India: India Copyright Guide (Frequently Asked Questions – Indian Copyright Act 1957)


1.1 What are the main sources of copyright law?

The Copyright Act, 1957 (the "Act"), supported by the Copyright Rules, 1958 (the "Rules"), is the governing law for copyright protection in India. Substantial amendments were carried out to the Copyright Act, in May 2012.

India follows common law legal system thus relies on case laws to interpret and set precedents in law. As a result there are a number of judicial decisions that contribute to the sources of copyright law in the India.

India is a member of the Berne Conventions and Universal Copyright Convention. The Government of India has also passed the International Copyright Order, 1958. According to this Order, any work first published in any country - which is a member of any of the above conventions - is granted the same treatment as if it was first published in India.


2.1 What type of works can be protected by copyright?

Copyright subsists throughout India in the following classes of works:

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works;
  • Cinematograph films; and
  • Sound recordings.

These are the broad categories, and can be summarised as follows:

Literary works

The term 'Literary works' covers works that are in print or writing, irrespective of the quality of style of the work. Literary work refers not only to works of prose and poetry, but anything that would be under the ambit of 'literature'. However, there will be no copyright if the work is merely a collection of words, the collection of which involved no literary skill. In India, a computer programme is treated as a "literary work" and is protected as such.

Dramatic works

A dramatic work includes any piece for recitation, choreographic work or entertainment in dumb show, the scenic arrangement or acting form of which is fixed in writing or otherwise but does not include a cinematograph film.

Musical works

Musical work means a work consisting of music and includes any graphical notation of such work but does not include any words or any action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music. A musical work need not be written to enjoy copyright protection.

Artistic works

Artistic work means a painting, a sculpture, a drawing (including a diagram, map, chart or plan), an engraving or a photograph, whether or not any such work possesses artistic quality, a work of architecture; and any other work of artistic craftsmanship. Any colour scheme, getup, layout, or arrangement of any alphabets or features qualifies as an artistic work.

Cinematograph films

Cinematograph film means any work of visual recording on any medium produced through a process from which a moving image may be produced by any means and includes a sound recording accompanying such visual recording and "cinematograph" shall be construed as including any work produced by any process analogous to cinematography including video films.

Sound Recordings

Sound recording means a recording of sounds from which sounds may be produced regardless of the medium on which such recording is made or the method by which the sounds are produced. A phonogram and a CD-ROM are sound recordings

2.2 What is required for works to qualify for copyright protection?

Any work which falls under any of the categories mentioned above and the work seeking to be copyrighted must be original; however, it is not necessary that the work should have some original thought or idea. The law is only concerned about the originality of the expression of thought.

2.3 What rights does copyright grant to the rights-holder?

A copyright grants protection to the creator and his representatives for the works and prevents such works from being copied or reproduced without his/ their consent.

The creator of a work can prohibit or authorize anyone to:

  • reproduce the work in any form, such as print, sound, video, etc;
  • use the work for a public performance, such as a play or a musical work;
  • make copies/recordings of the work, such as via compact discs, cassettes, etc.;
  • broadcast it in various forms; or
  • translate the same to other languages

2.4 Are moral rights protected (for example, rights to be identified as an author of a work or to object to derogatory treatment of a work)?

Yes, the Copyright Act grants an author "special rights," which exist independently of the author's copyright, and subsists even after the assignment (whole or partial) of the said copyright. The author has the right to

  • claim authorship of the work; and
  • restrain or claim damages with respect to any distortion, mutilation, modification, or other act in

    1. relation to the said work if such distortion, mutilation, modification, or other act would be prejudicial to
    2. his honor or repute.

These special rights can also be exercised by the legal representatives of the author.

The right against distortion is available even after the expiry of the term of copyright after recent amendment. Earlier, it was available only against distortion, mutilation etc. done during the term of copyright of the work

What is the duration of copyright in protected works?

2.5 The duration of protection for copyright works varies according to the type of work and the date of creation:

It varies according to the type of work and the date of creation:

Category of work Duration
Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works Copyright expires 60 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. Where a work has a joint author/ co-author, 60 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last known author dies. Where the author's identity is unknown, copyright expires 60 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was first published.
Sounds recordings Copyright shall subsist until 60 years from the beginning of the calendar year next following the year in which the sound recording is published
Cinematograph Films Copyright shall subsist until 60 years from the beginning of the calendar year next following the year in which the film is published

2.6 For how long do moral rights subsist in copyright works?

An author's moral right as a right against distortion is available even after the expiry of the term of copyright.

2.7 Who is the first owner of a copyright work?

The concept of 'first owner' under Indian copyright law is quite important and may be determined as follows:

In the case of a literary, dramatic or artistic work (which includes a photograph, painting or a portrait) created during the course of employment or, under a contract of service or apprenticeship, for the purpose of publication in a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, the author of such a publication shall, in the absence of a contract to the contrary, be the first owner of copyright. However, such ownership shall vest with the proprietor of the publication only for the limited purpose of publishing the work or a reproduction of the work in a publication and, for all other purposes, the copyright shall vest with the author of the work.

If a photograph, painting or portrait has not been made for the purposes of publication in a periodical but has been made for any other purpose, then in the absence of a contract to the contrary, the copyright in such work shall vest with the person at whose instance the work was created.

In the case of a cinematograph film, in the absence of a contract to the contrary, the copyright in the cinematograph film shall vest with the producer of the film i.e. the person at whose instance the film was made for a valuable consideration.

In case of a work made during the course of employment or under a contract of service or apprenticeship, the employer shall, in the absence of a contract to the contrary shall be the first owner of copyright.

In case of a government work, the copyright in the work shall vest with the government

2.8 Can copyright in a work be jointly owned? If so, what are the rights of a co-owner?

As per the Act, "work of joint authorship" means 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. Thus the Act recognizes joint authorship. Joint authors fully enjoy all of the rights granted by the Act, as mentioned previously. The term of copyright of a work of joint authorship is calculated with respect to the author that dies last.

2.9 Can you register copyright? If so, what are the benefits of such registration and what other steps, if any, can you take to help you bring an infringement action?

Under Indian law, registration is not a prerequisite for acquiring a copyright in a work. A copyright in a work is created when the work is created and given a material form, provided it is original.

However, the Act provides for a procedure of copyright registration. Such registration does not confer any special rights or privileges with respect to the registered copyrighted work. The Register of Copyright acts as prima facie evidence of the particulars entered therein. The documents purporting to be copies of the entries and extracts from the Register certified by the Registrar of Copyright are admissible in evidence in all courts without further proof of original. Thus, registration only raises a presumption that the person in the Register is the actual author, owner or right holder.

In infringement suits and criminal proceedings, when time is of essence to obtain urgent orders, registration is of tremendous help. Copyright notice is not necessary under the Indian law to claim protection.

2.10 What steps should you take to validly transfer, assign or license copyright?

An assignment of copyright shall be valid only when it is in writing, signed by the assignor or by his duly authorized agent.

2.11 Can moral rights be transferred, assigned or licensed?

No moral rights cannot be assigned or transferred. They can only be ignored by author.

To read this article in full, please click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.