What is right to copyright in law

Introduction to Copyright- A Right To Copy.

Copyright is a right given by the law to creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings. It can be termed as “The exclusive rights given by law for a certain term of years to an author, composer etc. (or his assignee) to print, publish and sell copies of his original work”. Indian copyright law is at parity with the international standards as contained in TRIPS. The (Indian) Copyright Act, 1957, pursuant to the amendments in the year 1999, fully reflects the Berne Convention for Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 1886 and the Universal Copyrights Convention, to which India is a party. India is also a party to the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Rights of Producers of Phonograms and is an active member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (“UNESCO”).

The idea of copyright protection emerged with the invention of printing, which made the literary works to be duplicated by mechanical process. Prior, to that hand copying was the sole mean of reproduction. After, the invention of Guttenberg’s printing press in Germany in 1436, a need to protect the printers and booksellers was recognised and thus certain privileges to printers, publishers and also authors were granted. The art of printing spread quickly in Europe. After 1483, England emerged as a major Centre of printing trade in Europe. The spread of this technological innovation led to creation of a class of intermediaries, who made an initial investment in bringing out the book, i.e., the printers, who doubled as booksellers as well. They were called the “stationer’s” in England.

In 1557, Queen Mary I, granted the privilege of regulating the book trade to the Stationer’s company of London. In 1662, the Licensing Act was passed in England, which prohibited the printing of any book which was not licensed and registered with the Stationers’ Company. This was the first clear law which was aimed at protecting literary copyright and checking piracy. The license era was short lived. It was only with the passing of the Queen Anne’s Statute of 1709, that, the rights of the authors over their work came to be legally recognised, and the concept of ‘public domain’ was established, though not explicitly.

STATUTE OF ANNE: The first codified law came in existence with the passing of the statute of Anne, which came into force on 10th April 1710. It was the first legal articulation of real copyright. Queen Anne’s statute conferred upon the authors for the first time, the statutory right to benefit from their literary works by conferring upon them the sole right to print their works, for a limited period of twenty-one years for works published before the date of enactment i.e. from 10th April 1710, those works which had not been transferred to the Stationer’s Guild. Those works which were published subsequent to the enactment of the statute of Anne enjoyed protection of fourteen years. Prior to the Statute of Anne, the common law of England recognised a perpetual right of property in the author’s “copy” in the manuscript. The Copyright Acts of 1814, and 1842 increased the duration of protection from fourteen, to twenty-eight, to forty-two years respectively. I

N INDIA: Modern copyright law developed in India gradually, in a span of 150 years. The first brush of India with copyright law happened in 1847 through an enactment during the East India Company’s regime. The Act passed by GovernorGeneral of India affirmed the applicability of English copyright law to India. According to the 1847 enactment, the term of copyright was for the lifetime of the author plus seven years post-mortem and could not exceed forty-two years on the whole. Though the author refused publication after his death, the Government had the authority to give license for its publication. The act of infringement was inclusive of unauthorized printing of a copyrighted work for “sale, hire or export”, or “for selling, publishing or exposing to sale or hire”. However, the Act specifically reserved the subsistence of copyright in the author, and his right to sue for its infringement to the extent available in any other law except the 1847 Act.

At the time of its introduction in India, copyright law had already been in the developing stage in Britain for over a century and the provisions of the 1847 enactment were reflected in the later enactments. The Copyright Act 1911, while repealing earlier statutes on the subject, was also made applicable to all the British colonies including India. In 1914, the Indian Copyright Act was enacted which modified some of the provisions of the Copyright Act 1911 and added some new provisions to it to make it applicable in India. The Indian Copyright Act 1914 remained applicable in India until it was replaced by the Copyright Act 1957 and in India, the Copyright Act, 1957 (as amended in 1999), the Rules made thereunder, and the International Copyright Order, 1999 govern Copyright and neighboring rights.

This Act has been amended five times i.e. 1983, 1984, 1992, 1999, and most recently in 2012. The definition of copyright included the exclusive right to communicate works by radio diffusion; the cinematograph was given separate copyright; the term of copyright protection was extended from 23 to 50 years which was again extended to 60 years in 1992; term of copyright for different categories of work was also specified. The right to produce a translation of a work was made coextensive with other rights arising out of copyright.

Read about Anti-defection Law in the article, Introduction to Anti-Defection Law

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