Copyrights in the Media Industry

Last Updated at: Jul 06, 2021
The Registrar of Copyrights recently invited comments from industry stakeholders on amending the Copyright Act 1957. As per rumours going around, the Indian Newspaper industry may get special attention when the reforms will come up. 


This article is written by Vandhana

The media industry has played a vital role in making our life interesting. Every broadcasting channel is in the race to produce new content, new shows and new taglines to maintain their position in the market. New content implies creativity which has a direct link with copyrights.

Whenever any new script, advertisement jingle or theme content for shows is drafted, it takes a lot of author’s creativity to come up with interesting storylines. The authors then approach the investors, producers, agencies to give their script a new dimension and convert into visual representations. In midst of all this, there are chances that these documents can misuse by the third party as there is no evidence of sharing, this might lead to loss of the legible credits that suppose to be given to the owner. So, it is always better to protect your work before someone uses it for their personal gains.

In the constant race of earning name and fame in the media industry, channels and ad agencies strive very hard to attract and increase their viewers. Due to this, there is often poaching of employees and contents. The foundational concept of copyright in the media industry is that it does not author literary work protection for mere ideas and facts. Since ideas and concepts are not protected under copyright law, any form of expression developed from these ideas can definitely be protected.

Media Industry

If a person develops a  story or a concept in his mind- just like any fantasy movie- they can express it in the form of script, novel, show or a serial for which the protection can be obtained from the concerned authority. There are certain categories of copyright available in the Act:

  1. Literary work
  2. Dramatic work
  3. Artistic work
  4. Musical work
  5. Cinematography work

To know more about these work, click here (backlink to be added)

Under the media industry, let us discuss a few reality shows to get a better understanding of the concept:

  1. We all know that Big Boss featuring Salman Khan by Endemol Shine India and is a long-running show. Similar to this, two other shows with the same concept were started in Malayalam and Kannada but with different names and different producers. This leads to infringement of the copyright of the producer of the original big boss.
  2. One of our favourite fantasy movies: Harry Potter series which was written by JK Rowling was produced by Warner Bros, but when we see the movie, due credits are given to JK Rowling. Now the question arises, who has the copyright for the work?
  • When it comes to novels, scripts and title- JK Rowling is the copyright owner of the plot and theme. This is called literary and dramatic copyrightable work
  • When it comes to the movie, producer of the movie- warner bros- has the copyright. This is called cinematography work.

However, there can be no copyright in the followings

  • In an idea,
  • Subject- matter,
  • Themes,
  • Plots,
  • Historical or legendary facts

In cases of violation of the copyright, it totally depends upon the agreements and arrangements between the author of the work and publisher of the work and confines to the form, manner and arrangement and expression of the idea by the author of the copyrighted work.

  1. Further, in situations where the same ideas mould in a different manner, there is a chance of having more similarities since the source to obtain the information remains the same. In such cases, the Court will try to determine the degree of similarity between the two works.
  2. If there is a full imitation of the work with very few alterations, then it will amount to a clear case of infringement.
  3. In case the readers of the work determine that there are similarities in the work on the face of it then it will be a clear case of infringement. For example: when we see Cinderella and read the book, there is almost many similarities but if the due credits to the original author and prior permission that obtains then there is no legal consequence to that work.

Piracy Issues in Media and Entertainment Industry

Copyright piracy is a threat to the creative liberty of artists. Piracy means unauthorised reproduction and distribution either of the whole or of a substantial part of works protected by copyright. In cinematographic works, piracy happens through unauthorised reproduction of the film in various formats. The recent shift of the entertainment industry has been to the digital platform with all creative content made available online. With newer technologies such as virtual reality, one can create a 360-degree immersive environment without having to venture out.

When it comes to the media and entertainment industry, piracy has reached its peak. Whenever a movie is to release, within a few hours, the copy of that movie will upload in many pirate sites. This causes immense loss to the production company of that movie. Because of the pirated version is available in these sites, people choose to watch them on that and restrain themselves from going to theatres and watch, because of which the box office collection goes down and this leads to financial loss to the movie makers. Few of these sites are Tamil rockers, you torrent, ROMCOM, F Movies etc.

There are these premium subscription applications like Netflix, Hot star, Amazon Prime, ET Times, and The Hindu who pay a heavy amount to become media partners for the movies. These pirated Websites publish the movie or any such videos before these media partners do and because of this, the subscribers are less for these applications causing loss to the Application owners.

Thus piracy has become a critical problem, just like cancer in the media and entertainment industry. Sometimes, even after getting your work with protection, such acts take place which shook our head down because people go to such extent to steal someone’s hard work to make money. Just like how chemotherapy requires to cure cancer, heavy-duty legislations require to curb these piracy acts and protect the hard work of the people. The underlying problem is that it is very difficult for the copyright owner to trace out the infringers due to omnipresent digital technology.

Protect Your ideas

However, in the year 2016, the Government of India laid down certain guidelines in their National intellectual Rights Policy, 2016. The objectives of these policies are:

    1. Creating awareness regarding economic, social and cultural benefits of Copyright protection
    2. Creating awareness about these pirated technologies
    3. Provide suitable amendments under the cinematograph act and related legislation. Strengthen the provisions of the Act,
    4. Establishment of IPR Promotion and Management Cell.

Other initiatives taken by Government in curb piracy are

  1. Maharashtra Cyber Cell unit has collaborated with various production houses to fight against piracy
  2. In 2019, E-Commerce Policies draft which contains an exclusive section for Anti- Piracy Measures,
  3. The Ministry of Home Affairs of the GOI has launched the national cybercrime reporting portal ( where the citizens can lodge complaints on cybercrimes. The complaints have into two categories: (I) women and child-related, and (ii) other cyber complaints. Online piracy complaints can be under the second heading.

Copyright Issues Under Advertisement Industry

While generating content for an advertisement or organizing an advertising campaign, there are usually one or more types of IP Rights that come into the stroke, as far as copyrights are concerned it sticks in creative content, which can be in the form of photographs, written content, graphics, visual art, audios, videos, the entire layout of an advertisement, or website design.

Advertisements are one of the effective methods of promoting the business and increasing sales of the business and companies invest a lot of money in advertisement. Companies are increasingly looking forward to finding better ways of advertising their brands and products. With every level of sophistication and market competitions, there are a lot of IP Rights. The most basic advertising campaign may only include a trademark or copyright corresponding to its logo; however, advanced audio-visual works lead to several complex IP issues

The advertising media industry revolves around creativity and innovation. With a superfluity of technological advancements, the Internet today has eased the spread of brand new advertising methods. While being an influential medium of promotion, the advertising industry is a mixture of both abuse and misuse. Therefore, every business owner must put in sincere efforts to understand the legal IP framework surrounding the advertising industry. A small mistake in understanding the legal framework can result in a huge financial loss to the companies exposing them to all minds of liability of infringement. 

Can advertisements be protected?

It protects under the Act advertisements like all other creative work must satisfy the following four conditions:

  • Original-it must not be copied from another.
  • The work must not have been commonplace that is, in the public domain.
  • Further, the work must be a form of expression and not a mere idea-there is no copyright in ideas.
  • The work must involve labour, skill and capital.

As per section 13 of the copyright act, 1957 copyright subsists in certain classes of work. They are

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works;
  • Cinematographic films and
  • Sound recording.

An advertisement has various components involving literary, artistic, dramatic, musical skills each of which may be protected under the classes of work mentioned in section 13 of the Copyright Act, 1957. The protection, however, is for the satisfaction of the four above conditions.

Other IP rights related to Advertisement are:

  1. A trademark can protect advertising slogans, sounds, logos, business names, product names, or any other signs used in advertising.
  2. Industrial Design Protection extends to graphic symbols, graphic user interfaces (GUIs), screen displays, and even web pages at times.
  3. Patent Protection extends to a few forms of advertising techniques or means of doing business.
  4. A trademark or industrial design can protect the shape of a container or a bottle (commonly referred to as trade dress in some countries).
  5. Depending on the national laws, a patent or copyright can protect the software used to create online advertising campaigns.

Need for Copyright Registration

It is very clear that copyright registration is not mandatory, but, considering the competition in the industry and piracy issues. It is always an advisable and most important recommendation to the producers. Ad agencies and production houses, to get their work registration because of two main reasons:

Firstly, once an idea generates in the mind, we tend to share it with our co-workers. Since we all know that ideas cannot have copyright, there are possibilities of idea poaching and chances of it using by some other production houses or ad agencies. This causes immense loss to the original idea generators. Therefore, as soon as ideas convert into their tangible form, we can get registration.

Secondly, it is a matter of fact that creating advertisements involves a lot of effort, money, skills and creativity. Competitors and arch-rivals are always in the race to use the work and make some alterations and publish it. In such cases, recognition is not to the original owners of the work.

Therefore, sooner the better concept has to be kept in mind and it is always better to apply for the copyright and protect your work from getting a free ride from the competitors.

How will vakilSearch help you in protecting your rights?

Vakilsearch helps you in copyright registration in 3 simple steps:

  1. A thorough check of the files is at our end
  2. Then we prepare the application and file the forms
  3. We keep you updated with the information on a regular basis.