A Simple Guide to Copyright (part 1)
The Copyright Act, 1957 (the “Act”) came into effect from January 1958. The Act has since been amended five times, i.e., in 1983, 1984, 1992, 1994, 1999, and 2012 with the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 being the most relevant for the purposes of this article.
The main reasons for amendments to the Copyright Act, 1957 included bringing the Act in conformity with two WIPO internet treaties concluded in 1996, namely, the WIPO Copyright Treaty (“WCT”) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (“WPPT”), which discussed, among other things, protecting the music and film industries; protecting the interests of the authors of works; removal of operational constraints; and enforcement of rights.
Meanwhile, specific amendments incorporated within the Copyright Act in 2012 included: extension of copyright protection in the digital space, such as penalties for circumventing technological protection measures and rights management; liability of internet service providers; introduction of statutory licenses for cover versions and for broadcasting organizations; ensuring the right to receive royalties for authors, and music composers; exclusive economic and moral rights of performers; equal membership rights in copyright societies for authors and other rights owners; and exception of copyrights for physically disabled in accessing works.
What is copyright?
Copyright signifies the ownership of intellectual property by a person or by a group. Music copyright protects ownership and/or a recording.
Copyright is a right provided by law to creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings. In fact, it is a bundle of rights including, inter alia –
- rights of reproduction,
- communication to the public, and
- adaptation and translation of the work.
While there could be slight variations in the composition of the rights, dependant on the kind of works, copyright ensures certain minimum safeguards of the rights of authors over their creations, thereby protecting and rewarding creativity.
The protection provided by copyright to the efforts of writers, artists, designers, dramatists, musicians, architects, and producers of sound recordings, cinematograph films, and computer software, creates an atmosphere conducive to creativity, which induces them continue creating and motivate others to create.
Copyright also grants certain exclusive rights to the author[s], one of the most important being the right to earn money from that intellectual property created. This is called “exploiting” your copyright.
If you created a recording, you own that sound recording. If you composed a song, you own that composition. If you wrote the words, you own its lyrics. If you composed – or wrote the words of – a song as part of a group, each member owns a portion of that song, in case of which you would want each collaborator to provide a sign off on an independent document determining the splits (i.e. the percentage of the song each person owns), and register your copyright accordingly.
The Copyright Act, 1957 protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, cinematograph films, and sound recordings from unauthorized uses. Unlike the case with patents, copyright protects expressions, not ideas. Hence, there is no copyright protection for ideas, procedures, and methods of operation or mathematical concepts as such.
Please note that to get the protection of copyright, the work – your work – must be original.
Parag Kamani is a media and entertainment lawyer with over 30 years of experience in the Indian music industry. He also contributes to the #SAundCheck blog regularly, and offers consultation services too in the field of copyright, trademark and more.