• IPTT Team

Copyright In Literary Work

Updated: May 6



Copyright is a type of licensed intellectual property protection authorised under Indian Law to the to the makers of unique works of authorship like literary works. It is therefore the right vested in any creator of a unique, abstract, melodic and sensational work, with an objective of promoting public good by encouraging and nurturing cultural and scientific activities.

Copyright law secures assertion of thoughts instead of the ideas themselves. Under section 13 of the Copyright Act 1957, copyright insurance is given on artistic works, movies , sound recordings and so., on, for instance, books, PC programs are ensured under the Act as literary compositions.

With the aim of copyright the expression “literary works” isn't constricted to literary works in the regularly comprehended sense, however is taken to incorporate all works communicated recorded as a hard copy, paying little respect to whether they have literary legitimacy or not. Consequently, the definition is characterized as works, other than various media works, communicated in words, numbers, or other verbal or numerical images paying little notice to the idea of the material articles, for example, books, periodicals, compositions, telephone records, film, tapes etc. For instance, computer databases are considered to be “literary work” and is subsequently given the majority of the assurances of the copyright law.

In University of London Press Ltd. v University Tutorial Press Ltd. Peterson, J. stated: "It may be difficult to define 'literary work', as used in his Act, but it seems to me plain that it is not confined to 'literary work' in the sense in which the phrase is applied, for instance, to Meredith's novels and he writings of Robert Louis Stevenson. In speaking of such writings, as literary works, one thinks of the quality, the style, and the literary finish which they exhibit. Under the Act of 1842, which protected books, many things which had no pretensions to literary style acquired copyright; for example, a list of registered bills of sale, a list of fox-hounds and hunting dogs, and trade catalogues; and I see no ground for coming to the conclusion that the present Act was intended to curtail the right of authors. In my view the words 'literary work' cover work which is expressed in print or writing, irrespective of the question whether the quality or style is high. The word 'literary' seems to be used in a sense, somewhat similar to the sue of the word 'literature' in political or electioneering literature and refers to written or printed matter."

The extent of uniqueness needed required for copyright safety of literary works is nominal as this lessens the subjective judgement in ascertaining which work needs protection , co-jointly it protects people that extends labour, skill, judgement, and capital needed to fulfil the work.

Copyright law protects only "expression". It envisages protection and safeguarding of an author's literary works through several means that include but are not limited to exclusive ownership rights, distributorship, licensing, and creation of derivative works. However, it does not protect any facts and, or mathematical formulas.. The legal framework entails the author to protect his creation from being copied and, or sold by others. These works may be complete replicas of the author's work or ones that are substantially similar in nature to the author's work. And although there is no straight jacket yardstick to determine what constitutes a substantially similar work, the basic test is to see whether another person looks at the two works and believes the two works to be the same. Thus, this protects the author of the literary work from another person changing a few words here or there in a work and claiming it to be a creation of their own. However, if this substantially similar work is an independent creation of another author, then it is not treated as a copyright infringement.

Copyright of abridged literary work

A concise abridged edition of a literary work is a unique work and can be the subject of copyright.

An abbreviated version of a scholarly work, is qualified for copyright in the event that it is new and unique and the creator has gave adequate expertise and work to it. In Macmillan & Co. v Cooper, Lord Atkinson stated: "An abridgment of an author's work means a statement designed to be complete and accurate of the thoughts, opinions and ideas by him expressed therein but set forth much more concisely in the compressed language of the abridger.”.

A publication, the content of which comprises of various disconnected passages, picked from a creator's work, regularly not bordering but rather isolated from those which go before and tail them by impressive assortments of print that are weaved together by few words, in order to give these sections, when republished, the appearance, beyond what many would consider possible, of a continuous narrative, isn't an abridgment by any stretch of the imagination. It just communicates in the first creator's very own words, a portion of the thoughts, considerations and sentiments put forward in his words. Also, clearly the learning, judgment, abstract taste and aptitude imperative to assemble appropriately and successfully a compressed version, meriting that name, couldn't be at all required just to choose such pieces as those taken from a creator and to print them in a narrative form.

Copyright assurance on Translation work

An interpretation of a scholarly work is itself a literary work and is qualified for copyright protection, in the event that it is unique and the creator has exhausted adequate work and labour on it. On the off chance that copyright subsists in the first work, at that point generation or distribution of the interpretation without the assent or permit of the proprietor of the copyright in the first will establish infringement.

The word 'interpretation' isn't characterized in the Act. As indicated by the Shorter Oxford Dictionary 'make an interpretation of' signifies "to translate, clarify, likewise to express one thing regarding another".

‘Translation’ signifies ‘the activity or procedure of turning one language into another; likewise, the result of this, a rendition in an alternate language the articulation or rendering of something in another medium or structure, change or modification’. It has been held that the bantering of the source code in a PC program, regularly written close by, into the item code or machine language is an translation.

Unauthorised copying of the original work by others is an infringement of Copyright. However, copyright will not preclude others from autonomously creating and commercializing the equivalent or a considerably comparable work. So if a individual's work is fundamentally the same as an original work, but that individual can demonstrate that his or her work was independently created and not duplicated, there will be no copyright infringement. The two works will be viewed as unique and in this manner secured by copyright. To rely on copyright law, it is generally important to show that the person copied your original work. However, it is not always simple to show that duplication really happened. Therefore, if the original work is a form of intellectual property that can be registered as a patent, trade mark, or design, we recommended that you also register your work in this way.

Landmark Cases:

Eastern Book Company & Ors vs D.B. Modak & Anr [(2008) 1 SCC 1]

Eastern Book Company, the appellant, was a noteworthy publisher of law reports and journals in India. One of their publications was a law report, “Supreme Court Cases” (“SCC”), containing all Supreme Court decisions. As expressed by the Appellant, SCC was a law report passing on case reports containing the appellants’ interpretation of those decisions and solicitations of the Supreme Court in the wake of putting increments to the raw substance. It comprises of ‘original literary works’ of the appellant where copyright prevails under Section 13 of the Copyright Act, 1957 and he alone has the unique right to make printing as well as electronic copies of the it below Section 14 of the Act. Any recreation of or from the reports or pages from whichever volume of SCC by some individual is an infringement of the copyright in SCC inside the significance of Section 51 of the Act. The Appellants additionally prepared the head notes including two fragments. It also consists of a short dialog about the facts and the pertinent extracts from the judgments and orders of the Court. The Respondent had introduced a product called “Grand Jurix” on CD-ROMs and they also started a software package called “The Laws” on CD-ROMS. As indicated by EBC, each and every one of the modules in the respondents' item packages had been lifted unpredictably from the SCC. Appellants set forward their contention of the respondents adapting their arrangement, choice, and structure of the cases converged with the whole content of altered decisions as distributed by the Appellants' law report SCC. It incorporated the style, formatting, paragraph lines, footnotes serial, references, etc. This demonstration of the Respondent comprises of negation of the Appellants' elite appropriate to the equivalent.

The Supreme Court held, “For the reasons stated in the aforesaid discussion, the appeals are partly allowed. The High Court has already granted interim relief to the plaintiff-appellants by directing that though the respondent-defendants shall be entitled to sell their CD-ROMS with the text of the judgments of the Supreme Court along with their own head notes, editorial notes, if any, they should not in any way copy the head notes of the plaintiff-appellants; and that the defendant-respondents shall also not copy the footnotes and editorial notes appearing in the journal of the plaintiff-appellants.

It is further directed by us that the defendant-respondents shall not use the paragraphs made by the appellants in their copy-edited version for internal references and their editor’s judgment regarding the opinions expressed by the Judges by using phrases like concurring’, ‘partly dissenting’, etc. on the basis of reported judgments in SCC. The judgment of the High Court is modified to the extent that in addition to the interim relief already granted by the High Court, we have granted the above-mentioned additional relief to the appellants.”

‘Knockout’ copyright dispute

The 2010 release Knock Out, featuring Sanjay Dutt, Irrfan and Kangna Ranaut experienced charges of being a duplicate of Phone Booth starring Colin Farrell. The Plaintiff confirmed that the Defendant had encroached the copyright in their film 'Knock Out' which was suppose to release on 15th October, 2010.  The first case was filed even before the release of the movie. Amid that time, the court had passed a mandate against the discharge in the wake of viewing both the movies. At the time the Single Judge had granted Fox an interim injunction. This interim injunction was relinquished by the division bench of the Bombay High Court on the undertaking that they would be allowed to release the film subsequent to having kept a total of Rs. 1.5 crore with the Bombay High Court pending transfer of the suit. The Plaintiff declared an order of injunction restraining the Defendants from releasing their film ' Knock Out ' in theatres or broadcasting it to the public in general in any way or sending out its duplicates to encroach the content, screen, storyline and discoursed in its copyrighted work or in order to go off the said film as and for the Plaintiff's film as an Indian form thereof. However, the matter was again heard on March, 2013 and the court has decided the case and granted Rs 1.25 crore to Fox. Besides, the makers of Phone Booth were not allowed to abuse their film in any way at all from March 5, 2013 onwards.

This is conceivably a milestone judgment in the historical backdrop of such case in India as it additionally comprises the most elevated installment for copyright encroachment in the nation. While affirming the procedures, attorney Xerxes Ranina, who spoke to Fox, showed that the certainties of this case involved open record now.


[1] https://copyright.uslegal.com/enumerated-categories-of-copyrightable-works/copyright-for-literary-work/(accessed on 25. 01. 19 )

[2] http://www.legalserviceindia.com/copyright/copyright-literary-book-lyrics-screenplay.htm(accessed on 25. 01. 19 )

[3] http://www.legalserviceindia.com/copyright/copyright-literary-book-lyrics-screenplay.htm(accessed on 25. 01. 19 )

[4]https://www.baldwins.com/resource/downloads/Introduction_to_copyright_law_in_artistic_and_literary_works_dec_2015.pdf( accessed on 26. 01. 19 )

[5]https://www.legalbites.in/landmark-copyright-infringement-cases/( accessed on 26. 01. 19)

[6] http://www.lawyerservices.in/Twentieth-Century-for-Film-Corporation-Versus-Sohail-Maklai-Entertainment-Private-Limited-and-another-2010-10-14/( accessed on 26. 01. 19)


Prepared by -
Shreya Bhojnagarwala (BA LL.B, Sem 8, ALSK)
Shoronya Banerjee (BA LL.B, Sem 8, ALSK)
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