The Copyright Act 1957 (as amended by the Copyright Amendment Act 2012) governs the subject of copyright law in India. The Act is applicable from 21 January 1958. The history of copyright law in India can be traced back to its colonial era under the British Empire. The Copyright Act 1957 was the first post-independence copyright legislation in India and the law has been amended six times since 1957. The most recent amendment was in the year 2012, through the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012. India is a member of most of the important international conventions governing the area of copyright law, including the Berne Convention of 1886 (as modified at Paris in 1971), the Universal Copyright Convention of 1951, the Rome Convention of 1961 and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Initially, India was not a member of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) but subsequenty entered the treaty in 2013
Prior to 21 January 1958, The Indian Copyright Act, 1914, was applicable in India and still applicable for works created prior to 21 January 1958, when the new Act came into force (the Copyright Act of 1911 passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom as modified in its application to India by the Indian Copyright Act, 1914). According to this Act, the period of copyright for photographs was 50 years from the time it was first published. ( Act language is:"the term for which copyright shall subsist in photographs shall be fifty years from the making of the original negative from which the photograph was directly or indirectly derived, and the person who was owner of such negative at the time when such negative was made shall be deemed to be the author of the work, and, where such owner is a body corporate, the body corporate shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to reside within the parts of His Majesty's dominions to which this Act extends if it has established a place of business within such parts.") For photographs published, before 21 January 1958 in India, the period of copyright is thus 50 years, as for them the old Act is applicable.
The author of a work is generally considered as the first owner of the copyright under the Copyright Act 1957. However, for works made in the course of an author's employment under a "contract of service" or apprenticeship, the employer is considered as the first owner of copyright, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary.
The concept of joint authorship is recognized in Section. 2(z) of the Act which provides that "a work produced by the collaboration of two or more authors in which the contribution of one author is not distinct from the contribution of the other author or authors" is a work of joint authorship. This concept has been elucidated in cases like Najma Heptulla v. Orient Longman Ltd. and Ors.
Section 19 of the Copyright Act 1957 lays down the modes of assignment of copyright in India. Assignment can only be in writing and must specify the work, the period of assignment and the territory for which assignment is made. If the period of assignment is not specified in the agreement, it shall be deemed to be 5 years and if the territorial extent of assignment is not specified, it shall be presumed to be limited to the territories of India. In a recent judgement (Pine Labs Private Limited vs Gemalto Terminals India Limited), a division bench of the Delhi High Court confirmed this position and held that in cases where in the duration of assignment is not specified, the duration shall be deemed to be five years and the copyright shall revert to the author after five years.
Copyright law protects "works of authorship." The Copyright Act states that works of authorship include the following types of works:
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