economic rights had been transferred to them, including the right to destroy the work. However, the court ruled that despite the transfer of copyrights, the petitioner retained special rights to seek damages. The court emphasized the importance of safeguarding artistic expression, even when the artist no longer held economic rights. It affirmed that only the petitioner had the right to recreate the work and therefore deserved compensation for the damage to their reputation, honor, and emotional well-being caused by the government’s actions.


In conclusion, the Copyright Act of 1957 in India provides a robust framework for the protection of creators’ rights, encompassing subject matter, economic rights, and moral rights. The subject matter of copyright covers a wide array of creative works, from artistic and literary creations to cinematographic films and sound recordings. Economic rights grant creators exclusive control over their works, allowing them to reproduce, distribute, and adapt their creations as they see fit.

Moral rights, on the other hand, elevate the significance of an author’s non-economic interests. They ensure that creators receive recognition and respect for their creative contributions, safeguarding their works from derogatory treatment or unauthorized modifications.

In essence, the Copyright Act of 1957 not only fosters innovation and creativity by protecting economic interests but also upholds the dignity and artistic integrity of creators through the recognition of moral rights. This balanced approach is crucial in promoting a vibrant creative ecosystem while respecting the invaluable contributions of authors and artists in India.


  1. Meenu Paul, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS 32, (Allahabad Law Agency, Law Publishers, Faridabad Haryana 2022).
  2. Mehernaz Contractor, Moral Rights, IPLEADERS (Sept. 12, 2023), https://blog.ipleaders.in/moral-rights/#What_are_moral_rights .
  3. Meaning and Subject Matter of Copyright, LAW BHOOMI (Sept. 15, 2023), https://lawbhoomi.com/meaning-and-subject-matter-of-copyright/#Subject_matter_of_Copyright .
  4. Shalu Gothi and Daisy Jain, Copyright Act, 1957, IPLEADERS(Sept. 14, 2023), https://blog.ipleaders.in/an-overview-of-the-copyright-act-1957/#Rights_of_the_copyright_holder .
  5. Mehernaz Contractor, Moral Rights, IPLEADERS (Sept. 12, 2023), https://blog.ipleaders.in/moral-rights/#What_are_moral_rights .

[1] La Chemise Lacoste v. R.H. Garments, 2006 (32) PTC 481 (Del.).

[2] Meenu Paul, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS 32, (Allahabad Law Agency, Law Publishers, Faridabad Haryana 2022).

[3] Entertaining Enterprise v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 1984 Mad. 278.

[4] Raj Video Vision v. K Mohana Krishnan, AIR 1998 Mad. 294.

[5] Indian Performing Rights Society v. Eastern India Motion Picture Association, AIR 1977 SC 1443.

[6] Sulmanglam R. Jayalakshmi v. Meta Musical, AIR 2000 Mad. 454.

[7] Meenu Paul, supra note 2, at 37.

[8] The Copyright Act, 1957, § 14, No. 14, Act of Parliament, 1957 (India).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd. V. Sri Sai Ganesh Production & Ors., 2019 (80) PTC 200 (Del).

[14] Meenu Paul, supra note 2, at 47.

[15] Raj Video Vision v. K. Mohana Krishna, AIR 1998 Mad. 294.

[16] Meenu Paul, supra note 2, at 48.

[17] Meenu Paul, supra note 2, at 49.

[18] Meenu Paul, supra note 2, at 132.

[19] Mehernaz Contractor, Moral Rights, IPLEADERS (Sept. 12, 2023), https://blog.ipleaders.in/moral-rights/#What_are_moral_rights.

[20] Smt Mannu Bhandari v. Kala Vikas Pictures Ltd., AIR 1987 Del. 13

[21] Amarnath Sehgal v. Union of India, 2005 (30) PTC 253 (Del.)


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