Copyright Registration in India

What is a Copyright in India?

Copyright are legal concepts and instruments which, while respecting and protecting the rights of creators in their works, also contribute to the cultural and economic development of nations. Copyright law fulfills a decisive role in articulating the contributions and rights of the different stakeholders taking part in the cultural industries and the relation between them and the public.

Copyright gives the creators of a wide range of material, such as literature, art, music, sound recordings, films and broadcasts, economic rights enabling them to control use of their material in a number of ways, such as by making copies, issuing copies to the public, performing in public, broadcasting and use on-line. It also gives moral rights to be identified as the creator of certain kinds of material and to object to its distortion or its mutilation.

Introduction to Copyrights

Copyright Industry

India is a large producer and exporter of copyright materials like computer software, cinematographic films and music. The major copyright industries have registered significant growth over the last few years. The exports of books and other printed materials have grown from Rs. 26 crore in 1986-87 to Rs. 215 crore (estimated) in 1998-99. The turnover of the computer software industry has grown from Rs. 175 crore in 1987-88 to about Rs. 15,890 crore in 1998-99; the projection for the year 1999-2000 is Rs. 24,500 crore. The export of computer software has grown from Rs. 2,520 crore in 1995-96 to Rs. 10,940 crore in 1998-99; the projection for 1999-2000 is Rs. 17,200 crore. India is the largest producer of cinematographic films, producing over 800 films annually with an estimated turnover of Rs. 1500 crore. The export earnings of the film industry in the year 1998-99 were Rs. 400 crore. The annual sale of domestically produced recorded music (including CDs) was of the order of
Rs. 1,232 crore in 1998. In terms of sales volume, India occupies the second position in the world, next only to the USA.

The Copyright Act, 1957

The Copyright Act, 1957 protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and cinematographic films and sound recordings from unauthorized uses. In other words, copyright protects the rights of authors, i.e., creators of intellectual property in the form of literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works and cinematographic films and sound recordings.

It is important to note that copyright protects only the expressions and not the ideas. So, there is no copyright in an idea.

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.


A “work” means – a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, a cinematographic film, or a sound recording.

Literary Work

“literary work” includes – computer programmes, tables and compilations including computer data bases.

Rights in a literary work

In the case of a literary work (except computer programme), copyright means the exclusive right

To reproduce the work;

To issue copies of the work to the public;

To perform the work in public;

To communicate the work to the public;

To make cinematograph film or sound recording in respect of the work;

To make any translation of the work; and

To make any adaptation of the work.


In the case of translation of an original work, all the rights of the original work apply to a translation also. A person cannot translate a work enjoying copyright without the permission of the copyright owner.

Computer programme

Under the Copyright Act, computer programme are treated as literary works.

Rights in computer programme

In addition to all the rights applicable to a literary work, owner of the copyright in a computer programme enjoys the rights to sell or give on hire or offer for sale or hire, regardless of whether such a copy has been sold or given on hire on earlier occasion.

Work of joint authorship

“Work of joint authorship” means a work produced by the collaboration of two or more authors in which the contribution of one author is not distinct from the contribution of the other author or authors.

Copyrights protection is available in throught India in the following classes of works:

Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works;

Cinematograph films; and

Sound recordings.

Artistic work

An artistic work means-

a painting, a sculpture, a drawing (including a diagram, map, chart or plan), an engraving or a photograph, whether or not any such work possesses artistic quality;

a work of architecture; and

any other work of artistic craftsmanship.

Rights in an artistic work

In the case of an artistic work, copyright means the exclusive right,

To reproduce the work;

To communicate the work to the public;

To issue copies of the work to the public;

To include the work in any cinematograph film; and

To make any adaptation of the work.

Dramatic work

“dramatic work” includes any piece for recitation, choreographic work or entertainment in dumb show, the scenic arrangement or acting form of which is fixed in writing or otherwise but does not include a cinematograph film;

Rights in dramatic work

In the case of a dramatic work, copyright means the exclusive right,

To reproduce the work;

To communicate the work to the public or perform the work in public;

To issue copies of the work to the public;

To include the work in any cinematograph film;

To make any adaptation of the work; and

To make translation of the work.

Musical work

“Musical work” means a work consisting of music and includes any graphical notation of such work but does not include any words or any action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music. A musical work need not be written down to enjoy copyright protection.

Rights in a musical work

In the case of a musical work, copyright means the exclusive right’

To reproduce the work;

To issue copies of the work to the public;

To perform the work in public;

To communicate the work to the public;

To make cinematograph film or sound recording in respect of the work;

To make any translation of the work; and

To make any adaptation of the work.

Sound recording

“Sound recording” means a recording of sounds from which sounds may be produced regardless of the medium on which such recording is made or the method by which the sounds are produced. A phonogram and a CD-ROM are sound recordings.

Rights in a sound recording

In the case of a sound recording, copyright means the exclusive* right,

To make any other sound recording embodying it;

To sell or give on hire, or offer for sale or hire, any copy of the sound recording; and

To communicate the sound recording to the public.

Rights holders in a musical sound recording

Ordinarily, the right holders in a musical sound recording may include the following –

The lyricist who wrote the lyrics;

The composer who set the music;

The singer who sang the song;

The musician(s) who performed the background music; and
The person or the compay who produced the sounde recording.

Licence or permission to use a musical sound recording for public performance

As there are many people invovled in the production of musical sound recording, it becomes a necessary requirement to obtain the licences from each and every right holder in the sound recording.

Cinematographic film

“Cinematographic film” means any work of visual recording on any medium produced through a process from which a moving image may be produced by any means and includes a sound recording accompanying such visual recording and “cinematograph” shall be construed as including any work produced by any process analogous to cinematography including video films.

Rights in a cinematographic film

In the case of a cinematographic film, copyright means the exclusive right,

To make a copy of the film including a photograph of any image forming part thereof;

To sell or give on hire or offer for sale or hire a copy of the film; and

To communicate the cinematographic film to the public.

Right of reproduction

The right of reproduction commonly means that no person shall make one or more copies of a work or of a substantial part of it in any material form including sound and film recording without the permission of the copyright owner. The most common kind of reproduction is printing an edition of a work. Reproduction also occurs in storing of a work in the computer memory.

Right of communication to the public

Communication to the public means making any work available for being seen or heard or otherwise enjoyed by the public directly or by any means of display or diffusion. It is not necessary that any member of the public actually sees, hears or otherwise enjoys the work so made available. For example, a cable operator may transmit a cinematograph film, which no member of the public may see. Still it is a communication to the public. The fact that the work in question is accessible to the public is enough to say that the work is communicated to the public.


Adaptation involves the preparation of a new work in the same or different form based upon an already existing work. The Copyright Act defines the following acts as adaptations:

Conversion of a dramatic work into a non dramatic work

Conversion of a literary or artistic work into a dramatic work

Re-arrangement of a literary or dramatic work

Depiction in a comic form or through pictures of a literary or dramatic work

Transcription of a musical work or any act involving re-arrangement or alteration of an existing work.

The making of a cinematograph film of a literary or dramatic or musical work is also an adaptation.

Indian work

“Indian work” means a literary, dramatic or musical work,

the author of which is a citizen of India; or

which is first published in India; or

the author of which, in the case of an unpublished work is, at the time of the making of the work, a citizen of India.


In the case of a literary or dramatic work the author, i.e., the person who creates the work.

In the case of a musical work, the composer.

In the case of a cinematograph film, the producer.

In the case of a sound recording, the producer.

In the case of a photograph, the photographer.

In the case of a computer generated work, the person who causes the work to be created.

Author’s rights

Ordinarily the author i.e., creator is the first owner of copyright in a work. Copyright protects his rights in the form of literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works and cinematographic films and sound recordings.

Copyright and Related Rights


Copyright law is a branch of that part of the law which deals with the rights of intellectual creators. Copyright law deals with particular forms of creativity, concerned primarily with mass communication. It is concerned also with virtually all forms and methods of public communication, not only printed publications but also such matters as sound and television broadcasting, films for public exhibition in cinemas, etc. and even computerized systems for the storage and retrieval of information.

Copyright deals with the rights of intellectual creators in their creation. Most works, for example books, paintings or drawings, exist only once they are embodied in a physical object. But some of them exist without embodiment in a physical object. For example music or poems are works even if they are not, or even before they are, written down by a musical notation or words.

Copyright law, however, protects only the form of expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. The creativity protected by copyright law is creativity in the choice and arrangement of words, musical notes, colors, shapes and so on. Copyright law protects the owner of rights in artistic works against those who “copy”, that is to say those who take and use the form in which the original work was expressed by the author.

Copyright Protection

Copyright protection is above all one of the means of promoting, enriching and disseminating the national cultural heritage. A country’s development depends to a very great extent on the creativity of its people, and encouragement of individual creativity and its dissemination is a sine qua non for progress.

Copyright constitutes an essential element in the development process. Experience has shown that the enrichment of the national cultural heritage depends directly on the level of protection afforded to literary and artistic works. The greater the number of a country’s intellectual creations, the higher its renown; the greater the number of productions in literature and the arts, the more numerous their so-called “auxiliaries” (the performers, producers of phonograms and broadcasting organizations) in the book, record and entertainment industries; and indeed, in the final analysis, encouragement of intellectual creation is one of the basic prerequisites of all social, economic and cultural development.

Copyright protection, from the viewpoint of the creator of works, makes sense only if the creator actually derives benefits from such works, and this cannot happen in the absence of publication and dissemination of his works and the facilitation of such publication and dissemination. This is the essential role of copyright in developing countries.

Subject Matter of Copyright Protection

The subject-matter of copyright protection includes every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domain, whatever the mode or form of expression. For a work to enjoy copyright protection, however, it must be an original creation. The ideas in the work do not need to be new but the form, be it literary or artistic, in which they are expressed must be an original creation of the author. And, finally, protection is independent of the quality or the value attaching to the work—it will be protected whether it be considered, according to taste, a good or a bad literary or musical work—and even of the purpose for which it is intended, because the use to which a work may be put has nothing to do with its protection.

Works eligible for copyright protection are, as a rule, all original intellectual creations. A non-exhaustive, illustrative enumeration of these is contained in national copyright laws. To be protected by copyright law, an author’s works must originate from him; they must have their origin in the labor of the author. But it is not necessary, to qualify for copyright protection, that works should pass a test of imaginativeness, of inventiveness. The work is protected irrespective of the quality thereof and also when it has little in common with literature, art or science, such as purely technical guides or engineering drawings, or even maps. Exceptions to the general rule are made in copyright laws by specific enumeration; thus laws and official decisions or mere news of the day are generally excluded from copyright protection.

Practically all national copyright laws provide for the protection of the following types of work:

literary works: novels, short stories, poems, dramatic works and any other writings, irrespective of their content (fiction or non-fiction), length, purpose (amusement, education, information, advertisement, propaganda, etc.), form (handwritten, typed, printed; book, pamphlet, single sheet, newspaper, magazine); whether published or unpublished; in most countries “oral works,” that is, works not reduced to writing, are also protected by the copyright law;

musical works: whether serious or light; songs, choruses, operas, musicals, operettas; if for instructions, whether for one instrument (solos), a few instruments (sonatas, chamber music, etc.), or many (bands, orchestras);

artistic works: whether two-dimensional (drawings, paintings, etchings, lithographs, etc.) or three-dimensional (sculptures, architectural works), irrespective of content (representational or abstract) and destination (“pure” art, for advertisement, etc.);

maps and technical drawings;

photographic works: irrespective of the subject matter (portraits, landscapes, current events, etc.) and the purpose for which they are made;

motion pictures (“cinematographic works”): whether silent or with a soundtrack, and irrespective of their purpose (theatrical exhibition, television broadcasting, etc.), their genre (film dramas, documentaries, newsreels, etc.), length, method employed (filming “live,” cartoons, etc.), or technical process used (pictures on transparent film, videotapes, DVDs, etc.).

computer programs (either as a literary work or independently).

Many copyright laws protect also “works of applied art” (artistic jewelry, lamps, wallpaper, furniture, etc.) and choreographic works. Some regard phonograph records, tapes and broadcasts also as works.

Term of Copyright

Copyright is protected for a limited period of time. The general rule is that copyright lasts for 60 years. In the case of original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works the 60-year period is counted from the year following the death of the author. In the case of cinematograph films, sound recordings, photographs, posthumous publications, anonymous and pseudonymous publications, works of government and works of international organisations, the 60-year period is counted from the date of publication.

Rights Comprised in Copyright

The owner of copyright in a protected work may use the work as he wishes—but not without regard to the legally recognized rights and interests of others—and may exclude others from using it without his authorization.

Therefore, the rights bestowed by law on the owner of copyright in a protected work are frequently described as “exclusive rights” to authorize others to use the protected work.

The original authors of works protected by copyright also have “moral rights”, in addition to their exclusive rights of an economic character.

What is meant by “using” a work protected by copyright? Most copyright laws define the acts in relation to a work which cannot be performed by persons other than the copyright owner without the authorization of the copyright owner.

Such acts, requiring the authorization of the copyright owner, normally are the following: copying or reproducing the work; performing the work in public; making a sound recording of the work; making a motion picture of the work; broadcasting the work; translating the work;

adapting the work.

Right of Reproduction and Related Rights

The right of the owner of copyright to prevent others from making copies of his works is the most basic right under copyright. For example, the making of copies of a protected work is the act performed by a publisher who wishes to distribute copies of a text-based work to the public, whether in the form of printed copies or digital media such as CD-ROMs. Likewise, the right of a phonogram producer to manufacture and distribute compact discs (CDs) containing recorded performances of musical works is based, in part, on the authorization given by the composers of such works to reproduce their compositions in the recording. Therefore, the right to control the act of reproduction is the legal basis for many forms of exploitation of protected works.

Other rights are recognized in national laws in order to ensure that the basic right of reproduction is respected. For example, some laws include a right to authorize distribution of copies of works. The right of distribution is usually subject to exhaustion upon first sale or other transfer of ownership of a particular copy, which means that, after the copyright owner has sold or otherwise transferred ownership of a particular copy of a work, the owner of that copy may dispose of it without the copyright owner’s further permission, for example, by giving it away or even by reselling it. Another right which is achieving wider and wider recognition, including in the TRIPS Agreement (see chapter 5, paragraph 5.241), is the right to authorize rental of copies of certain categories of works, such as musical works included in phonograms, audiovisual works, and computer programs. The right of rental is justified because technological advances have made it very easy to copy these types of works; experience in some countries has shown that copies were made by customers of rental shops, and therefore, that the right to control rental practices was necessary in order to prevent abuse of the copyright owner’s right of reproduction. Finally, some copyright laws include a right to control importation of copies as a means of preventing erosion of the principle of territoriality of copyright; that is, the legitimate economic interests of the copyright owner would be endangered if he could not exercise the rights of reproduction and distribution on a territorial basis.

Performing Rights

As per the Indian Copyright Act:

A “Performer” includes an actor, singer, musician, dancer, acrobat, juggler, conjurer, snake charmer, a person delivering a lecture or any other person who makes a performance; and

“Performance” in relation to performer’s right, means any visual or acoustic presentation made live by one or more performers.
A performer has the following rights in his/her performance:

i. Right to make a sound recording or visual recording of the performance;

ii. Right to reproduce the sound recording or visual recording of the performance;

iii. Right to broadcast the performance;

iv. Right to communicate the performance to the public otherwise than by broadcast.

Performer’s rights subsist for 25 years.

Once a performer has consented for incorporation of his performance in a cinematograph film, he shall have no more performer’s rights to that performance.

The right to control this act of public performance is of interest not only to the owners of copyright in works originally designed for public performance, but also to the owners of copyright, and to persons authorized by them, when others may wish to arrange the public performance of works originally intended to be used by being reproduced and published. For example, a work written originally in a particular way in order to be read at home or in a library may be transformed (“adapted”) into a drama designed to be performed in public on the stage of a theater.

Recording Rights

The third act to be examined is the act of making a sound recording of a work protected by copyright. So far as music is concerned, sound recording is the most favored means of communicating a work to a wide public. This serves much the same purpose for musical works as books serve for literary works.

Sound recordings can incorporate music alone, words alone or both music and words. The right to authorize the making of a sound recording belongs to the owner of the copyright in the music and also to the owner of the copyright in the words. If the two owners are different, then, in the case of a sound recording incorporating both music and words, the maker of the sound recording must obtain the authorization of both owners.

Under the laws of some countries, the maker of a sound recording must also obtain the authorization of the performers who play the music and who sing or recite the words. This is another example of the fact that the owner of copyright in a work cannot use it or authorize the use of it in a way which is contrary to the legal rights of others.

Motion Picture Rights

A “motion picture” is a visual recording, giving to viewers an impression of motion. In the technical language of copyright law it is often called a “cinematographic work” or an “audiovisual work.” In some countries the word “film” is used instead of the expression “motion picture.” The expression “motion picture” is perhaps preferable, because such productions are, today, frequently made with technological methods (such as magnetic tape) which do not require the use of photographic film.

A drama originally written for performance by performers to an immediately present audience (“live performance”) can be visually recorded and shown to audiences far larger in numbers than those who can be present at the live performance; such audiences can see the motion picture far away from the place of live performance and at times much later than the live performance.

Broadcasting Rights

As per the Indian Copyright Act:

“Broadcast” means communication to the public:

by any means of wireless diffusion, whether in any one or more of the forms of signs, sounds or visual images; or by wire.

The rights of a broadcasting organization with reference to a broadcast are :

i. right to re-broadcast the broadcast;

ii. right to cause the broadcast to be heard or seen by the public on payment of any charges;

iii. right to make any sound recording or visual recording of the broadcast;

iv. right to make any reproduction of such sound recording or visual recording where such initial recording was done without licence or, where it was licensed, for any purpose not envisaged by such licence; and

v. right to sell or hire to the public, or offer for such sale or hire, any sound recording or visual recording of the broadcast.

The term of protection for broadcaster’s rights is 25 years.

A major category of acts restricted by copyright consists of the acts of broadcasting works and of communicating works to the public by means of wires or cables.

When a work is broadcast, a wireless signal is emitted into the air which can be received by any person, within range of the signal, who possesses the equipment (radio or television receiver) necessary to convert the signal into sounds or sounds and images.

When a work is communicated to the public by cable, a signal is diffused which can be received only by persons who possess such equipment linked to the cables used to diffuse the signal.

In principle, according to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, owners of copyright have the exclusive right of authorizing both the wireless broadcasting and the diffusion by cable of their works.

The broadcasting and diffusion by cable of works protected by copyright have given rise to new problems resulting from technological advances which may require a review by governments of their national copyright legislation. The advances include the use of space satellites to extend the range of wireless signals, the increasing possibilities of linking radio and television receivers to signals diffused by cable, and the increasing use of equipment able to record sound and visual images which are broadcast or diffused by cable.

Translation and Adaptation Rights

The acts of translating or of adapting a work protected by copyright require the authorization of the copyright owner.

“Translation” means the expression of a work in a language other than that of the original version.

“Adaptation” is generally understood as the modification of a work from one type of work to another, for example adapting a novel so as to make a motion picture, or the modification of a work so as to make it suitable for different conditions of exploitation, for example adapting an instructional textbook originally prepared for higher education into an instructional textbook intended for students at a lower level.

Translations and adaptations are themselves works protected by copyright. Therefore, in order, for example, to reproduce and publish a translation or adaptation, the publisher must have the authorization both of the owner of the copyright in the original work and of the owner of copyright in the translation or adaptation.

Moral Rights

The author of a work has the right to claim authorship of the work and to restrain or claim damages in respect of any distortion, mutilation, modification or other acts in relation to the said work which is done before the expiration of the term of copyright if such distortion, mutilation, modification or other act would be prejudicial to his honour or reputation.

The moral rights are independent of the author’s copyright and remains with him even after assignment of the copyright. These rights are required to be independent of the usual economic rights and to remain with the author even after he has transferred his economic rights.

Failure to display a work or to display it to the satisfaction of the author shall not be deemed to be an infringement of the moral rights of the author.

The Berne Convention requires member countries to grant to authors:

– the right to claim authorship of the work;

– the right to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the work which would be prejudicial to the author’s honor or reputation.

Foreign Works

Copyrights of works of the countries mentioned in the International Copyright Order are protected in India, as if such works are Indian works.

Copyright of nationals of countries who are members of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Universal Copyright Convention and the TRIPS Agreement are protected in India through the International Copyright Order.

Copyright as provided by the Indian Copyright Act is valid only within the borders of the country. To secure protection to Indian works in foreign countries, India has become a member of the following international conventions on copyright and neighbouring (related) rights:

I. Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic works.

II. Universal Copyright Convention.
III. Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms against Unauthorised Duplication of their Phonograms.

IV. Multilateral Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation of Copyright Royalties.

V. Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

Ownership of Copyright

The owner of copyright in a work is generally, at least in the first instance, the person who created the work, that is to say, the author of the work.

There can be exceptions to this general principle. Such exceptions are regulated by the national law. For example, the national law may provide that, when a work is created by an author who is employed for the purpose of creating that work, then the employer, not the author, is the owner of the copyright in the work.

It is to be noted, however, that the “moral rights” always belong to the author of the work, whoever may be the owner of the copyright.

In many countries, copyright (with the exception of moral rights) may be assigned. This means that the owner of the copyright transfers it to another person or entity, who becomes the owner of the copyright.

In some other countries, an assignment of copyright is not legally possible. However, very nearly the same practical effect as the effect of assignment can be achieved by licensing. Licensing means that the owner of the copyright remains the owner but authorizes someone else to exercise all or some of his rights subject to possible limitations. When such authorization or license extends to the full period of copyright and when such authorization or license extends to all the rights (except, of course, the moral rights) protected by copyright, the licensee is, vis-à-vis third parties and for all practical purposes, in the same position as an owner of copyright.

Copyright Infringements

The following are some of the commonly known acts involving infringement of copyright:

i. Making infringing copies for sale or hire or selling or letting them for hire;

ii. Permitting any place for the performance of works in public where such performance constitutes infringement of copyright;

iii. Distributing infringing copies for the purpose of trade or to such an extent so as to affect prejudicially the interest of the owner of copyright ;

iv. Public exhibition of infringing copies by way of trade; and

v. Importation of infringing copies into India.

A copyright owner can take legal action against any person who infringes the copyright in the work. The copyright owner is entitled to remedies by way of injunctions, damages and accounts.

The District Court concerned has the jurisdiction in civil suits regarding copyright infringement.

Any person who knowingly infringes or abets the infringement of the copyright in any work commits criminal offence under Section 63 of the Copyright Act.

The minimum punishment for infringement of copyright is imprisonment for six months with the minimum fine of Rs. 50,000/-. In the case of a second and subsequent conviction the minimum punishment is imprisonment for one year and fine of Rs. one lakh.

Any police officer, not below the rank of a sub inspector, may, if he is satisfied that an offence in respect of the infringement of copyright in any work has been, is being, or is likely to be committed, seize without warrant, all copies of the work and all plates used for the purpose of making infringing copies of the work, wherever found, and all copies and plates so seized shall, as soon as practicable be produced before a magistrate.

As for the seized infringing copies or plates disposed off, the Court may order delivery to the owner of the copyright all such copies or plates.

Copyright offence committed by a company

Every person who at the time the offence was committed was in charge of, and was responsible to the company for, the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company shall be deemed to be guilty of such offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against.

No court inferior to that of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class shall try any offence under the Copyright Act

The proof of the authorship of a work

Where, in the case of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, a name purporting to be that of the author or the publisher appears on copies of the work as published, or, in the case of an artistic work appeared on the work where it was made, the person whose name so appears or appeared shall, in any proceeding in respect of copyright in such work, be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, to be the author or the publisher of the work, as the case may be.

All infringing copies of any work in which copyright subsists and all plates used or intended to be used for the production of such infringing copies shall be deemed to be the property of the owner of the copyright.

Limitations on Copyright Protection


Copyright does not continue indefinitely. The law provides for a period of time, a duration, during which the rights of the copyright owner exist.

The period or duration of copyright begins with the creation of the work. The period or duration continues until some time after the death of the author. The purpose of this provision in the law is to enable the author’s successors to have economic benefits after the author’s death. It also safeguards the investments made in the production and dissemination of works.

In countries which are party to the Berne Convention, and in many other countries, the duration of copyright provided for by national law is the life of the author and not less than fifty years after the death of the author. In recent years, a tendency has emerged towards lengthening the term of protection.


The second limitation or exception to be examined is a geographical limitation. The owner of the copyright in a work is protected by the law of a country against acts restricted by copyright which are done in that country. For protection against such acts done in another country, he must refer to the law of that other country. If both countries are members of one of the international conventions on copyright, the practical problems arising from this geographical limitation are very much eased.

Permitted Use

Certain acts normally restricted by copyright may, in circumstances specified in the law, be done without the authorization of the copyright owner. Some examples of such exceptions are described as “fair use.” Such examples include reproduction of a work exclusively for the personal and private use of the person who makes the reproduction; another example is the making of quotations from a protected work, provided that the source of the quotation, including the name of the author, is mentioned and that the extent of the quotation is compatible with fair practice.

Non-Material Works

In some countries, works are excluded from protection if they are not fixed in some material form. In some countries, the texts of laws and of decisions of courts and administrative bodies are excluded from copyright protection. It is to be noted that in some other countries such official texts are not excluded from copyright protection; the government is the owner of copyright in such works, and exercises those rights in accordance with the public interest.


In addition to exceptions based on the principle of “fair use” other exceptions are to be found in national laws and in the Berne Convention. For example, when the broadcasting of a work has been authorized, many national laws permit the broadcasting organization to make a temporary recording of the work for the purposes of broadcasting, even if no specific authorization of the act of recording has been given. The laws of some countries permit the broadcasting of protected works without authorization, provided that fair remuneration is paid to the owner of copyright. This system, under which a right to remuneration can be substituted for the exclusive right to authorize a particular act, is frequently called a system of “compulsory licenses.” Such licenses are called “compulsory” because they result from the operation of law and not from the exercise of the exclusive right of the copyright owner to authorize particular acts.

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