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The curious case of copyright: Rights, wrongs and more

Copyright gives owner power to carry out specific actions with regard to their works

pen-pal-writing-pixabay Representational image | Pixabay

With the advent of technology and digitalisation, there has been a significant increase in the consumption of content online. Protection of intellectual property rights has become a necessity as there has been a big surge in the piracy of content globally.

As far as movies are concerned, the types of copyright infringement include filmmakers not crediting scriptwriters, illegal sales and distribution of video discs (piracy), and double selling of digital and theatrical rights. For example, the rights to the Kollywood movie Ghajini were allegedly sold without authorisation.

The 'VarahaRoopam...' song from Kantara, and the tussle between music composer Ilaiyaraaja and singer S. P. Balasubrahmanyam are some of the recent copyright issues that South Indian cinema faced.

Script/dialogues, lyrics, music, sound recording, audiovisual works, cinematograph film, and artistic works of a film are owned by the producer unless and otherwise agreed by the parties involved. 

It is important to protect the rights of creators and this is where intellectual property law plays a major role through the concept of copyright.

It provides the author or owner with the right to stop others from copying, reproducing, or duplicating their works without their permission. It is the legal proof of ownership of one's work.

Copyright ensures that without the owner's consent, no one may copy or otherwise replicate the original work. The Copyright Act of 1957, which was amended in the years 1994 and 2002, governs copyright-related issues in India.

Copyright gives the owner the complete authority to carry out specific actions with regard to their works. As per the copyright law, the expressions of the ideas are protected; not the ideas, discoveries, concepts, or theories themselves. Any kind of concept must be expressed verbally or creatively for it to be protected under copyright. 

As far as the validity is concerned, the copyright will be with the creators as long as they are alive and 50 years after their passing.

So how can an author claim copyright infringement?

To claim copyright infringement, it must meet two requirements. First, there must be a person or organisation violating the rights of an author or innovator, and second, there must be losses as a result of the violation.

Copyright law not only acts as a security to protect the intellectual property of the creator but also allows the generation of revenue through royalty.

Royalties are a type of security that includes patents, copyrights, and trademarks, among other topics.

It is important to be aware of the value of intellectual property in order to set reasonable royalty rates. Knowing the worth of the patent, trademark, copyright, or brand assets will help the author to determine the royalty rates more precisely and reduce the chance of setting them too high or too low.

There are several ways in which a creator can collect the royalty for an intellectual property. They are Fixed Royalties, Variable of Fixed Rates, Minimum Royalty Rates, and Royalty Percentages.

Cost-based, market-based, or income-based valuation methodologies can be used to fix the royalty.

The owner of the copyright also has the privilege of granting agreement/license to someone else to use their content. The types of licences are Statutory License, Compulsory License, and Voluntary License.

An agreement cannot be made for mediums that are unknown as on date of sale. For example, if there was a sale of a movie in a year when OTT platforms did not exist, an agreement would not have been made to include OTT platforms. So at present, the OTT rights will remain with the producer or assignor. 

Every person who violates a work's copyright may face legal repercussions from the copyright owner. The owner of the copyright is entitled to injunctions, damages, and accounting as remedies.

All unlawful reproductions of any work for which copyright is asserted as well as all plates used or intended to be utilised in the creation of such unlawful reproductions must be regarded as the property of the copyright holder.

Under Section 63 of the Copyright Act, anybody who wilfully violates or assists in the violation of the copyright in any work commits a crime.

Copyright infringement is a punishable offence, and any police officer with a minimum rank of sub-inspector has the authority to seize without a warrant all copies of the work as well as any plates used to create copies of the work that are infringing, to be presented to a magistrate.

The minimum penalty for a copyright violation that is considered criminal is six months in jail and a minimum fine of Rs. 50,000. The minimum sentence for a second or subsequent conviction is one year in prison and a fine of Rs. 1,000,000.

Some landmark judgements connected with Copyrights:

- Vinay Vats vs. Fox Star Studios India Pvt. Ltd. and Ors., Delhi High Court.

- Jagran Prakashan Limited vs. Telegram FZ LLC &Ors., Delhi High Court.

- Shamoil Ahmad Khan vs. Falguni Shah and Ors., High Court of Bombay.

(Vijay Dingari is the chief operating officer (COO) of ProducerBazaar.com)

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