What is a Copyright?

Copyright is one of the intellectual property rights automatically provided to the author or creator of original work, giving them the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the copyrighted work.

The creator might apply for a copyright for original and unpublished works, including literary, dramatic, musical, cinematographic, or artistic works. Copyright also protects sound recordings. Briefly speaking, copyrights protect a creator’s economic and moral rights. It helps preserve the owners’ liberty to take legal actions to defend their work and sometimes act as a source of income in the form of royalties. Generally, copyright is granted for sixty additional years to the life of the creator or author of the work. Copyright also encourages other people in the society to come forward with their creativity upon seeing the benefits and protection of their work.

Copyright Infringement

You go to a shop, buy a book, turn a leaf, and there comes the warning “All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical…..” And you don’t read it because, of course, you are more interested in the story. But then, if you proceed to photocopy the book and give it to your friend in exchange for monetary consideration, without the permission of the publisher, you are infringing their copyright and can even be held liable.

This might seem surprising that such a simple act may amount to copyright infringement, but it is. Any form of reproduction of works (literary, musical, art, or dramatics) that has been copyrighted will amount to copyright infringement. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to either sell or license his work to any outside party who can then use it for reproduction. Often movies are based on previously written books. The author, in that case, either sells his right or gives the director a license allowing him to use the plot for celluloid.

Section 52 of the Copyright Act, 1957, however, limits copyright infringement in the following cases:

  1. If it is being used for personal use, such as for research or educational purposes.
  2. In instances of reporting current events, this may at times include any lecture delivered in public. 
  3. If any work is being used for review or criticism.

Types of Copyright Infringement

Broadly copyright infringement can be classified into two kinds:

  1. Primary infringement
  2. Secondary infringement

PRIMARY INFRINGEMENT OF COPYRIGHT

Primary infringement of copyright can be best explained with the example I already mentioned above. Photocopying a storybook and selling it to your friend is a classic example of primary infringement. It refers to the act of copying the work of the copyright holder and then distributing it for commercial purposes. However, to prove copyright infringement, the copyright holder must show that there is a substantial amount of work being copied. If certain casual similarities arise because both of them referred to the same sources, it will not amount to a copyright issue. 

For example, if you use a verse from any Taylor Swift’s song and incorporate it in a song you claim to be written by you and then sell it to a recording company, you have infringed on the copyright of the copyright holder. But if your song includes some similar phrases akin to hers, everyday daily use will not amount to copyright infringement.

SECONDARY INFRINGEMENT

Secondary infringement includes aiding in the circulation of copyright infringed works. For example, if person A has a photocopy machine in his stationery shop and knowingly allows another person B to photocopy a book and then B goes on to sell the photocopied book, then A and B can be made liable for infringement of copyright. But if A was not aware of B’s intention of selling the photocopied book, he cannot be made accountable. Importing, marketing, and distributing of infringed copies fall under the category of secondary infringement.

Remedies for Infringement of Copyright

Civil, as well as criminal remedies, are available to people whose copyright has been infringed.

Civil Remedy

Section 55 of The Copyright Act, 1957 states that any person whose copyright has been infringed has the right to obtain damages in keeping with the harm suffered.

Criminal Remedy

Section 63 of the Copyright Act, 1957 states that criminal charges can also be brought on the infringer for infringement of copyright. If the copyright holder gets criminal charges, then punishment may extend from six months to three years imprisonment with a fine of fifty thousand rupees, extendable up to two lakh.

Case Laws Involving Copyright Infringement

Rogers V Koons

Copyright issues are never black and white. There is always a different opinion on a given judgment. Rogers V Koons was a case built upon one fundamental question ‘is basing your artwork on someone else’s allowed, and will it be qualified as derivative artwork.’ The Judge, in this case, found Mr. Koons guilty of copying Mr. Rogers photograph and basing his statues on it. The similarity was evident, and any person could tell that the work has been copied.

UTV Software Communication Ltd., v.1337X.TO and Ors

This case made a noteworthy contribution by developing a mechanism called the ‘dynamic injunction.’ While adjudicating this case, Disney V M1 was referred. The Judge finally concluded that a plaintiff was allowed to file an additional affidavit explaining to the court why a new website should be considered under a previously granted injunction order. This helped to solve alphanumeric or mirroring sites, which would multiply and reappear as a redirected website after being blocked. Previous to this order, copyright holders to protect their work would need to go through the long and tedious process of litigation over and over again. This case set a precedent by introducing this new mechanism.

Tips Industries V Wynk Music

Tips Industries V Wynk Music cleared a long looming confusion if Section 31D of the Copyright Act included internet broadcasting and if the download or purchase of copyrighted work was allowed under the same section. Section 31D of the Copyright Act, 1957 mentions the statutory licensing scheme which could be used by any organization willing to broadcast(communicate) to the public any sound recordings against the payment of a fixed amount of royalty as set by the Intellectual Property law Board. The Bombay High Court found Wynk Music Company guilty of violating the copyright of Tips industries. Wynk music allowed customers to download the music file in question and store it for unlimited future use. This was not mere broadcasting but qualified as a sale of copyrighted work without the copyright holder’s permission.

Conclusion

Copyright infringement is a crime, legally as well as morally. One puts all their efforts and creativity into producing a piece of art, and then another person blatantly copies it. Thus one should avoid infringing on the copyright of others at all costs. The goal of copyright is to preserve the rights of original work owners while also rewarding them financially for their innovation and hard work. Although it is not required to register one’s work, it is strongly advised to do so as soon as one’s idea begins to take shape in writings, as this will provide strong evidence to show to a court in the event of an infringement.

This article is written by Debasmita Nandi, a first year law student of CHRIST (DEEMED TO BE UNIVERSITY), LAVASA.

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