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Key takeaways

  • The Copyright Act, 1957 is the primary law regarding copyright in India.
  • It has been amended six times in total, the most recent one being in 2012.
  • Copyright protection commences the moment a work is created, and its registration is optional.
  • Copyright laws go only as far as preventing any kind of piracy or duplication of original content, and not entire prohibition over its usage by any other parties.
  • In the absence of any contrary agreement, the employer is taken into account as the initial owner of the copyright for works created during an author's employment under a "contract of service" or apprenticeship.


Ideas are what drives our world, and it is crucial to have asystem in which they can be freely expressed. It is crucial to have a strong legal system that safeguards their integrity and grants credit to their authors. The Indian legal system has a series of rules to regulate and guard against the misuse and improper handling of such works. Being an intangible asset, copyright rules only go so far as to prevent any kind of piracy or copying of original work, not to completely forbid its use by other parties. The owner is more likely to view it as a credit for their creativity, which no progressive society can afford to ignore.This article attempts to examine the copyright rules in India and cites a few relevant judgements.

Indian Copyright Laws

The main piece of legislation governing copyright in India is the Copyright Act, of 1957. Six amendments have been made to it in total, the most recent being in 2012.

Original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works as well as cinematograph films and sound recordings are shielded against unlawful use by Section 13 of the Act. Under the law, copyrighted works can be used for the following purposes:

  • for the purpose of research or private study,
  • for criticism or review,
  • for reporting current events,
  • in connection with judicial proceedings,
  • performance by an amateur club or society if the performance is given to a non-paying audience, and
  • making of sound recordings of literary, dramatic, or musical works under certain conditions.

Original simply indicates that no other source has been used to duplicate the work. A work is protected by copyright from the moment it is made, and registration is not compulsory. Copyright registration just establishes an entry for the work in the Copyright Register kept by the Registrar of Copyrights and does not provide any extra rights.

Ownership of the work

According to the Copyright Act of 1957, the original owner of a copyright is often believed to be the author. However, in the absence of a contrary agreement, the employer is taken into account as the initial owner of the copyright for works created during an author's employment under a "contract of service" or apprenticeship.

According to Section 2(z) of the Act, a work created by the collaboration of two or more creators in which the contribution of one is not distinguishable from the contribution of the other is considered to be a work of joint authorship. In instances like Najma Heptulla v. Orient Longman Ltd. and Ors [AIR 1989 Delhi 63], this idea has been clarified.

Assignment of copyright can only be in writing and should have specified the work, the period of assignment, and the territory for which the assignment is made. If the agreement does not state the assignment's duration, it will be assumed to be for a duration of five years, and if it doesn't specify the assignment's territorial scope, it will be assumed to be restricted to India's territories. Recently, in Pine Labs Private Limited vs Gemalto Terminals India Limited [I. A. No. 14247/2009], a division bench of the Delhi High Court confirmed this position and held that in cases wherein the duration of the assignment is not specified, the duration shall be considered to be for five years and the copyright shall return to the author after this period. 

Exceptions to Copyright Laws

Certain acts are not affected by the provisions of infringement The Copyright Act 1957.Unlike the concept of “fair use” that is prevalent in the US, India follows a hybrid approach towards copyright that allows acts of fair dealing with any copyrighted work for certain specifically mentioned purposes, and certain specific activities that are enumerated in the statute. Though the term “fair dealing” has not been defined as such, it has been expanded on in several cases. 

The Rameshwari Photocopy Service shop at Delhi University was accused of copyright infringement for selling photocopies of chapters from academic textbooks. The Court ruled that this did not violate the publishers' copyright as the use of copyright to "stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public" outweighed the use of copyright by publishers to maintain commercial control of their property. This was known as the DU Photocopy Case. (The Chancellor, Masters & Scholars of the University of Oxford & Ors v. Rameshwari Photocopy Services & Anr [CS(OS) 2439/2012] ). However, the decision was overturned and retried in December 2016 due to the existence of "triable issues" in the case.

Remedies against Copyright infringement:

The remedies against copyright infringement come under three heads. They are, civil, administrative, and criminal. The administrative remedies provided under the statute include detention of the infringing goods by the customs authorities. The civil remedies provided under Chapter XII of the Copyright Act 1957 include injunctions, damages, and accounts of profits. The criminal remedies provided under Chapter XIII of the statute include imprisonment (up to 3 years) along with a fine (up to 200,000 Rupees).

Relevant cases regarding Copyright laws

  • V. Rameshwari Photocopying Services and Anr. v. The Chancellor, Master and Scholars of the University of Oxford [CS (OS) 2439/2012]

The Rameshwari Photostat and the Delhi University were sued by the plaintiff for allegedly infringing on copyrightable work or course materials. The court temporarily prohibited the defendant from copying significant portions of the works of the original publishers, namely Cambridge University Press, Taylor & Francis, and Oxford University Press, after reviewing the case.

The copyright ruling appears to contradict section 52 of the Indian Copyright Act, which specifies that it is possible to use, reproduce, and distribute portions of a protected work without making a payment to the owner. This is the concept of the "essence of fair dealing”.

The petitioners, who underlined that photocopying of course materials did not fall under the definition of fair dealing for personal use or study, had a different take on that.

  • D.B. Modak & Others v. Eastern Book Company & Others, [AIR 2008 SC 809]

The confusing nature of India’s approach to copyright made this case more ambiguous. It questioned how unique a piece of work needed to be in order to be protected by copyright. This case came into light after the respondents, Spectrum Business Support Ltd and Regent Datatech Pvt Ltd, were accused of committing intellectual property infringement by the plaintiff, Eastern Book Company.

A well-known publishing company filed the petition, alleging that the named respondents materially infringed on its work (publication of Supreme Court orders and verdict). In response, the defendant asserted that such conduct cannot be regarded as copyright for the reasons listed below.

  1.     The fair modification and publication Supreme Court order seek a great level of legal knowledge and skilled labour. 
  2.     There has been a minimal level of creativity involved in such a nature of work, thereby making it eligible for copyright protection. 
  3.     Thus, the petitioner has no right to leverage legal proceedings on the grounds of copyright protection.
  • V. Trisea Publications & Ors., 1996 Ptc (16) 597 Ratna Sagar (P) Ltd [1996 PTC (16) 597]

In Ratna Sagar (P) Ltd. v. Trisea Publications & Ors, a well-known publisher of children's books called "Living Science" brought a copyright infringement lawsuit against the publisher of the book "Unique Science," the respondent. The substance of the defendant's book, according to the plaintiff, is misleadingly similar to theirs. Following a review of both publications, the court found the respondent guilty of copyright infringement and issued a perpetual injunction against doing so in accordance with Sections 14 and 19 of the Act.

  • Hawkins Cooker Ltd. v. Magicook Appliances [100 (2002) Dlt 2008]

The well-known Indian company Hawkins Cooker Ltd. sued Magicook Appliances for exploiting their pressure cooker line's famed label without permission, in violation of the Copyright Act of 1957[1]. Additionally, the defendants were forbidden from using the plaintiff's cookbooks and had to turn up to the petitioner corporation any claimed products, books, and materials they used in the production of the infringing goods in exchange for damages. The plaintiff may also pursue losses sustained by the defendants as a result of the rendition of accounts.


A logo or design that appears to hold considerable value for a business or a person should always be protected by copyright. The work thus receives exclusive rights in terms of publishing, distribution, and usage after receiving copyright protection. Additionally, following copyright protection, the possibility of replication is almost non-existent. The judgements discussed in this article prove that a mark or logo's resemblance may negatively affect its legitimacy. And even though certain copyright disputes might result in enormous losses for owners, it is crucial to comprehend the copyright act before making an application for the same.

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