Copyright Law, Balance, And The Expression Of Non-Partisanship

The Indian copyright statute has, from the time of its earliest avatar in 1847, been a balancing act in and of itself. While it ostensibly articulates an author’s right, the right has always been suspiciously amenable to being exploited by commercial, if not corporate, interests acting in ways that do not necessarily align with the best interest of authors (which inequity, in no small measure, was the impetus for the passing of the 2012 amendment to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, which governs the subject in India).
However, apart from the tension between authors and publishers which, it must be said, has more to do with realpolitik than with the letter of the law, there is also a separate clash of interests which the copyright statute attempts to address head on: that between ‘creators’ and consumers. Alliterative though it may be, the clash is not so much between creators and consumers per se, but between copyright owners, who may be the creators of copyrighted works, and the consumers of those works.

Indian copyright law protects specific kinds of works listed in Section 14 of its Copyright Act, and grants to the owners of those works the almost exclusive right to exploit them for a long but limited period of time. The works protected by the law include literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, as well as cinematograph films and sound recordings, provided they satisfy the statutory criteria for protectability. As a general rule, copyright subsists in protectable works from the moment of their creation, and it vests in the creators or authors of the works (although this general rule is subject to a virtual deluge of exceptions particularly in relation to commissioned works and works created by persons in their capacity as employees).

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