GeneralLibrary Science

Copyright: Brief Information

Copyright :

Copyright means the exclusive right to do or authorize others to do certain acts in relation to literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, cinematographic film and sound recordings. The nature of the acts varies according to the subject matter. Essentially, copyright is the right to copy or reproduce the work in which copyright subsists (Paul, 2011).

The objective of the Copyright Act is to encourage authors, composers, designers, and artists create original works by rewarding them with the exclusive right for a limited period to exploit the work for monetary gain. The economic exploitation is done by licensing such exclusive rights to entrepreneurs like publishers, record manufacturers and film producers for a monetary consideration.

People who economically exploit the copyright are the greatest beneficiaries of the Copyright Act than the creators of works of copyright (Monawwer, and Ashok, 2007).

The Act established the author of a work as the owner of the right to copy that work and the concept of a fixed term for that copyright. Initially, copyright was created as an act for the encouragement of learning, as it had been noted at the time that publishers were reprinting the works of authors without their consent to their very great detriment and too often to the ruin of them. As such, copyright was first created with the intention that authors might have some control over the printing of their work and to receive some financial reward, so that this would encourage them to write more and thus to aid the flow of ideas and learning.

Scope of copyright:

Copyright is a creation of the statute. No person is entitled to copyright or any similar right in any work except those provided under the Copyright Act. Copyright Act is, in essence, concerned with the negative right of preventing copying of material existing in the field of literature and arts. Its object is to protect the writer or the creator of the original work from the unauthorized reproduction or exploitation of his/her materials. The right also extends to prevent others, from exercising without authority any other form of right attached to copyright, for example, in the case of literary work the right of making a dramatic, cinematography, translation, adaptation or abridgment. There is no copyright in ideas. Copyright Act subsists only in the material form in which the ideas are expressed.

Copyright subsists only in original work. The word “original” does not mean that the work must be the expression of original or inventive thought. The creativity which is required, relates to the expression of the thought, but the expression need not be in an original or novel form, but that the work must not be copied from another work. That is, it should be created by the author (Narayan, 2007).

International conventions and Copyright Acts:

The concept of copyright originates with the Statute of Anne, 1710 in Great Britain. According to the Statute of Anne (short title Copyright Act 1709 8 Anne c.19), Copyright is an Act for the encouragement of learning and development by vesting the copies of printed books in the authors or purchasers of such copies, during the period therein mentioned. It was enacted in Britain in 1709 and entered into force on 10 April 1710 (Khan, 2010).

The Statute of Anne – Copyright Act grants the authors rights or owners right for a fixed period, a fourteen-year term for all works published under the statute, after which the copyright expired. Copyright has grown from a legal concept regulating copying rights in the publishing of books and maps to one with a significant effect on nearly every industry, covering such things as sound recordings, films, photographs, software and architectural works.

Owing to the international character of copyright various countries have joined to form conventions for the protection of copyright owned by its nationals in other countries. The Berne Convention and Universal Copyright Convention are the major results of such joint effort. Most of the countries of the world are members of at least one of these conventions. India is a member of both these conventions. According to Indian Copyright Act, owners can protect their copyright in almost every country.

1. Berne Convention:

The Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works is the oldest international agreement in the field of copyright. The convention is the most important treaty that governs the area of copyright. The Berne Convention was signed in 1886 in Berne, Switzerland and entered into force on December 5, 1887. This was revised in Paris in 1896 and in Berlin in 1908, completed in Berne in 1914, revised in Rome in 1928, in Brussels in 1948, in Stockholm in 1967 and in Paris in 1971 and was amended in 1979. The act granted rights for making copies of documents and to be used only for the purpose of teaching, scholarship or research (WIPO, 2009).

The core of the Berne Convention is its provision that each of the contracting countries shall provide automatic protection for works first published in other countries of the Berne Union and for unpublished works whose authors are citizens of or resident in such other countries. Article 1 of Berne convention established a union of member states of the convention, with intent of protecting the rights of creators of artistic and literary artistic works. The convention also established an administrative secretariat is known as the “International Bureau”. This secretariat later amalgamated with the secretariat established by the “Paris Convention- and the resulting combined secretariat later became the World Intellectual Property Organization. WIPO was the first treaty to attempt to harmonize International Copyright Act (WIPO, 2009).

2. Universal Copyright Convention (UCC):

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as an alternative to the Berne Convention developed the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC) in 1952 and the convention came into force in 1955. Its main features are, no signatory nation should accord its domestic authors more favorable copyright treatment than the authors of other signatory nations, despite the fact that no minimum protection for either domestic or foreign authors is stipulated; A formal copyright notice must appear in all copies of a work and consist of the symbol ©, the name of the copyright owner and the year of first publication; a signatory nation, however, might need further formalities, provided such formalities do not favour domestic over foreign works; The minimum term of copyright in member nations must be the life of the author plus 25 years (except for photographic works and works of applied art, which have a 10-year term); All adhering nations are required to grant an exclusive right of translation for a seven-year period, theme to a compulsory license under certain circumstances for the balance of the term of copyright (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2013).

Some countries disagreed with certain articles in the Berne Convention and were not prepared to sign up to the terms of the Berne Convention. Most particularly the United States who at the time only provided protection on a fixed term registration basis via the Library of Congress and required that copyright works must always show the © symbol. This meant that the US needed to make several changes to its laws before it could comply with the Berne Convention. The UCC ensured that international protection was available to authors even in countries that would not become parties to the Berne Convention. Berne convention countries also became signatories of the UCC to ensure that the work of citizens in Berne Convention countries would be protected in non-Berne Convention countries. The United States finally signed up to the Berne Convention on the 1st of March 1989. The UCC is of limited significance today, as most countries are now part of the Union of the Berne Convention. To ensure that the existence of the UCC did not lead to a conflict with the Berne Convention, Article 17 of the UCC states that the convention does not affect any provision of the Berne convention and the appendix declaration to the article goes on to state that any country that withdraws from the Berne Convention after 1st January 1951 will not be protected by the UCC in countries of the Berne Convention Union. This effectively gave the Berne Convention precedence and penalizes any country that withdraws from the Berne Convention to adopt the UCC (The UK Copyright Service, 2007).

3. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty:

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations (UN) system of organizations. Headquartered in Geneva, WIPO was established during the Stockholm convention of 1967and entered into force in 1970. With its specialized knowledge and expertise in the field of intellectual property, WIPO’s objective is to maintain and increase respect for intellectual property throughout the world, fostering industrial and cultural development by stimulating creative activity and facilitating the transfer of technology and the dissemination of literacy and artistic works.

The World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty, abbreviated as the “WIPO Copyright Treaty”, is an international treaty on Copyright Act adopted by the member states of the WIPO in 1996. The WIPO Copyright Treaty is a special agreement under the Berne Convention that deals with the protection of works and the rights of their authors in the digital environment. Any contracting party, even if it is not bound by the Berne Convention must comply with the substantive provisions of the 1971 (Paris) Act of the Berne convention for the protection of literary and artistic Works (1886). Furthermore, the WIPO Copyright Treaty mentions two subject matters to be protected by copyright: (i) Computer programs, whatever the form of their expression; and (ii) compilations of data or supplementary material (databases), in any form, which, by reason of the collection or arrangement of their contents, constitute intellectual creations (WIPO, 2009).

4. TRIPs Agreement:

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The scope of this agreement is to set down minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property regulation as applied to nationals of other WTO Members. The TRIPS agreement came into effect on 1 January 1995.

This agreement is considered as one of the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property. The area of intellectual property that it covers are: copyright and related rights, including trademarks, service marks, geographical indications including appellations of origin, patents, including the protection of new varieties of plants, industrial designs, the layout-designs of integrated circuits, and undisclosed information including trade secrets and test data (WIPO, 1995).

5. International Copyright Act (The Chace Act):

The International Copyright Act is a stock short title used for legislation in the United Kingdom and the United States, which relates to foreign copyright. This act is the collective title of the International Copyright Act 1844, the International Copyright Act 1852, the Fine Arts Copyright Act 1862, the International Copyright Act 1875and the International Copyright Act 1886. This act is formally known as the International Copyright Act of 1891, more commonly referred to as the Chace Act after Sen. Jonathan Chace of Rhode Island. The 51st Congress passed the act on March 3, 1891 (Time, 2009).

The International Copyright Act of 1891 was the first act that offered copyright protection in the United States to citizens of countries other than the United States. During the time when the United States was just beginning to develop a literary tradition of its own, this nation refuses to protect overseas works. As a result of this, the United States works were unprotected overseas and domestic publishers had to compete with each other for cheap editions of overseas works. Prior to the International Copyright Act, the first national Copyright Act passed in 1790 and provided a copyright protection for 14 years. But only for authors who were citizens or residents of the United States. In order to get copyright protection in the other part of the world, United States authors were required to gain residency in the country in which they desired copyright protection.

The International Copyright Act of 1891 instituted significant changes in copyright matters. One of the most extensive changes was that from the date the Act went into effect, all books were necessary to be manufactured in the United States in order to obtain American copyright. However, overseas authors had a better chance of protecting their works than before. This Act was the first step that the United States took towards an international copyright that could benefit foreign authors as well as domestic. Throughout time, the United States had been somewhat of a copyright outcast since they had not joined many international treaties or conventions. However, as the United States became a main exporter of copyrighted materials this changed. Even if there’s still no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s or owners’ rights throughout the world, The International Copyright Act of 1891 was the first step to a number of international copyright treaties and conventions that the United States is now a part of the Berne Convention and Universal Copyright Convention (Wikipedia, 2014).

6. European Copyright Act:

The Copyright Act of the European Union has arisen in an attempt to harmonize the differing Copyright Acts of European Union member states. It is comprised of a number of directives, which the member states are indebted to enact into their national laws and by the judgments of the European court of justice and the court of the first instance. The European Copyright Act allows copying of reproductions by educational institutions, public libraries or archives for non-commercial use. Also permits the use of illustration in teaching or scientific research, to the extent defensible by the non-commercial purpose (EU Copyright Office, 2009).

7. US Copyright Act: 

The Copyright Act of 1976 is a United States Copyright Act and remains the primary basis of the Copyright Act in the US, as amended by several later enacted copyright provisions. The act spells out the basic rights of copyright owners or holders. It has classified the doctrine of fair use and for most new copyrights adopted a unitary term based on the date of the author’s death rather than the prior scheme of fixed initial and renewal terms. It became public law number 94-553 on October 19, 1976 and went into effect on January 1, 1978.

Before the 1976 act, last main revision of the statutory Copyright Act in the US happened in 1909. In deliberating the act, Congress noted that widespread technological advances had occurred since the adoption of the 1909 act. Motion pictures, television, sound recordings, and radio were cited as examples. The act was designed in part to address intellectual property questions raised by these new forms of communication (US Copyright Office, 2009).

8. US Digital Millennium Copyright Act:

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States Copyright Act that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization. It criminalizes production and dissemination services, technology or devices intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access switch, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet. This act is passed on 12th October 1998 by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on 28th October, 1998. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act amended title 17 of the United States code to extend the reach of copyright while limiting the liability of the providers of online services for copyright infringement by their users (Clarkson, 2014).

3.4.9 Indian Copyright Act:

In ancient days creative persons like musicians, artists and writers made, composed or wrote their works for fame and recognition rather than to earn a living, thus the question of copyright never stand up. The importance of copyright was recognized only after the invention of the printing press which enabled the reproduction of books in a large quantity practicable. In India, the initial legislation of its kind, the Indian Copyright Act, was passed in 1914 which was mainly based on the UK Copyright Act, 1911 (The Copyright Act, 1957).

During the last six decades, highly advanced means of communication like the internet, broadcasting, and telecommunication have made the direction for the Indian economy with the result that it became essential to fulfilling international obligations in the field of copyright. This necessitated that the comprehensive legislation may be introduced to completely revise the Copyright Act. To this effect a copyright bill, 1957 was introduced in the Parliament. The copyright bill passed by both the Houses of Parliament received the assent of the President on 4th June 1957. It came to the Statute Book as THE COPYRIGHT ACT, 1957 (14 of 1957) and it came into effect from January 1958 (The Copyright Act, 1957).


Original Reference Article:

  • Unnikrishnan, G. (2016). Copyright in corporate digital libraries in India problems and prospects.
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Md. Ashikuzzaman

Work at North South University Library, Bangladesh.

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