Are you wondering who can claim copyright? In our rapidly evolving digital age, the line between inspiration and imitation can sometimes blur.

The internet is a vast repository of information, ideas, and art, where a simple click can reproduce, distribute, and alter content instantaneously.

This fluidity leads to one pressing question: Who can rightfully claim copyright?

Delving deep into this realm isn’t just an exploration of legal jargon but an endeavor to understand the delicate balance between fostering creativity and safeguarding one’s intellectual labor.

Before we dive headfirst into the complexities of laws and their global implications, let’s first demystify the core principles surrounding the topic.

This journey promises to enlighten creators, consumers, and curious minds alike. Buckle up and let’s delve into the world of copyrights and the right to claim them.

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Exclusive Rights of Copyright Owners

When we discuss copyrights, we often hear of the protections they offer to creators. But what exactly are these protections?

At the heart of copyright law are the “exclusive rights” granted to owners.

These rights empower creators, allowing them to control how their creations are used and ensuring that they have the opportunity to benefit, both financially and reputationally, from their work.

Reproduction Right: This is the most fundamental right. The owner has the exclusive right to reproduce or create copies of their work.

This means that making a copy of a copyrighted work without the owner’s permission, whether by printing, recording, or even photocopying, can potentially be a violation of copyright.

Derivative Works: Copyright owners have the right to produce or authorise derivative works based on their original content.

A derivative work might be a sequel to a book, a movie based on a novel, or a remix of a song.

Without this right, the original creator could see their work adapted or modified without their consent or without any benefits flowing back to them.

Distribution Right: With this right, owners can control the distribution of their work. They can decide if and how to sell, lend, or otherwise distribute copies of their creations.

Public Performance Right: This refers to the right of  owners to perform their work publicly or to authorise others to do so.

For example, playing a copyrighted song on the radio, in a club, or at a concert requires permission.

Public Display Right: This grants the creator the exclusive right to display their copyrighted work publicly.

It’s crucial for visual arts, including paintings, photographs, and sculptures.

If someone wanted to exhibit a copyrighted piece in a public space, they’d need the creator’s permission.

Digital Transmission Right: As technology evolved, so did  laws.

This right, often relevant for sound recordings, allows holders to control and get compensated for the digital transmission of their works, especially pertinent in the age of streaming.

Copyright Registration Process in India 

In India, copyright ensures that creators and authors of original works are recognised and rewarded for their intellectual endeavors.

While copyright arises automatically upon the creation of a work and doesn’t necessarily require registration, registering a work provides prima facie evidence in a court of law about the validity of the copyright.

If you’re looking to register a copyright in India, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process:

  1. Determine Eligibility: Before proceeding with the registration, ensure that your work qualifies for protection.
  2. In India, literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, including computer software, can be copyrighted. Moreover, cinematograph films and sound recordings are also eligible.
  3. Prepare the Necessary Documents:
    • Two copies of the work.
    • If the work is a computer program, you should provide the source code and object code.
    • Personal details of the applicant, including name, address, and nationality.
    • Nature of the applicant’s interest in the copyright (e.g., owner, licensee).
    • Title, language, and a brief description of the work.
    • Year and country of the first publication, and details about subsequent publications (if any).
  4. Application Submission:
    • Copyright applications can be submitted either online or offline.
    • For online registration, visit the official Copyright Office website, create an account, fill the form, and upload the necessary documents.
    • If you prefer offline methods, you can submit your application at the Copyright Office.
  5. Fee Payment: Depending on the type of work, there’s a requisite fee associated with registration. Payments can be made online (for online applications) or through a Demand Draft (for offline applications).
  6. Examination: After your application is submitted, the Copyright Office will examine it for any discrepancies. If any issues arise, you’ll receive a discrepancy letter to which you must respond within 30 days.
  7. Third-party Objections: Once the examination is clear, the Copyright Office will publish your application in the Official Gazette. There’s a window of 30 days for anyone to object to the registration. If objections arise, both parties will be given a chance to present their cases, and the Registrar will decide based on the merits of the matter.
  8. Registration Certificate: If there are no objections or once the objections are resolved, the Registrar will enter the details into the Register of Copyrights and issue a Registration Certificate, signifying successful registration.
  9. Duration: In India, the duration of copyright varies depending on the type of work. For example, literary, musical, or artistic works enjoy protection for the lifetime of the author plus 60 years. Sound recordings and cinematograph films are protected for 60 years from the date of publication.
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Who Can Claim Copyright?

The world of intellectual property is vast, complex, and sometimes even nebulous. At its core, however, is a simple principle: creators should have the right to benefit from their creations.

One of the main tools to ensure this is copyright. But who exactly can lay claim to this right? Let’s unravel this mystery.

  1. Original Creators:
    • Naturally, the primary entity that can claim copyright is the person or group of people who originally created the work. This could be an author, artist, musician, photographer, or any other type of creator.
    • Importantly, the work must be original and fixed in a tangible medium of expression (like being written down, recorded, or painted).
  2. Employers:
    • If a work is created as part of an individual’s employment, the employer—not the employee—may hold the copyright. This is often referred to as a “work made for hire.”
    • For example, a journalist doesn’t typically own the copyright to the articles they write for a newspaper; the newspaper does.
  3. Commissioning Entities:
    • If a work is commissioned (e.g., an artwork for an advertisement or a jingle for a commercial), the entity that commissioned it may own the copyright, but only if there’s a written agreement stating so.
  4. Joint Authors:
    • When a work is a result of the collaboration of two or more authors, and the contribution of each author is inseparable from the others, it’s considered a joint work. In such cases, co-authors share the copyright.
  5. Successors and Assignees:
    • Copyrights can be transferred, either because the original owner sells the rights or because they pass on and the rights are inherited. In such cases, the successor or assignee becomes the holder.
    • For instance, an author might sell the movie adaptation rights of their book to a film producer.


The realm of copyright is not just a sanctuary for creators, but a complex ecosystem of rights, agreements, and legacies.

While it may seem straightforward to assume that the original creator of a piece of work can claim its copyright, the reality is much more nuanced.

From employers in contractual relationships to successors inheriting intellectual treasures, the right to claim copyright can rest in multiple hands.

Understanding this intricate web is crucial not just for those in creative fields, but for anyone who engages with, appreciates, or leverages art and innovation.

As we navigate the digital age where content creation and consumption are at an all-time high, a grasp on the fundamentals of ‘who can claim copyright’ becomes an imperative, ensuring that we respect the intellectual labor and the rights of those behind the creations we cherish.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does a work need to be published to be copyrighted?

No, a work does not need to be published to be copyrighted.

Copyright protection is extended to original works of authorship from the moment they are created and fixed in a tangible form that is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

If I commission an artwork or piece of writing, do I automatically own the copyright?

Not necessarily.

The copyright of a commissioned work typically remains with the creator unless there is a written agreement that transfers the trademark to the commissioner or if the work qualifies as a “work made for hire” under specific conditions.

Can multiple people claim trademark over a single work?

Yes, if a work is a result of collaboration between multiple creators and their contributions are inseparable, it’s considered a joint work.

All co-authors share the copyright, and any one of them can exploit the copyrighted work, but they must share the profits with the other co-authors.

Who can claim copyright? Does it protect ideas?

No, copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods. It only protects the expression of these ideas.

For example, you might have an idea for a novel, but only the actual written text — the expression of that idea — can be copyrighted, not the idea itself.

How long does copyright last, and when does it expire?

The duration of protection varies by jurisdiction and the type of work. Typically, for individual authors, it lasts for their lifetime plus a set number of years (often 50 or 70 years).

After this period, the work generally enters the public domain and can be freely used by anyone. Different rules might apply for works made for hire or works with multiple authors.