This article is written by Megha Arora, an intern under Legal Vidhiya
In this article, we will delve deeper into the specific provisions of the Indian Copyright Act,1957 outlining the terms of copyright protection, assignment, and licensing. It emphasizes the significance of these legal aspects in protecting creators’ rights and promoting innovation while providing clarity for businesses and the public.
Copyright Act 1957, Copyright protection, Term of Copyright, Assignment of copyright, Licensing of copyright, Intellectual property, Creative works, Indian copyright law, Copyright duration, Copyright assignment, Copyright licensing.
Copyright laws serve as the backbone of intellectual property protection, safeguarding the creative works of individuals and entities across various domains. In India, these laws are enshrined in the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, granting exclusive rights to creators, authors, and copyright holders, allowing them to control the use and distribution of their original works. Copyright, as a legal concept, plays a pivotal role in promoting innovation and creativity by providing authors and creators with the assurance that their efforts will be rewarded and protected.
Understanding the intricacies of copyright terms and the mechanisms of assignment and licensing is of paramount importance in today’s age. It empowers creators, businesses, and even consumers to navigate the complex landscape of intellectual property rights. The knowledge of copyright terms, the processes of assigning copyright, and the nuances of licensing agreements is essential for creators seeking to monetize their creations, for businesses aiming to use copyrighted content legally, and for the general public to appreciate the boundaries of lawful use.
In this article, we delve into Sections 18-31 of the Indian Copyright Act to shed light on the term of copyright protection and the rules governing its assignment and licensing.
TERM OF COPYRIGHT [SECTION 22 – SECTION 29]
Copyright protection is a fundamental aspect of intellectual property law that grants authors and creators exclusive rights to their creative works. In India, the term of copyright protection is outlined from section 22 to section 29 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. This section provides a clear framework for how long copyright protection lasts for different categories of creative works.
Here’s a detailed explanation of the term of copyright protection in India:
A. COPYRIGHT IN THE CASE OF LITERARY, DRAMATIC, ARTISTIC, AND MUSICAL WORK [SECTION 22]
For literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, the term of copyright protection subsists during the lifetime of the author plus an additional 60 years from the beginning of the calendar year immediately following the year in which the author passes away.
And if the work is produced by co-authors jointly or has multiple authors, the copyright lasts for the lifetime of the last surviving author plus an additional 60 years from the beginning of the calendar year immediately following the year in which the author passes away.
This provision ensures that the rights to creative works remain with the author during their lifetime and are extended to their legal heirs and successors for six decades after their demise.
B. COPYRIGHT IN ANONYMOUS AND PSEUDONYMOUS LITERARY, DRAMATIC, ARTISTIC AND MUSICAL WORK [SECTION 23]
In the case of literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works (excluding photographs) published anonymously and pseudonymously, copyright protection can extend for up to 60 years from the beginning of the year following the year of their initial publication.
However, if the author’s identity is revealed before this sixty-year period of copyright protection, the countdown stops, and the remaining copyright duration is calculated from the beginning of the year following the year of the author’s death.
Identities of Co-authors are disclosed – In the case of co-authored anonymous or pseudonymous works, if the identity of one or more co-authors is disclosed before the 60-year mark, the same principle applies. The countdown stops, and the remaining copyright duration is calculated from the beginning of the year following the death of the last co-author whose identity was disclosed.
This provision ensures clear and precise guidelines for determining the term of copyright protection for anonymous or pseudonymous works, promoting transparency in copyright law and protecting the rights of both authors and the public. It prevents the exploitation of loopholes that might have allowed perpetual anonymity to extend copyright protection indefinitely.
C. COPYRIGHT UNTIL SIXTY YEARS FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE CALENDAR YEAR NEXT FOLLOWING THE YEAR IN WHICH THE WORK IS PUBLISHED [SECTION 24-SECTION 291
- POSTHUMOUS WORK [SECTION 24]
According to Section 24, if the author of literary, dramatic, musical works, or engravings dies before they are published, section 24 specifies that the copyright will last for sixty years from the beginning of the calendar year immediately following the year in which the work is first published.
In cases where an adaptation of this work is published before the author’s death, the sixty-year period is calculated from the beginning of the calendar year following the year of the adaptation’s publication.
This provision ensures that even if an author passes away before their work is published or an adaptation of the work is published earlier, the work still receives copyright protection for a reasonable duration. This helps protect the rights and interests of the author and their heirs in such situations.
2. CINEMATOGRAPH FILMS [SECTION 26]
In the case of cinematograph films, the copyright term is slightly different. It lasts for 60 years from the beginning of the calendar year immediately following the year in which the work is first published.
This provision is intended to protect the interests of film producers and creators in the realm of cinema.
3. SOUND RECORDINGS [SECTION 27]
Sound recordings, a vital part of the music industry, are granted copyright protection for 60 years from the beginning of the calendar year immediately following the year in which the work is first published.
Similar to cinematograph films, this term aims to safeguard the rights of those involved in the creation and distribution of sound recordings.
4. GOVERNMENT WORKS [SECTION 28]
In the case of Government works, the government is considered the first owner of the copyright work, and the copyright lasts for sixty years from the beginning of the calendar year that comes after the year in which the work is initially published.
5. WORKS OF PUBLIC UNDERTAKING [SECTION 28 A]
Under Section 28A, when a public undertaking holds the first ownership, the copyright remains in effect until 60 years from the beginning of the calendar year following the year when the work is first published.
6. WORKS OF THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATION [SECTION 29]
In the case of works of any international organizations that are covered under Section 41 of the Copyright Act, the copyright protection will last for a period of 60 years from the beginning of the calendar year immediately following the year in which the work is first published.
ASSIGNMENT OF COPYRIGHT [SECTION 18-19]
Copyright assignment refers to the transfer of exclusive rights and ownership of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder (assignor) to another party (assignee), often in exchange for consideration. In India, the Copyright Act of 1957 governs these assignments in Sections 18 and 19. This legal process allows individuals or entities to buy, sell, or transfer copyrights to works such as literary, artistic, musical, or cinematographic creations.
In the case Gramophone Company of India Ltd. v. Shanti Films Corporation, Calcutta High Court held that “copyright is a beneficial interest in movable property which is capable of being transferred by “assignment”.
In the case of Video Master v. Nishi Production, the Bombay High Court examined whether the assignment of video rights encompassed the right to satellite broadcast. The Court upheld the defendant’s argument, acknowledging that there were distinct methods of public communication, including terrestrial television broadcasting (Doordarshan), satellite broadcasting, and video TV. It was determined that the film’s owner held separate copyrights for each of these modes and could assign them to different individuals. Therefore, the copyright assigned to the plaintiff specifically for video rights did not extend to satellite broadcast rights.
OWNER TO ASSIGN THE COPYRIGHT [SECTION 18]
Section 18 of the Copyright Act, 1957, deals with the assignment of copyright, outlining the conditions and requirements for such transfers.
According to Section 18 of the Copyright Act, 1957, the owner of copyright in an existing work or someone who expects to own copyright in a future work can transfer the copyright, either completely or partially, with or without limitations, for the entire copyright duration or just a portion of it. However, when assigning copyright to a future work, the assignment only becomes effective once that work is created.
Furthermore, if the assignee (the recipient of copyright) gains any rights from the copyright, they are considered the copyright owner for those assigned rights, while the assignor (the original copyright holder) retains ownership for any rights not transferred.
This section also clarifies that the term “assignee” for future works includes the assignee’s legal representatives if the assignee passes away before the work is created.
MODE OF ASSIGNMENT [SECTION 19]
Section 19 focuses on the effect of the assignment, including the rights and obligations of both the assignor and the assignee. Assignments can be partial or complete, and they are typically formalised through written agreements to ensure clarity and enforceability under the law.
Following are the basic requisites for a valid assignment:
- An assignment of copyright for any work must be in writing and signed by the person assigning it or their authorized representative.
- The assignment must clearly specify the work, the rights being transferred, the duration, and the geographical scope of the assignment.
- The assignment should outline the royalty amount and other compensation payable to the author or their legal heirs during the assignment’s validity. The terms of the assignment can be revised, extended, or terminated by mutual agreement.
- If the assignment doesn’t state a specific duration, it’s assumed to be five years from the assignment date.
- If the assignee doesn’t exercise the assigned rights within one year of the assignment date, those rights will be considered expired unless otherwise specified.
- If the geographical scope of the assignment isn’t mentioned, it’s presumed to cover only India.
- Assignments of copyright that contradict the terms and conditions of rights already assigned to a copyright society, of which the author is a member, are considered void.
In Saregama India Ltd. v. Suresh Jindal, it was determined that the owner of a copyright in a forthcoming work has the authority to transfer the copyright, either entirely or in part, for the entire duration of the copyright or a portion thereof. Following the assignment, the assignee is legally considered the copyright owner under this act.
BENEFITS OF COPYRIGHT ASSIGNMENT
- Transfer of Ownership: Assigning copyright means selling all rights to the work, giving the new owner complete control.
- Monetary Gain: The copyright owner receives payment for selling the rights, providing immediate financial benefit.
- Reduced Legal Risk: The assignee takes responsibility for protecting and enforcing the copyright, reducing the legal burden on the original owner.
- Exclusive Rights: The assignee gains exclusive rights, preventing the original owner from licensing the work to others.
- Simplified Management: The assignee handles all copyright-related tasks, streamlining administrative duties for the original creator.
TRANSMISSION OF COPYRIGHT IN A MANUSCRIPT THROUGH TESTAMENTARY DISPOSITION [SECTION 20]
According to Section 20 of the Copyright Act, 1957, when a person inherits a manuscript of a literary, dramatic, or musical work through a will and that manuscript has not been published, the individual named in the will becomes entitled to the copyright in the work to the extent that the person who made the will was the copyright owner just before their passing.
And in this section, the term “manuscript” refers to the original document containing the work, regardless of whether it was handwritten or not.
AUTHOR’S RIGHT TO RELINQUISH COPYRIGHT [SECTION 21]
Section 21 of the Copyright Act, 1957, allows an author to voluntarily give up some or all of the rights associated with their work. To do this, the author must provide formal notice in the prescribed format to the Registrar of Copyrights. The Registrar of Copyright then publishes this notice in the Official Gazette. And once the notice is published, the author’s rights cease to exist from that date.
It’s important to note that when an author relinquishes any right within their copyright, it does not impact any existing rights held by other individuals as of the date of the notice.
LICENSING OF COPYRIGHT [SECTION 30-31]
Copyright licensing is a legal agreement that grants permission to others to use, reproduce, distribute, or otherwise exploit a copyrighted work, subject to certain terms and conditions. It essentially allows copyright holders to share their rights with others while maintaining control over how their work is used. A license and an assignment deed often share similarities, but it’s crucial to highlight and document the specific details they each contain. They are mentioned below:
- Time period of the license;
- The rights that have been licensed;
- Geographical scope or range covered by the license;
- The stipulated royalty amount as part of the agreement;
- Clauses and terms related to the termination, modification, and extension of the agreement.
Section 30 to Section 31D of the Copyright Act, 1957, discuss different types of licenses:
- LICENSE GRANTED VOLUNTARILY BY THE COPYRIGHT OWNER [SECTION 30]
According to section 30, the copyright owner of an existing work or the potential copyright owner of a future work can grant rights in that work through a written license, which must be signed by them or their duly authorized representative. However, if the license pertains to the copyright of a future work, it will only take effect once that work is created.
In the event that a person to whom a license for a future work is granted under this section passes away before the work is created, their legal representatives will, unless the license states otherwise, inherit the benefits of the license.
There are generally five types of voluntary licenses:
1)Exclusive License: Defined under Section 2(j) of the Copyright Act, it grants rights to the licensee and authorized individuals within a specific group.
2) Non-Exclusive License: It grants permission without excluding others, allowing certain actions that would otherwise be considered infringement. When an exclusive right is granted, the owner relinquishes all economic rights.
3) Co-Exclusive License: The licensor grants licenses to a limited number of licensees, recognizing exclusivity among a select few.
4) Implied License: The author implicitly allows or authorizes the use of their work, often when they are aware of someone using their work but don’t take action.
5) Solo License: Both the licensor and licensee can exclusively use the work, excluding any third parties.
2. COMPULSORY LICENSE [SECTION 31 – 31B]
i.) COMPULSORY LICENSE IN THE WORK WHICH IS WITHHELD FROM THE PUBLIC [SECTION 31]
Section 31 establishes provisions for compulsory licenses in cases where the copyright owner of a published or publicly performed work unreasonably refuses to allow its republication, re-communication, performance, or communication to the public during the copyright term. If such a situation arises, a complaint can be filed with the Commercial Court. The Commercial Court will then listen to the copyright owner and conduct any required investigations. Following this process, if the Commercial Court determines that the refusal lacks reasonable grounds, it can instruct the Registrar of Copyrights to grant a license. This license allows qualified individuals, as determined by the Copyright Board, to republish or re-communicate works that have been withheld from the public.
In Entertainment Network (India) Ltd. v. Super Cassette Industries, the Supreme Court ruled that under Section 31(1)(b), if the copyright owner declines to permit the public communication of a sound recording under terms the complainant deems reasonable, a complaint to the Copyright Board for the issuance of a compulsory license is permissible. However, the court must carefully consider and balance the rights of the copyright owner and the individual seeking the compulsory license while granting license.
In Super Cassettes Industries Ltd. v. Music Broadcast Pvt. Ltd., the Supreme Court outlined the requirements for obtaining a compulsory license under Section 31 of copyright law:
i.) the applicant must demonstrate that the owner of a published work has indeed withheld the republication of that work.
ii.) the withholding by the owner must be based on grounds that are legally considered “unreasonable.”
The Supreme Court emphasized that determining whether the owner’s grounds for not allowing republication are reasonable requires a full hearing. These reasons go beyond just monetary consideration and can include concerns about personal safety. The Court also made it clear that granting a compulsory license during ongoing Section 31 proceedings would be premature, especially if the owner has valid non-monetary reasons for withholding republication. Therefore, a compulsory license should only be granted after the court finishes the proceedings and makes a final decision, not as an interim order.
ii.) COMPULSORY LICENSE IN PUBLISHED OR UNPUBLISHED WORK [SECTION 31A]
Section 31A deals with compulsory licenses for works created by Indian citizens who either pass away or become untraceable before publication. In such a case, anyone can apply to the Commercial Court for a license to publish or translate such works. But before applying, the applicant must advertise their proposal in an English newspaper, and, if the application pertains to the publication of a translation in a specific language, the applicant must also announce the proposal in that particular language. Once the application, along with a copy of the advertisement, is submitted to the Commercial Court, a prescribed inquiry is conducted, and if approved, the registrar of copyright may grant a license. The Registrar can require the applicant to deposit royalties in a specified account as determined by the Commercial Court. This provision ensures that the copyright owner, their heirs, executors, or legal representatives, can claim this royalty at any time.
iii.) COMPULSORY LICENSE TO BENEFIT DISABLED [SECTION 31B]
Section 31B was introduced into the Copyright Act, 1957, by the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012, serves the purpose of expeditiously granting compulsory licenses for the benefit of disabled individuals.
Section 31B allows anyone, including profit-oriented entities or those serving individuals with disabilities, to apply for a compulsory license to publish a copyrighted work for the benefit of disabled individuals. The application goes to the Commercial Court with a prescribed fee, which must resolve it within two months. The Commercial Court may verify the applicant’s credentials and the application’s legitimacy. If a compulsory license is deemed necessary after hearings and inquires, the Registrar of Copyright can grant it, specifying format, duration, copy limits, and royalties. The court can extend the license and permit more copies, considering copyright owners’ rights.
3) STATUTORY LICENSE [SECTION 31C – 31D]
i.) FOR COVER VERSION [SECTION 31C]
A “cover version” refers to a new recording or performance of a previously existing song, typically done by a different artist or group than the original. And according to Section 31C, a “cover version” in this section must be created in accordance with the provisions outlined in this section.
Section 31C permits the making of a cover version in the form of a sound recording for a literary, dramatic, or musical work, and sound recordings of that work have been previously made with the permission of the copyright owner, but they have to do so under the conditions outlined in this section:
a. the medium of this new sound recording should match that of the most recent recording.
b. the person making the cover version must provide advance notice of their intent and follow the prescribed guidelines.
c. they have to make advance payments of royalties to the copyright owner of each work, as determined by the Commercial Court.
d. the packaging of sound recordings should clearly state that they are cover versions.
e. no alterations to the work are allowed unless they have been previously approved by the copyright owner or are technically necessary for creating the sound recordings.
f. sound recordings cannot be made until five calendar years have passed since the first recording of the work.
g. One royalty must be paid for a minimum fifty thousand copies of each work during each calendar year in which such copies are made.
h. Records and accounts about these sound recordings, including existing stock details, must be maintained as prescribed.
ii.) FOR BROADCASTING LITERARY AND MUSICAL WORKS AND SOUND RECORDINGS [SECTION 31D]
A literary and musical work and a sound recording that has already been published can be publicly broadcast or performed by any other broadcast organization if they desire, but subject to the conditions outlined in the section 31D:
a. The organization has to provide prior notice regarding its intent to broadcast the work, and it should include details such as the duration and territorial coverage of the broadcast.
b. Additionally, they have to pay royalties to the copyright owners of each work at rates that are determined by the Commercial Court.
c. The Commercial Court is responsible for establishing separate rates of royalties for the radio broadcasting and television broadcasting.
d. The Commercial Court has the authority to request that the broadcasting organization to make advance payments to the copyright owners.
e. Unless the broadcasting organization is delivering the work through performance, it must announce the names of the authors and principal performers during the broadcast.
f. There should be no substantial alterations to a work unless it is technically necessary for broadcasting.
g. The organization is required to maintain records and financial accounts and provide reports to copyright owners.
BENEFITS OF COPYRIGHT LICENSING
- Flexible Use: Licensing allows the copyright owner to grant specific permissions while retaining ownership, offering flexibility in usage.
- Revenue Generation: Owners can earn money by charging license fees or royalties for the use of their work.
- Market Expansion: Licensing opens doors to new markets and audiences, expanding the reach of the work.
- Preservation of Rights: Owners maintain control, specifying how their work is used and safeguarding their reputation.
- Risk Mitigation: License agreements outline responsibilities and liabilities, reducing the potential for disputes.
In conclusion, copyright laws in India are the cornerstone of intellectual property protection. They grant creators and authors exclusive rights to their original works, ensuring that their creative efforts are rewarded and safeguarded. Understanding the intricacies of copyright terms, assignments, and licensing is crucial in today’s landscape, benefiting creators, businesses, and the public.
The Copyright Act meticulously outlines the terms of copyright protection for various categories of creative works, ensuring that the rights of authors and their legal heirs are upheld. Additionally, it sets clear guidelines for copyright assignment, enabling creators to transfer their rights while maintaining ownership of their work. Licensing, on the other hand, allows copyright holders to share their creations under specific conditions, benefiting both creators and those seeking to use copyrighted content.
Furthermore, the Act includes provisions for compulsory licenses in cases where copyright owners unreasonably withhold their works from the public. This ensures that creativity and access to knowledge are not hindered by overly restrictive copyright practices.
In a rapidly evolving digital age where the sharing of creative works is commonplace, copyright laws play a pivotal role in balancing the interests of creators, businesses, and the general public. These laws provide a legal framework that fosters innovation, creativity, and the responsible use of intellectual property.
- The Copyright Act, 1957.
- Meenu Paul, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS 32, (Allahabad Law Agency, Law Publishers, Faridabad Haryana 2022).
- Muskaan Mathur, Assignment and Licensing of Copyrights under Copyrights Act, LAW BHOOMI, https://lawbhoomi.com/assignment-and-licensing-of-copyrights-under-copyrights-act/#_ftnref3.
- R Shakthivel, Copyright Assignment and Licensing, LEGAL BITES, https://www.legalbites.in/category-intellectual-property-rights/copyright-assignment-and-licensing-949625.
- Gramophone Company of India Ltd. V. Shanti Films Corporation, AIR 1997 Cal. 63.
- Video Master v. Nishi Production, 23 IPLR 388 (1998).
- Saregama India Ltd v. Suresh Jindal, 2007 (34) PTC 522 (Cal).
- Entertainment Network (India) Ltd. V. Super Cassette Industries, JT 2008 (7) SC 11.
- Super Cassettes Industries Ltd. V. Music Broadcast Pvt. Ltd., 2012 (5) SCC 488.
 Gramophone Company of India Ltd. V. Shanti Films Corporation, AIR 1997 Cal. 63.
 Video Master v. Nishi Production, 23 IPLR 388 (1998).
 Saregama India Ltd v. Suresh Jindal, 2007 (34) PTC 522 (Cal).
 Entertainment Network (India) Ltd. V. Super Cassette Industries, JT 2008 (7) SC 11.
 Super Cassettes Industries Ltd. V. Music Broadcast Pvt. Ltd., 2012 (5) SCC 488.