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Intellectual Property (IP) are creations of the mind such as literary works, artistic works, inventions, designs, names, images, and symbols that are used for commercial purposes. The inventors or creators are granted certain intellectual property rights over their inventions or creations for a


Intellectual Property (IP) are creations of the mind such as literary works, artistic works, inventions, designs, names, images, and symbols that are used for commercial purposes. The inventors or creators are granted certain intellectual property rights over their inventions or creations for a specified time duration. Amongst various intellectual property rights; Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks are the three most prominent ones. 

Copyright: It’s Meaning and Evolution

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines copyrights or author’s rights as, “a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture, and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings.”[1] A literary or artistic work gets copyright protection as soon as the author/creator expresses their original work in a tangible form. It is important to note that an idea itself cannot be protected under copyright; however, the expression of that idea can be protected under copyright. This was held by the Honorable Supreme Court in the case of R.G Anand vs. M/S. Delux Films & Ors (1978).[2]

A pivotal turning point in the evolution of copyright law was the passing of the historical legislation; Statute of Anne, in 1710. The Statute recognized that authors should be the primary beneficiaries that are protected under copyright laws. Additionally, it also prescribed a specific time duration during which the authors could enjoy these rights. 

Under the rule of the East India Company, Copyright Law was introduced in India for the first time in 1847. Similar legislation to the UK’s Copyright Act of 1911 was passed in India in 1914. In post-independence India, the process of granting Intellectual Property Rights to creators has evolved constantly to comply with the newly signed International treaties. The Copyright Act was passed by the Indian legislature in 1957 in conformity with the rules outlined in the Berne Convention. Since then, it has been amended numerous times, with the most recent being in 2012.

This article aims to explore in brief, the rights of a copyright owner under Indian law.

Rights of a Copyright Owner

Under Indian Law, copyright owners have been granted a bundle of rights which include: economic rights, moral rights, and other related rights. 

Economic Right:

Section 14 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 defines the meaning of copyright under Indian Law and enumerates how the author/creator can authorize the use of their copyrighted work. It is important to note that persons who have contributed to the creation of a copyrighted work and have waived off their rights are not entitled to receive any economic benefits in the form of royalties; these royalties are to be paid only to the final author or owner of the work. This was held in the case of Indian Performing Rights Society v Aditya Pandey and Ors. (2012).[3] 

Several rights fall under the umbrella of economic rights:

  • Right of Reproduction:

Depending upon the type of work, the right to reproduction holds a different meaning. For instance, in the case of artistic work, the reproduction may be in 2-D or converting of the 2-D works into a 3-D form or visa-versa. The goal of copyright protection is to safeguard the author’s work and make sure that no one else can commercially exploit it. Hence under Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957 any reproduction of a copyrighted work can only take place with the permission of the author.

  • Right of Distribution:

This right is an extension of the right to reproduction. The authors have the right to distribute their work in the commercial market in any matter they deem fit. Authors can also assign all or a portion of their rights in favour of any other person while retaining certain other rights. For example: in the case of translation of some copyrighted work. However, the right to distribution gets exhausted (as per the exhaustion principle mentioned in the TRIPS Agreement) and hence, after the first sale of the authorized copies, the copyright owner does not have the right to prohibit its subsequent re-sale. 

  • Right to Communicate their Work to the Public:

The term “Communicate to Public” has been defined under Section 2(ff) of the Copyright Act, 1957. Due to the constant evolution in the way we communicate; this right has been recognized in the context of the internet as well as per the WIPO Copyright Treaty of 1996.

  • Right to make derivative work:

With the authorization from the copyright owner, a literary, dramatic, or musical work may be reproduced as a cinematograph film or sound recording. In making such derivative work certain other rights of the owner also come into play, for instance, the right to integrity which protects the owner from his work being modified in a manner that is damaging to his reputation. 

Moral Rights

Moral Rights are inherent rights of the creator and in contrast to copyright, they cannot be legally transferred. The concept of moral rights was first introduced in India, post-independence, with the enactment of the Copyright Act of 1957. The 1994 amendment introduced a model which stipulated that moral rights should be safeguarded independently of the author’s economic rights. With the 2012 amendment to the Copyright Act, performers were also granted moral rights, and additionally, the idea of permanent moral rights was reintroduced. The doctrine of fair use helps determine the extent to which copyrighted material can be used without damaging the moral rights of the owner.

 Section 57 of the Copyright Act secures the moral rights of the creators. The ambit of this section also includes visual and audio manifestations as was stated in the case of Mannu Bhandari v. Kala Vikas Pictures Pvt. Ltd. and Ors (1987)[4]. The scope of section 57 was further defined in the landmark case of Amar Nath Sehgal vs. Union of India (2005)[5]. Moral Rights were categorized into four categories: 

  • Right of Paternity: The author has the right to be associated with his work and prevent others from claiming authorship of his work. 
  • Right of Integrity: The author has the right to prevent alteration of his work in such a way that harms his work or his reputation. 
  • Right to Retraction: If over some time, the author has changed his opinion or for any other reason wants to retract his work from publication, then he has a right to do so. 
  • Right of Dissemination: This refers to the author’s right to gain economic benefit by licensing or authorizing the use of his copyrighted work.

However, the courts have given an opposing dictum in Raj Rewal vs. Union of India (2017)[6]. It was held that the plaintiff’s moral rights hindered the right to property of the defendant. Since moral rights are a statutory right, they cannot be supreme to the constitutional right to property. The Amar Nath Sehgal and Raj Rewal judgments are in stark contrast to each other. India needs to develop a harmonized view of moral rights to ensure its protection.

Other Related Rights

Related rights have traditionally been granted to performers, producers of sound recordings, and broadcasters. The Copyright Act offers performers specific rights concerning how their live performances are shared with the public and how their performances are recorded. However, the act grants certain exceptions to performers’ rights in regards to the permissions granted to sound recording producers. Section 37 of the Act enumerates the rights of broadcasters in detail. 


Chapter V of the Copyright Act details the term of copyright protection granted to owners under Indian Law. Post-1992, the term for copyright protection for literary, musical, dramatic, and artistic work is the lifetime of the creator plus 60 years. These 60 years are measured starting from the year after the author’s demise. This rule does not apply to cinematographic film and records because the authors are usually corporate companies and not individuals.  Although in a very short period India has enacted multiple legislations to protect the intellectual property rights of creators, it is clear from issues raised during judicial proceedings that further amendments are required. It is therefore crucial that the government amends the copyright act as well as other IP-related acts to ensure adequate protection of creators’ rights in the face of rapidly changing technology.

Author(s) Name: Vanshika Rajesh Tripathi (ILS Law College, Pune, Maharashtra)


[1] WIPO, < > (accessed 21st July 2022)

[2] R.G Anand vs. M/S. Delux Films & Ors 1978 AIR 1613, 1979 SCR (1) 218

[3] Indian Performing Right Society Ltd. v. Aditya Pandey, 2012 SCC OnLine Del 2645

[4] Mannu Bhandari v. Kala Vikas Pictures Pvt. Ltd. and Ors AIR 1987 Delhi 13

[5] Amar Nath Sehgal vs. Union of India 2005 SCC OnLine Del 209

[6] Raj Rewal v. Union of India, 2017 SCC Online Del 7977