Copyright is a legal concept that grants creators and authors exclusive rights to their original works.

This protection ensures that creators can benefit from their labor, both financially and in terms of recognition.

While many people are familiar with the term “copyright,” they might not be aware that there are different types of copyright, each designed to protect various forms of creative expression.

This article delves into the various types of copyright, shedding light on their significance and application.

Understanding Copyright: A Brief Overview

Copyright is a legal concept that grants the original author of a work exclusive rights to its use and distribution.

At its core, copyright is the right given to the copyright owner to protect their original expression of ideas once they are manifested in a tangible form.

This means that for copyright eligibility, the work must be more than just an idea; it must be expressed in some medium of expression, be it on paper, digitally, or any other form.

From graphic designs to audiovisual creations, a vast array of works can be copyright-protected.

This protection ensures that the rights of copyright are upheld, allowing the copyright owner to control the reproduction, distribution, and adaptation of their work.

For instance, digital content, like software or online articles, falls under the purview of copyright, as do more traditional forms like books or paintings.

It’s essential to understand that copyright doesn’t protect the idea itself but the unique way it’s expressed.

So, while two people might have similar concepts, the way each person expresses that idea – their unique medium of expression – can be copyright-protected work, provided it doesn’t infringe on the rights of another copyright holder.

Check out the linked article to know more about what is copyright.

Types of Copyright

Copyright encompasses a broad spectrum of protections for various forms of artistic expression.

The most common types include the literary work category, which safeguards written content, and the architectural work category, which focuses on designs and blueprints.

The type of copyright protects individual authors, such as the author of a music work, ensuring their unique artistic forms are preserved.

While the actual recording of music falls under a distinct category, all these protections require the work to be in a tangible, physical medium, ensuring material form to the creator’s vision.

Different types of copyright are detailed below:

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1. Literary Copyright

This category of copyright encompasses original and distinctive literary compositions.

Such creations can range from scripts, novels, biographies, and academic theses to technical manuals and software codes.

The value, style, or literary quality of the work doesn’t influence its eligibility for copyright. Holding a copyright for literary creations grants exclusive rights, including:

  • Adapting the original work.
  • For a public performance of work.
  • Distributing copies of the work to the audience.
  • Replicating the original composition.
  • Translating the work into other languages.

2. Dramatic Copyright

Theatrical compositions fall under the umbrella of literary creations but have their own distinct characteristics.

They encompass scripts prepared for stage performances, mime shows, plays, dance choreography, and any written work intended for live enactment.

However, it’s essential to note that these do not encompass motion pictures or films.

Holding a copyright for theatrical compositions grants the owner specific privileges, such as:

  • Adapting or modifying the original piece.
  • Replicating or reproducing the composition.
  • Sharing or presenting the work to a broader audience.
  • Incorporating the piece into any cinematographic film.

3. Musical Copyright

Musical works, are distinct entities that are eligible for copyright protection. It’s important to note that these works focus solely on the musical composition and exclude lyrics or actual sound recordings.

To safeguard a musical composition, one must register it separately with the Copyright Office. Often, sound recordings are intrinsically linked to these musical compositions, but they are distinct entities in the realm of copyright.

The author of music work in India has following exclusive rights:

  • The ability to reproduce the composition.
  • Sharing or presenting the composition to a wider audience.
  • Adapting or modifying the original piece.
  • Performing the composition live in front of an audience.
  • Distributing copies of the composition to the public.
  • Incorporating the composition into sound recordings or films.

4. Artistic Copyright

Visual creations, commonly referred to as artistic works, encompass a broad spectrum of original creations.

Under the Copyright Act of 1957, this category safeguards a diverse range of artworks.

This includes, but is not limited to, paintings, photographs, architectural designs, sketches, diagrams, cartoons, engravings, sculptures, graphics, and blueprints.

Holding a copyright for visual creations in India bestows the owner with specific privileges, such as:

  • Distributing copies of the artwork to the broader public.
  • Incorporating the artwork into films or other visual media.
  • Modifying or creating derivatives of the original piece.
  • Replicating the original artwork.
  • Showcasing or presenting the artwork to a wider audience.
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5. Sound Recording Copyright

Sound recordings encompass any form of captured sound, regardless of the storage medium used.

This can range from a song featuring vocals with or without instrumental accompaniment, spoken word content like podcasts, or any other form of audible content.

It’s noteworthy that while sound recordings can include musical compositions, the original composer’s consent is crucial for the copyright protection of the recorded version.

Holding a copyright for audio recordings grants the owner specific privileges, such as:

  • The ability to sell or lease copies of the recording.
  • Broadcasting the audio content to a wider audience.
  • Producing derivative works or recordings inspired by the original.

Suggested Reading: What is the sound recording copyright?

6. Cinematographic Copyright

Cinematograph films encompass all visual recordings that display moving images.

These are creations captured through various methods, whether analog or digital, and they primarily include video films.

Essentially, any visual content stored through any medium or technique falls under this category.

Owning the copyright for a cinematographic film bestows the holder with distinct privileges, such as:

  • The right to rent out, sell, or distribute copies of the movie.
  • The authority to present the film to a broad audience.
  • The ability to reproduce or create adaptations based on the original film.

7. Choreographic Copyright

Choreographic works are designed to safeguard unique dance sequences, patterns, and other forms of organised movement.

Holding the copyright for such works grants the choreographer specific rights, including:

  • The privilege to present the choreography to the public.
  • The authority to reproduce or create adaptations of the original choreography.

8. Architectural Copyright

Architectural copyright pertains to the unique design of a structure, safeguarded in various tangible medium, be it the actual building, the architectural plans or blueprints, or detailed drawings.

This copyright ensures that unauthorised parties cannot replicate the building based on its original design, nor can they produce, sell, or import items that incorporate that specific design.

Essentially, it protects the intellectual property of architects and designers, ensuring their innovative creations remain exclusive and aren’t exploited without permission.

9. Software and Computer Programs

Computer software and programs, from their foundational code to their user interfaces, can be shielded under copyright.

This ensures that the intellectual effort behind creating a software solution is recognised and protected.

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Suggested Reading: What is Software Copyright?

10. Compilations and databases

Compilations, whether they are literary anthologies, encyclopedias, directories, or databases, can be copyrighted.

What’s essential is that these collections exhibit a degree of originality and creativity in how the content is selected or arranged, ensuring that the effort behind curating such compilations is acknowledged and safeguarded.


In the realm of intellectual property law, understanding the various types of copyright is crucial.

From the literary expressions to recordings of music, each aspect of copyright law ensures that creators, like the author of a music work, have their creations safeguarded.

Copyright registration further solidifies these protections, granting specific copyright terms that prevent unauthorised use.

As these protections expire, works transition into the public domain, making them accessible to all.

It’s essential to recognise that intellectual property protection operates on an individual basis, tailoring safeguards to each unique creation within its respective category.


What is considered a sound recording in terms of copyright?

A sound recording is the capturing of audio content, such as music, speeches, or sound effects, in a format that can be played back.

What are the different types of copyright?

The primary types include literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, sound recordings, and architectural designs.

How is a musical work’s copyright different from a sound recording?

While the musical work pertains to the composition or the melody, the sound recording refers to the actual recording of that music.

Do I need to register my work to get copyright protection?

In many countries, copyright protection is automatic upon creation. However, registering can offer additional legal benefits.

How long do copyright terms last?

The length of copyright terms can differ based on the type and the country in question. For individual authors, a prevalent duration is the lifetime of the author followed by a specific number of years. Specifically, in India, this duration extends to a 60-year period for certain type of works like literary.