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Key takeaways

  • The owner of a work's copyright has the ability to assign his copyright to anyone else. As a result of the assignment, the assignee acquires all rights relating to the copyright of the assigned work.
  • If the assignment period is not specified, it will be assumed to be five years from the date of assignment.
  • In the event of a dispute over the assignment of copyright, the Appellate Board may issue a proper order after receiving a complaint from the aggrieved party and conducting any investigation it deems necessary, including an order for the recovery of any royalties due.
  • The owner of the copyright may also give a license to perform any of the acts over which he has sole authority.

Introduction

Copyright is legal protection granted to creators of certain types of works in recognition of their intellectual contribution. The purpose of copyright has always been to safeguard a creator's interests while also disseminating knowledge. Though this protection began with the acknowledgment of authors' rights in their writings, contemporary technology has fundamentally altered the nature of work and the means by which it is exploited. An owner's economic rights allow him to profit financially from his intellectual contributions.

Different rights are recognized depending on the nature of the work, according to Section 14 of the Copyright Act of 1957. According to this provision, the owner has the exclusive authority to perform or authorize the performance of the activities listed.

Assignment of Copyrights (Section 18)

  • The owner of a work's copyright has the ability to assign his copyright to anyone else. As a result of the assignment, the assignee acquires all rights relating to the copyright of the assigned work. The mere grant of the right to publish and sell the copyrighted work, on the other hand, is a grant of publishing rights rather than a copyright assignment.
  • When an assignee of copyright becomes entitled to any of the copyright's rights, he is treated as the copyright's owner in respect of those rights. In the case of unassigned rights, the assignor is also considered the copyright owner. If the assignee dies before the task is completed, the legal representatives of the assignee are entitled to the assignment benefits.
  • In Video Master v. Nishi Production, the Bombay High Court reviewed whether a video rights assignment would include the right to broadcast through satellite as well. The Court agreed with the defendant's assertions that there were various channels of public communication, including terrestrial television transmission (Doordarshan), satellite broadcasting, and video television. In all of those modalities, the film's owner owned distinct copyright, which he might assign to multiple people.
  • As a result, the satellite broadcast copyright of a film was a separate right of the film's owner, and the plaintiff's video copyright did not include it.

Mode of Assignment (Section 19)

  • According to section 19, a copyright assignment is only legal if it is made in writing and signed by the assignor or his lawfully authorized representative. The assignment of a copyright in a work should identify the work and specify the type of rights given, as well as the assignment's duration and territorial scope. It should also include the amount of royalty payable, if any, to the author or his legal heirs during the time of the assignment, as well as the fact that the assignment may be revised, extended, or terminated on mutually agreed-upon terms.
  • If the assignment period is not specified, it will be assumed to be five years from the date of assignment. If the territorial scope of the assignment is not specified, it will be interpreted to apply to the entire country of India.
  • Section 19(8) also states that copyright work assigned in violation of the terms and conditions under which rights have been assigned to a particular copyright organization where the author of the work is a member is void.
  • In addition, Sections 19(9) and 19(10) state that the assignment of copyright for the purpose of making a cinematograph film or sound recording does not affect the author's entitlement to an equal part of the royalties and consideration due for the use of his protected work.
  • It was held in Saregama India Ltd v. Suresh Jindal that the owner of the copyright in a future work may assign the copyright to any person for the whole or part of the copyright and that once the assignment is made, the assignee is treated as the owner of the copyright for the purposes of this Act.

Disputes with Respect to Assignment of Copyright (Section 19a)

  • According to Section 19(a), if the assignee fails to make sufficient use of the rights assigned to him and such failure is not attributable to any act or omission of the assignor, the Appellate Board may revoke the assignment after receiving a complaint from the assignor and conducting such inquiry as it deems necessary.
  • In the event of a dispute over the assignment of copyright, the Appellate Board may issue a proper order after receiving a complaint from the aggrieved party and conducting any investigation it deems necessary, including an order for the recovery of any royalties due.

Assignment by Operation of Law (Section 20)

If the owner of the copyright dies without leaving a will, the copyright will pass to his personal representative as part of his estate. Section 20 states that if a person is entitled to copyright under bequest and the work has not been published before the testator's death unless the testator's will or any codicil thereto expressly states otherwise, such person is considered to have copyright in the work to the extent that the testator was the owner of copyright immediately before his death.

Licensing of Copyright

The owner of a copyright may give a license to perform any of the acts over which he has sole authority. The following are the different types of licenses:

Section 18 of the Copyrights Act defines a: Voluntary Licence

  • The author or copyright owner has exclusive rights to his or her creative work, and he or she is the only one who may grant a license for it.
  • The owner of the copyright in a work may give any interest in his copyright to any person by license in writing, which must be signed by him or his duly authorized representative, according to Section 30 of the Copyright Act 1957.
  • A license can be issued not only for existing work but also for future work; in this case, the assignment will take effect when the future work is completed. If there is no stipulation to the contrary, a licensee of the copyright in a future work who dies before that work comes into existence will be entitled to the benefit of the license.
  • The license mode is similar to an assignment deed, with section 19 providing the appropriate changes and alterations (section 30A). As a result, just like an assignment, a licensing deed for a work should include the following information:
  1. Duration of license
  2. The rights which have been licensed
  3. Territorial extent of the licensed
  4. The quantum of royalty payable
  5. Terms regarding revision
  6. Extension and termination

Compulsory license

  • Compulsory and statutory licenses can affect the identification of the licensee with whom the owner chooses to do business, as well as the terms, including royalty rates, that the owner may establish. Compulsory licenses, when viewed in this light, are less of a violation of owner sovereignty on both grounds.
  • The owner does maintain some liberty in terms of entering into proper licensing agreements with those he sees fit, and he is also allowed to negotiate the terms of the license within reason.
  • A compulsory license is usually triggered by an unjustified refusal to deal with a person.
  • This takes us to the third key difference between a mandatory and statutory license. The former is always granted after an individual makes a specific request to the appropriate authority.
  • The latter, on the other hand, is the authority's broad setting of royalty rates and the issuance of standardized licenses to all those who wish to use them. As a necessary corollary, the owner has no control over the identities of persons who receive the license or the amount of royalties they pay.

Statutory license

  • Statutory licenses, on the other hand, do not necessitate any investigation into the owner's behavior. Once the work fits into the broader class of works that can be licensed in this way, it tries a wholesale expropriation of owner autonomy.
  • Cover version recording licenses (Section 31C) and broadcasting licenses are the two types of statutory licenses (Section 31D).
  • The first has existed since the beginning, however as part of the fair dealing exceptions in Section 52. The second is a relatively new addition to the Act, as it was amended in 2012.

Conclusion

The terms "assignment" and "licensing" are not synonymous. A license is not the same as an assignment. In general, unless otherwise stated, the assignee becomes the owner of the assigned work, but in the event of a license, the licensee merely receives the right to exercise specific rights.

An assignment might be broad, i.e. without restrictions, or specific, i.e. with restrictions. It could be for the entire copyright term or just a portion of it. As stipulated by Section 14 of the Act, an assignment transfers an interest in and deals with copyright, whereas a license does not convey the copyright but merely offers permission to do something that would be illegal otherwise. An assignment grants copyright ownership, but a license just allows the licensee to do specified things. The assignee who has been given the copyright title may reassign it.


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