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  • Writer's pictureShoronya Banerjee

Looking At The Rights Of An Author Under The Copyright Law

Section 17 of the Copyright Act 1957, puts forth that an author or creator of the work is the first owner of the copyright. Its registration is quite crucial to the author or creator of the work, especially in the situation where a civil or criminal action is required to be taken against the infringer. Looking at the greater details of Section 17 of the Copyright Act 1957, as per Section 17 (a) in accordance to literary, dramatic, or artistic work made by the author in the course of his employment in the line with a contract of service or apprenticeship, for the purpose of publication, the said proprietor shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright in the work in so far as the copyright relates to the publication of the work in any newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, or to the reproduction of the work for the purpose of its being so published, but in all other respects, the author shall be the first owner of the copyright in the work. Subject to this, in the case of a photograph taken, or a painting or portrait drawn, or an engraving or a cinematograph film made, for valuable consideration at the instance of any person, such person shall be the first owner of the copyright in the absence of an agreement. For the work made in the course of the author’s employment under a contract of service or apprenticeship as mentioned above, to which clause (a) or clause (b) does not apply, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, the employer shall be the first owner of the copyright.

The Copyright Act, 1957 further elucidates copyright protection available to authors in two forms, economic rights of the author and moral rights of the author. When talking of economic rights, they are the rights that help the author receive economic benefits out of their works. Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957, puts forth that different rights are recognized for the works considering their nature. The section provides that it is the exclusive right of the author to do or authorize the doing of the acts provided thereunder. The generally recognized rights in association with all types of works incorporate the reproduction rights, right of distribution, and right to communicate work to the public.

When referring to the rights in respect to musical, artistic, cinematograph film, and sound recording, the exclusive right to reproduce the work stay with the author. If it's a computer program, the author enjoys in addition to the aforesaid rights, the right to sell or give on hire, or offer for sale or hire any copy of the computer program regardless of whether such copy has been sold or given on hire on earlier occasions. For an artistic work, the rights include the right to reproduce the work in any material form, including depiction in three dimensions of a two-dimensional work or in two dimensions of a three-dimensional work, to communicate or issues copies of the work to the public, to include the work in any cinematograph work, and to make an adaptation of the work. Considering a cinematograph film and the author thereunder, he/she enjoys the right to make a copy of the film along with a photograph of an image forming a part of it, to sell or allow for hire or offer for sale or hire, any copy of the film. Similarly, such rights are available to the author of sound recording as well. In case of the author of a painting, sculpture, drawing, or of a manuscript of a literary, dramatic, or musical work, if he/she is the first owner of the copyright, that would make the author entitled to possess such a right to share in the resale price of such original copy.

The right of paternity and the right of integrity are two basic “moral rights” available to an author. Being a signatory to the Berne Convention, India has incorporated Article 6bis of the Convention in Section 57 of the Act which puts forth the moral rights of an author. As per the right of paternity, an author gets the authority to claim authorship of work and prevent all others from claiming authorship of his work. Whereas with the right of integrity, the author can prevent distortion, and alterations of his work, or such actions bearing the capability of dishonoring the reputation of the work. The creator of a work is entitled to moral rights in association with it barring others from claiming rights over it. An assignee of a copyright cannot claim any rights or immunities based on the contract which are inconsistent with the provisions of Section 57.

It was seen in the case of Mannu Bhandari vs. Kala Vikas Pictures Ltd., the plaintiff, Mannu Bhandari, the author of the Hindi novel ‘Aapka Bunty’ assigned the filming rights of her movie to the defendants. The petitioner filed the case to restrain the screening of the film. As per the author, her work was a literary work, the film in turn was extensively commercialized and quite altered. Once released the film would reasonably affect her reputation and make her admirers think that she has fallen prey to the world of profit. The court held that while passing a judgement under section 57 the court does not act as a guard of public morals. The court cannot impose its views on the works of art, but just examine the new form of it as compared to its new and authentic form and changes necessary as per constraints of a medium. Section 57 also puts forth additional special rights of authors, which exist even after the copyright has been assigned and the contract can negate the special rights guaranteed by section 57. It is section 57(I) (c) prohibits any mutilation or distortion of the author's work. Section 27 provides the bundle of rights, which are in tune with the international agreements and the treaties.

Currently, existing laws should keep up with the pace of time and be amended and changed as per the requirements. To meet the new challenges brought in by information technology in line with the Intellectual Property Rights regime, the law requires a new outlook and orientation. The active role of the judiciary in protecting these rights to protect copyright would be very effective.







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