A copyright is a form of intellectual property which protects original works of authorship such as literary (books, periodicals, computer programmes, tables and compilations including computer and databases), dramatic, musical (songs and graphical notation of the same), artistic, cinematographic and sound recording. 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.
The history of copyright law starts with early privileges and monopolies granted to printers of books. The British Statute of Anne 1709, full title “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned”, was the first copyright statute. Initially copyright law only applied to the copying of books but over the period of time other uses such as translations and derivative works were made subject to copyright and copyright now covers a wide range of works, including maps, performances, paintings, photographs, sound recordings, motion pictures and computer programs.
It is interesting to note that copyright law does not protect the ideas but only expression of the idea. For example there are hundreds of movies based on love stories. Here idea is love story, which is not protected by copyright law. Expression of idea when expressed by different directors in different way is considered as different expression and hence gets protection under copyright law. Each expression and each movie will have individual copyrights. Additionally, the work shall have substantial amount of skill, judgment, labor and the work shall be fixed in a tangible form e.g., if it is a song or drama it should be recorded, if it is a computer program it should be written..
The most frequently asked question about copyright is whether it is necessary to register copyright or not. The answer is NO because copyright is statutory as well as inherent right and comes into being automatically after competition of the work. The legal copyright notice can be put even without registration of copyright but registration of copyright with copyright registry is important under certain circumstances such as:
1. The certification of copyright registration is an authentic proof of valid title and ownership that can be produced in the court as a prima facie evidence of ownership in case of any dispute or litigation. In some jurisdictions, copyright registration is a prerequisite for bringing a copyright infringement lawsuit.Therefore, when a work is to be used commercially; it is advisable to get copyright registration done. However, it is highly recommended to put copyright notice on the work even if it is not registered.
2. Copyright registration is even more important in case of computer software program because the copied work looks identical to the original work and it is extremely difficult to differentiate between the two.
3. Copyright registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
4. Registration certificate is very important to have, if it becomes necessary for the copyright owner to obtain a preliminary injunction against a copyright infringer, such as the immediate cessation of the distribution of the infringer’s work. The presumption of validity will only apply if the work has been registered.
Therefore, even though the copyright registration is not mandatory, it is good idea to get it done especially when the work has to be used commercially. It is proof of ownership and valid title. The copyright can be registered at Copyright Registry, New Delhi.
Bindu Sharma [Origiin IP Solutions LLP, Bangalore, INDIA]