Copyright protects the creator's right to specifically copy, reproduce, or publish his tangible work for monetary gain or otherwise. It is the sole legal right granted to the work's creator to reproduce, duplicate, translate, or adapt his work. The Indian Copyright Act, 1957 (as amended in 2012) (hence referred to as the "Act"), as well as the Copyright Rules 1958, control it (as amended in 2013, 2016).
Sections 44 through 50A of Chapter X of the Copyright Act of 1957 deal with various issues of copyright registration. Under Section 44 of the Act, a procedure for copyright registration has been proposed. The provisions of the aforementioned clause make it clear that registering a work under the Copyright Act is not required and is not a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit for damages if someone infringes on the copyright. Obtaining a copyright does not necessitate registration (Also held in NavSahitya Prakash &Others v. Anan Kumar & Others AIR 1981 All 200). However, it is always a good idea to register such work under the Copyright system to increase its value and avoid future disputes related to the work.
Nevertheless, this raises the question of whether a copyright registration will be considered invalid if any registered work has an error or discrepancy? This blog will examine key parts of Indian and US copyright laws in order to understand what happens when it is later discovered that the registered work was entered with inaccurate information.
Legal Provisions: Indian Scenario
Section 49 – Correction of entries in the Register of Copyrights –
- The Registrar of Copyrights may, in the prescribed cases and subject to the of Copyrights by –
- correcting any error in any name, address or particulars; or
- correcting any other error which may have arisen therein by accidental slip or omission
Sec 50. Rectification of Register by Copyright Board-
The Copyright Board, on application of the Registrar of Copyrights or of any person aggrieved, shall order the rectification of the Register of Copyrights by-
- the making of any entry wrongly omitted to be made in the register, or
- the expunging of any entry wrongly made in, or remaining on, the register, or,
- the correction of any error or defect in the register.
Rule 71: Correction and rectification of entries in the Register of Copyrights. —
- The Registrar of Copyrights may, either suomotu or on application of any interested person, amend, or alter the Register of Copyrights for the entries specified in section 49, after giving, wherever practicable, to the person affected by such amendment or alteration, an opportunity to show cause against such amendment or alteration, and communicate to such person the amendment or alteration so made.
- The Registrar of Copyrights shall rectify the entries made in the Register of Copyrights after an order is being passed by the Board on an application made by the Registrar of Copyrights in this behalf under section 50.
Process: Expunging From Register of Copyrights
After an application has been registered in the Register of Copyrights, the sole way to remove or correct the records that have been recorded is to use Section 50 of the Copyright Act 1957. The interested party has thirty days from the date of receipt of the application to file an objection (in other words, to oppose the application), after which the application will be examined and, if all requirements are met, it will be registered.
In the case of Wings Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd v. Vest Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd. [ 2009 (39) PTC 385 (CB) ],a copyright registration number A-71862/2005 was expunged from the Register after an application under section 50 of the copyright was submitted with the Copyright Board of Delhi. Under registration No. A-66727/04, petitioner had a copyright registration for its artistic work 'DISCLOWIN PLUS.' The petitioner claimed that the respondent had a copyright registration for an artistic work with the number A-71862/05 dated 30.4.2005 that is deceptively similar to the petitioner's work. The Respondent refuted the petitioner's claims, claiming that the disputed work was created by Shri Vishal Gupta (Petitioner), a Director of the respondent. They also claimed that there had been no statutory violations in the registration process. The registration certificate was submitted by petitioner's attorney. He said that before filing a registration application, the petitioner must have acquired an assignment from the author, Shri. Vishal Gupta, under Section 19 of the Copyright Act, 1957. The petitioner mentioned this problem in its petition, and the respondent provided no reply or clarification. Therefore, it was clear that no assignment was achieved. As a result, the petitioner claimed that the registration be rejected on that basis, and the Registrar should not have allowed registration.
Held: The respondent who failed to make the representations, bore the burden of proof. There was nothing in the respondent's written statement to indicate that the plaintiff had made a work assignment. Section 17, when read in conjunction with section 2(d), leads to the conclusion that Shri Vishal Gupta (the Petitioner) owns the copyright in the infringed work. Nothing in the pleadings indicates that the work was completed under a contract of service. There is no evidence that a work assignment was completed in the applicant's favour in accordance with section 19.As a result, the applicant does not have legal ownership rights to the contested work. In light of the foregoing, the Court determined that the work was not worthy of being preserved on the Register and ordered that it be expunged.
(Please note that, following the dissolution of the IPAB on August 13, 2021, the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi has established an Intellectual Property Division (the "IP Division"). The IP Division will handle all intellectual property-related matters brought before the High Court, including original and appellate proceedings, IPR litigation, revocation and cancellation actions, and appeals. As a result, such cases are being resolved by the High Courts as of now.)
Legal Provisions: The U.S. Scenario
- 201.5 Corrections and amplifications of copyright registrations; applications for supplementary registration.
Under section 408(d) of title 17 of the United States Code, as modified by Pub. L. 94-553, this section sets conditions for filing an application for additional registration to remedy a mistake in a copyright registration or to enlarge the information offered in a registration. Only if a basic copyright registration for the same work has already been completed may a supplemental registration be made.Any author or other copyright claimant of the work, or the owner of any exclusive right in the work, or the duly authorised agent of any such author, other claimant, or owner, who wishes to correct or amplify the information given in the basic registration for the work may file an application for supplementary registration after the basic registration has been completed. The Supplementary Registration does not cancel or replace any previous registrations or registration numbers.
Furthermore, Section 411(b) requires the court to ask the Register of Copyrights to advise the court whether the inaccurate information, if known, would have caused the Register to refuse registration in any case where the certificate of registration contains inaccurate information knowingly included by the applicant.
A dispute between fabric designer Unicolors and big retailer H&M is the subject of Unicolors, Inc. v. H & M Hennes & Mauritz, LP No. 20-915, 2021 WL 2194846, at 1 (U.S. June 1, 2021). H&M reportedly infringed on Unicolors' fabric print copyright by utilizing an apparently similar version of the print without permission in connection with a jacket and skirt that were first marketed in 2015. Around 12,000 units of the suspected items were sold by H&M. H&M, on the other hand, claims that its fabric pattern is a unique design made by a Chinese designer who drew inspiration from public domain drawings and independently registered the print in China. Unicolors included the print in a single unit copyright application with 31 other works shortly after it was created in 2011. For all 31 works, the application claimed a year of creation of 2011 and a first publication date of January 15, 2011. The registration certificate was issued on February 14, 2011.
H&M claimed that the registration should be cancelled, because the 31 works were unlawfully registered as a single unit with the same publication date, despite the fact that 22 of them were reportedly published on one day and 9 were supposedly published on a different day to different consumers. Unicolors allegedly willfully made false representations to the Copyright Office in order to save money on copyright application filing expenses, according to H&M.
The matter reached Ninth circuit court, it opined: Section 411(b) of the Copyright Act requires that before assessing invalidity, a district court must submit a request to the Register of Copyrights "to advise the court whether the inaccurate information, if known, would have caused it to refuse registration" when a copyright-defendant "alleges that (1) a plaintiff's certificate of registration contains inaccurate information; (2) the inaccurate information was included on the application for copyright registration; and (3) the inaccurate information was included on the application with knowledge that it was inaccurate." It also reiterated its position that the correct standard to review copyright invalidity challenges is knowing material inaccuracies, not intent to defraud.
It can be observed from the above analysis that the US model of rectification of errors in copyright registration is a more effective option, as it establishes a uniform approach to such repairs and gives proper ground on which the invalidity of copyright registration may be determined, as shown by the above analysis. On the other hand, while Indian law contains legislative procedures for the correction of such errors after the registration of works, the reasons for doing so are never stated. It is only via diverse judgments of Indian courts (which vary from case to case) that specific grounds for rectification can be identified. Therefore, to remove such ambiguities from the Indian law, specific provision (just as in case of U.S. Copyright Law) should be implemented with regards to the grounds of assessing the copyright registration as invalid.
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.