History of Indian Copyright Law

Indian Copyright Law evolution over the years

Just like the Patent law and the Trademark law, the history of Copyright law is also associated with the British regime.  The first Copyright law enacted in 1847. According to this law, the copyright issued in the name of the author for a lifetime of the author and an extra seven years post-mortem. However, this time period in no case could exceed forty-two years unlike the present time limit of sixty years. In addition, the government could grant a compulsory license even if the owner refused to after the death of the author.

The act of infringement constituted of unauthorized printing of copyrighted work, selling, exporting or posing to sell.  The act specifically laid that in case of any book, review, magazine or any work published, the copyright shall remain with the publisher, owner or the proprietor of the work. Any suit was to be instituted in the highest local court at first instance. Registration of the work was mandatory in the act. The copyright law was under development in Britain for over a century. At that time, India was under British rule. Hence the deliberations and learning of this period affected the copyright law in India. The way this enactment operated is not properly known. But, it provided a passage for future legislation.

Copyright Law of 1914:

The second phase of the Copyright laws in India came when the Copyright law of 1914 was enacted by the government. This law incorporated provisions of the United Kingdom Copyright Act of 1911. However, it also contains changes like bringing in criminal sanctions in the Act. Another feature of the Copyright law of 1914 was that it gave some sole rights to the author for a period of ten years which were to produce, reproduce, publish or translate the work in any other language. If within this period the author allowed the work in any other language he retained those “sole rights.” The modification of the copyright to translated work was always under controversies. Some thought it would boost the publishing industry but the authors were purely against it. The post-independence years encountered the dismissal of the Copyright law of 1914 which replaced the Act with the enactment of the Copyright Act of 1957 after seven years of Independence.

The Copyright law of 1914 was withdrawn due to several reasons:

The previous act which was a mere copy of 1911 Act was against the statue of new India.

It was not as per the requirements of the Berne Convention and The Universal Copyright Convention.

The advanced modes of communication needed recognition and modernization.

The need for the independent and self-contained law was felt at that moment.

Thereafter, a Select Committee appointed by the Indian legislators to help in setting up a new model of the copyright act. This committee appears to have consulted the reports of the English Copyright Committee and some international institutions namely: International Confederation of Society of Authors and Composers (Paris), Performing Right Society (London), British Copyright Council and a few more. One of the key changes incorporated was the removal of pre-registration condition and gratuitous supply of books to the library. The review which came out for this act was that it was not farsighted since it failed to provide relevant performer’s right but still was the very own piece of Indian legislation which proved the substance to lawmakers. The Copyright Act, 1957 was enacted which came into effect from January 1958.  The Act has been amended six times to meet its requirements.

Later in 1983, some important amendments took place in the copyright act which includes the provision of Section 32 A and 32B. These sections provided the provisions of compulsory licenses of foreign works that were to be translated into an Indian language. It also provided provision of Section 19A which conferred power to the Copyright Board to revoke copyright after a due complaint of terms is harsh or publishing being delayed. The amendment also resulted in making it mandatory for the copyright office to publish all the registrations in the Gazette of India. It also disallowed the importation of any infringed work for any private or personal issue.

In 1994 amendments made which includes:-

Increase the term of copyright protection to sixty years.

Copyright protection extended to computer programs and performances.

Redefinition of the term communication to the public so that it includes the work which was communicated “regardless if any member of the public actually sees or enjoys the work or not.”

The copyright ownership elucidated over public speeches and works by the public undertaking.

In 1999 certain sections about information broadcasting included in the copyright act which allowed fair dealing with respect to computer programs and the making of personals copies/adaptations of programs which were legally obtained. Then again, in the year 2012, the copyright act was amended. Some of the amendments are:

Extension of the copyright protection in the digital environment.

Introduction of statutory licenses for cover versions and broadcasting organizations

Ensuring the right to receive royalties for authors, and music composers, exclusive economic

Moral rights to performers, equal membership rights in copyright societies for authors.

These are the changes which Copyright law has gone through and is a proof of the fact that this piece of law is flexible and malleable enough as per any cultural or economic changes. India is a signatory country of many international treaties and conventions that lays rules and procedures for governing copyright law.

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