What is Copyright?

The questions raised in the exercise in the previous section are all a reflection of the various facets of Copyright. Before we proceed any further, however, we must understand what we mean by the term ‘copyright’ and consequently, by ‘copyright law’. Copyright, as the name suggests, is a kind of right that protects the ‘expressions’ of some ideas, but not the idea itself. This concept where the expression is protected, but not the idea itself, is called the idea- expression dichotomy. We will learn more about this in the next unit. Copyright protects a range of works that are expressions of ideas. These include literary works, artistic works and dramatic works.

Owner and Author

Is the owner of copyright different from the author of the work? This question may be answered by way of two illustrations. Illustration one- Pick up your favourite book. Write down the names of the author(s), the publisher(s), the editor(s), the printer(s) and any other persons/entities that would have contributed to the production of that book. Illustration two- Think of your favourite movie. Make a list of the producer(s), director(s), star cast, editor(s), music director(s), screen play writer(s), story writer(s) and any other artist involved in the making of that movie. Do you think all of them contributed toward the making of that movie? Can you think of reasons for your answer? In both of the illustrations above, you will notice that there are various persons involved in the creation of the work (book, movie respectively) in question. Some may have provided creative input (the author of the book or the director/screen play writer/story writer of the movie), and some may have provided monetary input (the publisher of the book/producer of the movie). Both of these concepts find recognition under copyright. The author of the work has the ‘moral right’ to be identified as the author of the work and object to the distortion of the work. Economic rights associated with copyright vest in the owner of the copyright. The owner could be different from the author. For instance, in case of the book, the owner of the copyright could be the publisher, and in the case of the movie, it could be the producer. In some instances, copyright may be jointly owned as well. Copyrightgrants the owner the right to exclude all others from making use of/exploiting the work in question commercially. This would essentially prevent others from adapting, copying, distributing, or making any other use of the protected work, unless authorised by the owner. Do you remember the introductory exercise we undertook at the beginning of this section? That is a reflection of the owner(s) and author(s) asserting their respective rights under copyright.

Copyright and the Law

Copyright is the subject matter for national legislations. Subject matter of protection, term of protection, whether registration is mandatory or not, the rights associated with copyright and term of copyright are some of the main subjects addressed by these legislations. The key international instrument governing copyright issues is the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 1886. Additionally, some other important international instruments include the WIPO Copyright Treaty, 1996 and the WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty, 1996.

Last modified: Monday, 19 April 2021, 12:01 PM