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Copyright Protection is Automatic, Registration is Not Required

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Manish Jindal

December 6, 2023

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Copyright Protection is Automatic, Registration is Not Required

In the world of creative works and intellectual property, copyright protection is a fundamental concept.

Many creators wonder whether they need to go through the process of formally registering their works to secure copyright protection.

It is true that copyright protection is granted automatically and does not necessitate formal registration.

This article will explore the principles of copyright, its automatic nature, and when registration might be beneficial.

This article will make you understand why the saying “copyright protection is automatic, registration is not required” holds true.

Understanding Copyright: Protection and Duration of Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property protection is granted to creators of original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, as well as cinematograph films and sound recordings. This is in line with the Indian Copyright Act of 1957.

Copyright is a set of legal rights acquired by the creator upon producing the work, and it is divisible, transferable, and an intangible property with a limited duration.

The Act safeguards authors’ rights to their original expressions while also encouraging others to build upon the work’s ideas and information.

The term of Indian copyright typically lasts for the author’s lifetime and extends for sixty years after their death, known as ‘sixty years post mortem auctoris.’

This duration applies to published literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works.

Copyright protection is granted for a duration of 60 years from the date of publication for various types of works such as cinematograph films, sound recordings, posthumous publications, anonymous and pseudonymous publications, works created by government entities, and works produced by international organisations.

Is Copyright Registration Mandatory?

It’s worth noting that copyright protection is automatically granted to a work as soon as it’s created, making registration non-compulsory.

This means that to enforce your copyright or address copyright infringement, you aren’t required to register your work.

The concept is based on the underlying framework of automatic safeguarding described in the Berne Convention, established in 1886, and reinforced in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

India has ratified both the Berne Convention and the TRIPS Agreement.

The Berne Convention relies on three fundamental principles for determining the minimum level of protection for creative works, with “automatic protection” being one of them.

This implies that once you’ve created a work, it inherently enjoys copyright protection, and registration is not a prerequisite.

Section 45(1) of the Indian Copyright Act explicitly states that the author, publisher, owner, or any interested party in the copyright of a work may choose to apply for copyright registration in the prescribed form.

The use of the word “may” indicates that authors have the discretionary option to register their copyrights. This understanding is further reinforced by various legal judgments that emphasise this point.

Understanding Copyright: Registration vs. Automatic Protection

In a case between Sanjay Soya Private Limited and Narayani Trading Company, the Bombay High Court made it clear that registering copyright is not something you have to do—it’s your choice. The law doesn’t say you must register your copyright to get legal protection.

The court also mentioned international agreements like the Convention and the TRIPS Agreement that back this idea.

Registration, if you do it, basically says, “Here’s some basic info about my work.” But even without registration, your work is protected as soon as you create it. So, it’s like an automatic safeguard.

Section 45(1) of the law talks about the details in the copyright register and uses the word “may,” meaning it’s your choice to register.

Section 51 also says that copyright infringement doesn’t only apply to registered works. Copyright protection should happen automatically when you create something.

Benefits of Copyright Registration

You might wonder why bother with copyright registration.

Here are some advantages of registering your copyright, in addition to the exclusive rights already granted by law:

  1. Prima Facie Evidence: Copyright registration serves as strong evidence that you’re the rightful owner of the work. It can help you obtain preliminary injunctions against copyright infringers, giving you legal protection.
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  3. Easier to Enforce Online: In the digital age, where online piracy and copyright infringement are common, having a registered copyright makes it easier to enforce your rights and have unauthorised copies removed from websites and platforms.
  4. Economic Benefits: Copyrighted works allow owners to earn money from others using their work. You can receive royalties for authorising reproduction, distribution, broadcasting, adaptation, and more. Registration enhances your ability to profit from your work.
  5. Global and Unauthorised Use Protection: Under the Berne Convention, if your work is copyrighted in one country, you enjoy similar protections in other countries. While registration isn’t mandatory, it provides a convenient way to establish your rights globally.
  6. Statutory Damages: In some jurisdictions, if you register your copyright before an infringement occurs or within a certain timeframe after publication, you may be eligible for statutory damages. This means you can recover a set amount of compensation without having to prove actual damages or financial losses.
  7. Licensing Rights: Copyright owners possess the authority to grant licenses for their work. Copyright registration helps confirm ownership, making it easier to grant licenses and monetise your work.
  8. Tracking and Publication Date: Registered works are listed in the Copyrights register, making it easier for owners to keep track of their work. In copyright violation lawsuits, the publication date is also an important detail covered in the registration.
  9. ne-Time Registration: Copyright registration is a one-time process, saving you the hassle of renewals. The granted copyright lasts a long time, allowing you to benefit from your work throughout your lifetime, and it becomes a matter of public record.

So, while copyright protection is automatic when you create something, registering your copyright offers these valuable advantages.

Not Registering Your Copyright

You don’t have to register your work to receive copyright protection; as soon as your original work is created, it’s automatically protected by copyright.

There are no inherent downsides or risks to not registering your work for copyright. However, registration can simplify the process of protecting your work.

Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, not registering doesn’t prevent the owner from seeking remedies in case of infringement.

Conclusion: Copyright Protection is Automatic, Registration is Not Required

The question of whether registration of copyrights is mandatory revolves around the automatic principle of copyright attachment.

While copyright protection is automatically granted to the original creator of a work when it is fixed in a tangible form, registration offers a wide range of benefits, including evidence of ownership and legal advantages.

The decision to register or not ultimately rests with the person responsible for the rights of the copyright owner, providing an option to claim copyright for a specified period of time, backed by the form of registration fee.

Thus, registration serves as a valuable aspect of copyright, reinforcing the rights of authors and creators in the protection of their intellectual property.

FAQs

Is copyright automatic?

Yes, copyright is automatic. When an original work is created, it is automatically protected by copyright law, giving the creator exclusive rights to that work.

Registration is not required for copyright to exist, although it can offer certain benefits and legal advantages.

Does copyright have to be registered?

No, copyright does not have to be registered. Copyright is automatically granted to the creator of an original work when it is created and fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

Registration is not mandatory for copyright to exist, but it can provide certain legal benefits and evidence of ownership in case of disputes.

What copyright law protects?

Copyright protection under law applies specifically to expressions and does not cover ideas, procedures, public domain information, methods of operation, or mathematical concepts themselves.

Can I use a copyright notice even if I haven’t registered my work?

Yes, you can use a copyright notice (©) along with your name and the year of creation to indicate your copyright ownership, even if you haven’t registered your work.

What are the benefits of copyright registration?

Registration offers advantages like evidence of ownership of copyright, the ability to bring a lawsuit for infringement, and the potential to recover damages and attorney’s fees.

Do I have to register my copyright for it to be valid?

No, copyright registration is not mandatory. Your work is protected by copyright as soon as you create it. However, registration provides additional legal benefits.

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