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Salil Kumar Adv   23 July 2022

How long a person will have copyright in his work

dear sir,

 my question is that how long a person will have copy right  in his work and what happens to the copyright after his death ?  if copyright ceases to exist after the authors death, everyone is at liberty to publish same book in their own name. 

for example, can we publish shakespear's dramas in english now in our name as the author is no more now ?



 5 Replies

P. Venu (Advocate)     24 July 2022

Copy right in a publication subsists until 60 years after the demise of the author.

Dr J C Vashista (Advocate)     25 July 2022

As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. 

Adv. Ravish Bhatt, ADIT, CIOT (Dual Qualified lawyer/ Solicitor International Tax Affiliate CIOT)     26 July 2022

Connect with Mr. Bhatt on Linkedin: Click Here

Term of protection of copyright is lifetime of author/ creator plus 60 years after death.  In the case of cinematograph films, photographs, posthumous publications, anonymous and pseudonymous publications etc. copyright lasts simply for a period of 60 years from the date of publication. 

Coming to second part of your question, firstly, copyright does not cease on author’s death.  Secondly, it may be first understood what copyright is. s.14 of the Copyright Act provides that copyright means EXCLUSIVE RIGHT to do or authorise the doing of specific acts e.g., reproduce the work in any material form, issuing copies of the work to the public, make any adaptation of work etc. 

Therefore, upon expiration of copyright in a given work, there is no owner of copyright having exclusive rights to do or authorise to do specific acts as referred in s.14.  So, even others could print and publish the work now.  However, one could surely not publish the work in his/ her name as the same would be a misrepresentation to people.   All what one could simply do is publish the work and earn profit (if they could after long duration from original publication) with no requirement to pay any royalty or obtain license from owner of copyright as there is now none.

Anushree Singh (Advocate)     03 August 2022

To answer to the FIRST part of your question -- In India, copyright generally lasts for 60 years after the death of the author or 60 years after the publication of the work, depending on the nature of the content. 

1. In case of original literature, dramatic, musical, and artistic works - the period of 60 years is counted from the beginning of the calendar year in which the author of such work dies. If there are multiple authors / creators of a work, then the additional 60 years period is calculated with respect to the author who dies last. If the author / creator of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (other than a photograph) is not known/anonymous or is psedonumous, then the "publisher" of such work will hold copyright in the said works. However, if the identity of the author is disclosed before the expiry of the said period, copyright shall subsist until sixty years from the death of such author.

2. In case of films, sound recordings, portraits, posthumous publications, anonymous and pseudonymous publications, public works, and works of international organizations - the period of 60 years is counted from the date of publication of such work.

To answer to the SECOND part of your question -- 

Once the author dies, the ownership of the copyright will be to whoever the author had chosen or to the legal heirs,  and such new assignees will continue to hold the copyright for a period of 60 years from the author's death. Once the 60 year period is over, the said work will come into the public domain.

To answer to the THIRD part of your question -- You can use/sell/distribute Shakespeare's original work and make money out of it as it is in the public domain, however, if you claim ownership of such work, it'd be considered misrepresentation.

Hans Rathi   30 September 2022

The copyright claim exists till the death of the author.

After the death, 70 years are counted after which the work falls in public domain.

Yes, you can now use it but if you claim to be shakespeare, it will be considered misrepresentation.

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