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Intellectual Property Rights and Copyright

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Manish Jindal

December 6, 2023

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Intellectual Property Rights and Copyright

Understanding the terms intellectual property rights and copyright is pivotal.

IPR encompasses creations of the mind, be it inventions, literary or artistic works, symbols, or designs used in commerce.

As our world turns more digital, protecting these intellectual assets becomes imperative.

Among the different facets of intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks, and trade secrets, copyright holds a unique place as it protects original creative expressions.

What is Intellectual Property (IP)?

Intellectual property encompasses a wide range of creations, including inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, and images used in commerce.

Intellectual property (IP) is legally protected through patents, copyrights, trademarks, and other means, allowing individuals to gain recognition or financial gain from their inventions or creations.

Intellectual Property Rights Services Other Than Copyright

Intellectual Property (IP) encompasses a range of rights that protect creations of the mind.

While copyright is one of the most well-known, there are several other types of intellectual property rights services that cater to different kinds of creations and innovations.

Here are some prominent ones:

  1. Patents: These protect inventions and cover new and useful processes, machines, articles of manufacture, or compositions of matter. A patent grants the inventor exclusive rights to the invention for a limited period of time, typically 20 years, preventing others from making, using, or selling it without permission.
  2. Trademarks: These protect symbols, names, and slogans used to identify goods or services. Trade marks ensure that brands can distinguish their products or services from those of competitors and can be renewed indefinitely as long as they remain in use.
  3. Trade Secrets: These protect confidential business information that provides a competitive edge, such as manufacturing processes, customer lists, or proprietary formulas. Unlike patents, trade secrets do not have a fixed term and can remain protected indefinitely, provided measures are in place to keep them confidential.
  4. Trade Dress: This term refers to the visual and aesthetic attributes of a product, its packaging, or even the architecture of a building that indicate its origin to consumers.
  5. Industrial Design Right: Often termed “design right” or design patent, it safeguards the visual design of non-functional items. It embodies the design, pattern, color, or a mix of these in a three-dimensional form with aesthetic significance. Whether it’s a two-dimensional pattern or a three-dimensional shape, it’s the aspect that enhances the visual appeal of a product, subsequently elevating its market value.
  6. Geographical Indications: These act as signs that identify a product as originating from a particular place, where the quality, reputation, or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
  7. Plant Variety Protection: This provides legal protection to plant breeders for their new plant varieties, giving them exclusive rights to produce or reproduce the plants for a set period.
  8. Integrated Circuits and Layout Designs: These pertain to the protection of the layout and design of integrated circuits in the field of electronics.

Different countries might have variations in their IP laws, and some regions might offer additional or specialised forms of IP protection.

It’s always recommended to consult local IP offices or legal experts for specific information related to a particular jurisdiction.

Copyright in IPR Meaning

At its core, copyright is a legal right that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution.

Unlike patents that protect inventions or trademarks that safeguard brands, copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself.

Evolution of India’s Copyright Act

India’s journey with the Copyright Act has spanned three distinct phases. Initially, during British rule in 1911, the first iteration of the law was established.

The subsequent phase emerged in 1914, closely mirroring the British Copyright Act of 1911.

A notable inclusion during this period was the introduction of criminal penalties for violations.

However, it wasn’t until 1957, after gaining independence, that India ushered in the third and current phase of its copyright legislation, aligning with the provisions of the Berne Convention.

Today, the Copyright Act of 1957 remains the cornerstone of India’s stance on copyright.

Under the Copyright Act of 1957, copyright protections are exclusive to the geographical confines of India.

Yet, in a move to extend these protections internationally, India has joined several global conventions concerning copyrights.

These include affiliations with the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Multilateral Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation of Copyright Royalties, and TRIPs.

Post-1995, India has continued to adapt and modify its Intellectual Property framework to meet evolving needs.

Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights

Copyright and intellectual property rights (IPR) are legal tools that protect the creations of the mind.

While they’re often used interchangeably, they represent different domains.

Copyright is a subset of IPR, granting exclusive rights to creators of original artistic and literary works, including music, literature, and art. It allows creators to control the reproduction, distribution, and adaptation of their works.

On the other hand, intellectual property rights encompass a broader range, including

  • copyright (protection for original artistic creation in tangible or physical form)
  • patents (protection for inventions),
  • trademarks (signs distinguishing goods/services of one entity from another), and
  • trade secrets (confidential business information).

IPR is instrumental in fostering innovation by ensuring creators and inventors can benefit from their creations, thus providing an incentive for further invention and creativity.

As the digital age advances, understanding and implementing these rights is crucial for both individual creators and businesses to protect their intellectual assets.

Key Features of Copyright

  1. Duration of Copyright: Copyright protection doesn’t last indefinitely. In many jurisdictions, it lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. After this period, the work typically enters the public domain and can be freely used by anyone.
  2. Automatic Protection: One distinguishing feature of copyright is that protection is automatic. This means that as soon as the work is created and fixed in a tangible form (like written or recorded), it’s copyrighted. However, formal registration can offer additional legal benefits.
  3. Exclusive Rights: Copyright gives the creator exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display the work. Others cannot do these things without the creator’s permission.
  4. Moral Rights: In some jurisdictions, beyond economic rights, authors also have moral rights. These might prevent unwanted alterations to their work or ensure they’re credited when the work is used.

What Type of Intellectual Property is Protected by Copyright?

Copyright is a specific type of intellectual property protection that safeguards the rights of the creators of original works. Specifically, copyright protects:

  1. Literary Works: This includes novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspaper articles, and computer programs.
  2. Music: This encompasses both the musical notation and any accompanying lyrics.
  3. Dramatic Works: This refers to plays and scripts that can be performed in front of an audience.
  4. Choreographic Works: Dances or movements that have been notated or recorded.
  5. Pictorial, Graphic, and Sculptural Works: This includes photographs, diagrams, sketches, sculptures, and other visual arts.
  6. Motion Pictures and Other Audiovisual Works: This ranges from movies to television shows and video games.
  7. Sound Recordings: This refers to audio recordings, be it music, spoken word, or other sounds.
  8. Architectural Works: This covers the design of buildings as expressed in plans and drawings.

It’s essential to note that copyright protects the expression of ideas and not the ideas themselves.

For instance, while you cannot copyright the idea of a romance between star-crossed lovers, the specific expression of that idea, like in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” is protected by copyright.

Copyright Administration

As defined in Section 9 of the Copyright Act of 1957, the establishment of a copyright office is mandatory.

Governed by the Registrar of Copyrights appointed by the Union government, the office operates under the directives and oversight of the national government.

The primary purpose of this office is to facilitate registrations, with leadership provided by the appointed registrars.

Previously located at G-30, August Kranti Bhawan, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi, 110066, the office has now moved to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) at Plot No. 32, Sector 14, Dwarka, Delhi, 110075.

Its jurisdiction encompasses the entirety of India. The copyright office oversees the registration of various intellectual properties, including:

  • Literary pieces
  • Artistic creations
  • Narrative themes
  • Song lyrics
  • Children’s books
  • Software
  • Films
  • Musical compositions
  • Audio recordings

Rationale Behind Obtaining Copyright

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Copyright is a fundamental aspect of intellectual property law designed to protect creators and their creations. Here are the primary reasons and rationales behind obtaining copyright:

  1. Protection of Original Works:
    • Copyright ensures that original works, whether they’re literary, musical, artistic, or other forms, are safeguarded against unauthorised reproduction, distribution, or adaptation.
  2. Monetary Compensation:
    • Copyright allows creators to monetise their creations. They can sell, license, or lease their rights to others and earn royalties from the continued use of their work.
  3. Encouraging Creativity and Innovation:
    • By ensuring that creators can benefit from their efforts, copyright serves as an incentive for continued innovation and creativity. Knowing one’s work is protected can motivate more risk-taking and investment in new projects.
  4. Control Over One’s Work:
    • Copyright grants exclusive rights, allowing creators to determine how, where, and when their work is used. This control ensures that the work is used in a manner consistent with the creator’s intentions and vision.
  5. Recognition and Credibility:
    • Copyright can serve as a mark of authenticity, ensuring that creators are recognised for their work. This can bolster their reputation and credibility within their field.
  6. Legal Recourse:
    • Should infringement occur, having copyright provides the legal foundation to seek remedies, including damages, against those who misuse or pirate the work.
  7. Economic Growth and Cultural Development:
    • Copyright plays a pivotal role in promoting economic growth by fostering creative industries, such as music, film, and publishing. It also contributes to cultural development by protecting and encouraging diverse forms of expression.
  8. Limitation and Balance:
    • Copyright is not perpetual. Once the copyright term expires, the work enters the public domain, allowing society at large to benefit from it. This balance ensures that while creators are rewarded for their efforts, the public eventually gains unrestricted access.

In essence, copyright strikes a balance between individual rights and societal benefits.

It rewards creativity and innovation, ensuring that creators are recognised and compensated for their contributions, while also ensuring that society benefits from a rich tapestry of cultural and intellectual works.

Infringement of Copyright

Infringement of copyright occurs when someone uses copyrighted material without the necessary permissions or rights, violating the exclusive rights granted to the original creator or rights holder by copyright law.

Copyright grants its holders several exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their works or authorise others to do so.

Types of Copyright Infringement

  1. Direct Infringement: The most straightforward form, occurs when any of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder are violated directly.
  2. Indirect (or Secondary) Infringement: This involves facilitating or contributing to infringing activities by another party, even if the facilitator doesn’t commit the act themselves. There are two types:
    • Contributory Infringement: When a party knowingly induces or contributes to the infringing activity of another.
    • Vicarious Infringement: When a party has the ability to control the infringing activity and obtains a direct financial benefit from it.
  3. Online Infringement: With the rise of the internet, piracy and unauthorised sharing or distribution of copyrighted content have become common. This includes sharing music, movies, software, or even images without the original owner’s permission.

Detection and Remedies:

  1. Monitoring Services: There are services and software available that monitor the internet for unauthorised uses of copyrighted content.
  2. Cease and Desist Letters: If infringement is detected, the rights holder can send a formal letter demanding the infringer stop the unauthorised activity.
  3. Legal Action: Copyright holders can take legal action, suing for damages. In many jurisdictions, statutory damages can be quite substantial, and in some cases, even criminal charges can be pursued.
  4. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA): In the U.S., the DMCA provides a mechanism for copyright holders to request the removal of infringing content from websites.

Solutions to Copyright Infringement

In cases where copyright infringement occurs, there are primarily three avenues of recourse available:

  1. Civil Remedies:
    • Injunction: A court order prohibiting the infringing activity.
    • Account of Profit: Requires the infringer to hand over the profits made from the unauthorised use.
    • Delivery of Infringing Copies: Mandates that the unauthorised reproductions be handed over to the copyright holder.
    • Damages for Conversion: Compensation for the unauthorised use of copyrighted material.
  2. Criminal Remedies:
    • Offenders can face jail time.
    • Additionally, or alternatively, they might be subject to fines.
  3. Administrative Remedies:
    • A copyright holder can approach the Registrar of Copyrights, requesting the prohibition of imported items that violate copyright.
    • If the infringement is due to such imports, the violating copies should be surrendered to the original copyright owner.

It’s essential to be aware of these remedies to protect one’s intellectual property effectively and to discourage unauthorised reproductions or uses.

Suggested Readings: Copyright Infringement Remedies

Adapting Copyright Laws to Technological Innovations

As technology has evolved at a breathtaking pace, so too must our legal frameworks to remain relevant in this ever-changing landscape.

The emergence of new communication mediums such as satellite broadcasting, DVDs, CDs, and notably, the widespread dissemination of information through the Internet, has brought about complex challenges related to copyright in a digital age.

Recognising these challenges, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has been at the forefront of global discussions to establish more stringent standards to protect copyrights in the digital realm.

Central to these discussions are the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), commonly referred to as the “Internet Treaties.”

These treaties outline international guidelines to counter unauthorised access and usage of creative or intellectual works online.

Final Thought on Intellectual Property Rights and Copyright

In the intricate realm of ‘Intellectual Property Right’ or ‘IPR’, copyright stands out as a beacon safeguarding the creative expressions of individuals, ranging from musical lyrics to architectural designs.

Unlike tangible property or physical property, which often has clear boundaries and physical dimensions, intellectual property pivots on the intangible, yet immensely valuable creations of the mind.

Being an intellectual property owner carries not just the pride of creation, but the responsibility and the right to protect and control the use of such creations.

Over the years, intellectual property systems have been refined and evolved to address the multifaceted aspects of copyright, ensuring creators receive the recognition and protection they rightfully deserve.

In sum, as the world grows more digital and interconnected, the distinction between tangible and intangible assets blurs, making the fortification of copyright laws even more paramount.

FAQs

Can musical lyrics be copyrighted?

Yes, musical lyrics are considered intellectual creations and can be copyrighted, ensuring the songwriter’s rights are protected.

Who is an intellectual property owner?

An individual or entity that holds the rights to a particular intellectual creation, be it a novel, invention, or architectural design, is termed an intellectual property owner.

How have intellectual property systems evolved over time?

Intellectual property systems have adapted over the years to address emerging forms of creations and challenges, especially with advancements in technology.

Why is copyright protection important in the digital age?

With the rise of digital platforms and ease of content dissemination, copyright protection ensures that creators’ rights aren’t infringed upon, promoting creativity and fair compensation.

Is it possible to copyright fashion designs?

Yes, to some extent. In many jurisdictions, individual, original fashion designs can be protected under copyright laws, especially if they exhibit a distinct level of creativity and originality.

However, general design elements or functional features often cannot be copyrighted. Instead, they might be better protected under design patents or other forms of intellectual property.

It’s always best to consult with legal counsel regarding specific cases and jurisdictions.

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