Copyrights in India: How to assign and license a copyright?

Last Updated at: Sep 30, 2020
Copyrights in India
Copyrights in India: How to assign and license a copyright?


Let’s get a clear understanding of what a copyright is in the first place.

Copyright in India is an ownership right given by law to an author, creator of artistic work, music, literature, cinematography and sound recordings. There are additional rights that come under the Copyright framework which allows reproducing work, communication of the work to be public, translation of the work and adaptation of the work. The time duration of the protection given under the Copyright law differs with the nature of work.

Copyright Licensing Agreement

A Copyright Licensing Agreement is a contract under which a copyright owner allows another individual or organization to use their copyrighted material in various ways such as:

  • To re-print
  • To distribute
  • To use it for a specific amount of time

In other words, a Copyright Licensing agreement outlines the details of how, where and where a copyrighted work may be used.

Types of Copyright Licensing Agreement

Voluntary License

Licensed copyright is effective when the work of the individual comes into existence. If an individual to whom a license relating to copyright in any future work dies before the work comes into existence, then his/her legal representation shall be entitled to the benefit of the license.

The key points required in a license agreement are:

  • Duration of license
  • The condition relating to revision, extension/termination of the license
  • Identification of work and licensed rights

Any disputes related to the licensing will be catered and solved by the Copyright Board.

Copyright your work right now

Compulsory licensing

This licensing will be granted, if a copyright owner of any Indian work has published or performed in public has:

  • Refused republication of work
  • Refused to allow communication of work to the public by broadcast or sound recording
  • Refused to allow the performance of work in public and in case the work is not made public

Aspects of the copyright assignment

A copyright assignment refers to the transfer of ownership from a copyright holder to another individual or organization. Though, a copyright holder who creates the work may decide on signing an agreement with the publisher. In such circumstances, the publisher and record labels have more resources to print and distribute the work ahead to a larger audience. The publisher in some circumstances even supplies the author with monetary advance so that work can begin.

Assigning copyright to a publisher

If an individual’s copyright is assigned to a publisher there are chances there only a certain amount is received as per your holdings. This means that the individual would lose a section of the creative control over their work. For example, the publisher has the decision control of converting a book into a movie.

The other option in such cases is to assign only a limited section of your work to a publisher. There are even cases where one can retain the copyright and get the main business benefits from the publisher. To avoid any debate, it is best to have a proper contract/agreement, a copyright assignment to avoid any confusion.

Transfer of copyright

The author of a work has complete rights over his work unless he assigns the copyright to a publisher or someone else for a specified period of time. Under Section 18(1) of the Copyright Act, 1987 states that any prospective owner of future work may assign his/her copyright. Nevertheless, the recent amendment made in 2012 makes it clear that such an assignment will not extend to those mediums or modes of exploitation which did not exist at the time of the assignment.

Modes of assigning a Copyright in India

Section 19 of the Copyright Act lays down the requirements to assign copyright.

  1. No assignment of the copyright in any work shall be considered valid unless it is in writing and signed by the assignor/ his duly authorized agent.
  2. The assignment of copyright in any work shall identify such work, and specify the rights assigned duration and territorial extent of such assignment.
  3. The assignment of copyright in any work shall also specify the amount of royalty and any other consideration payable, to the author or his legal heirs during the currency of the Assignment. The assignment shall be subject to revision, extension or termination on terms mutually agreed upon by the parties.
  4. Where the assignee does not exercise the rights assigned to him/her under any of the other subsections within a period of one year from the date of assignment, the assignment in respect of such rights shall be deemed to have lapsed after the expiry of the said period, unless otherwise specified in the assignment.
  5. If the period of assignment is not stated, it shall be deemed to be five years from the date of assignment.
  6. If the territorial extent of assignment of the rights is not specified, it shall be presumed to extend within India.
  7.   Nothing in sub-section (2) or sub-section (3) or sub-section (4) or sub-section (5) or sub-section (6) shall be applicable to assignments made before the coming into force of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1994.
  8. The assignment of copyright in any work, contrary to the terms and conditions of the rights already assigned to a copyright society in which the author of the work is a member, shall be considered void.
  9.  No assignment of copyright in any work to make a cinematograph film, affect the right of the author of the work to claim an equal share of royalties and consideration payable in case of utilization of the work in any form other than for the communication to the public of the work, along with the cinematograph film in a cinema hall.
  10. No assignment of the copyright in any work to make a sound recording which does not form part of any cinematograph film shall affect the right of the author of the work to claim an equal share of royalties and consideration payable for any utilization of such work in any form.

All these laws have been a positive sign to all the authors and strengthen their position in the market today.

Senior Executive - Content in Vakilsearch