Evolution of Copyright Laws

Last Updated at: Oct 29, 2020
Copyright Laws

This article is written by Anjali

The conventional understanding is that the birth of modern copyright law is linked to the invention of print in the fifteenth century in Europe: Printing allowed mass dissemination of information and ideas contained in the literary medium at a relatively low cost. The growth of literacy created a large demand for printed books and the protection of authors and publishers from unauthorised copying was recognised as increasingly important in the context of this new means of making work available to the public. This led to the enactment of the very first Copyright Laws.

The Statute of Anne

The Statute of Anne, enacted by the British Parliament in 1710, was the world’s first copyright law. It vested copyright with the author. However, the statute mainly aims at recognizing and promoting the public’s interest. In the abolition of the printing monopoly and in enhanced access to books. The Statute of Anne served to promote competition in the publishing houses by restricting monopolies, and recognized the author as the holder of the right to authorize copying.

This beginning led to the spread of copyright law to other countries. Denmark passed the Ordinance of 1741, recognizing the rights of authors. In 1790, the United States promulgated its first federal copyright statute. In the mid-nineteenth century, laws were passed in the German States, Austria, and Spain. 

Public v. Private Property

The eighteenth-century further witnessed ideological debates over whether creative works should be treated as property, how to distinguish between tangible and intangible assets, and how to maintain the free circulation of ideas for the sake of the public’s well being. The first half of the nineteenth century saw the intensification of the debate in England concerning the justest and appropriate way of regulating the subject of copyright laws. Within less than half a century, the Statute of Anne will replace twice, first in 1814 and again in 1842.

By the second half of the nineteenth century, the nature of the balance between the competing interests began to change when the two groups of economic interest holders – authors and entrepreneurs – joined forces to establish an international intellectual property regime. Many European countries had general on copyright laws, with significant differences between them with respect to the kinds of work protected, duration of such protection, recognized rights, restrictions on the exercise of those rights, and the formalities required.

Since the exploitation of works was not limited to a certain territory, the need for an international arrangement for the protection of works outside their original borders became increasingly acute. This was resolved by the adoption of the first two international treaties, which are still the baseline of intellectual property law: The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property of 1883, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 1886 (Berne Convention). These two conventions engendered a tectonic change in the development of intellectual property rights by enabling a change in the traditional balance so that it favoured private economic interests.

The Berne Convention

The Berne Convention, for the first time, introduced the concept of “originality” as the defining threshold for the protected subject matter, thereby expanding the scope of exclusivity. The “originality” threshold entailed protection against acts of “reproduction”- appropriating parts of the work or producing adaptations such as translation for which the mere protection against duplication was no longer adequate.

There are two basic elements of protection under the Berne Convention: first, ‘national treatment,’ according to which works originating in one of the Member states must be protected in each of the member States in the same way that such States protect the work of their nationals; second, minimum rights, which means that the laws of the Member States must provide the minimum levels of protection established by the Convention. 

The Berne Convention also contains provisions regarding:

  1. Formality-Free Protection
  2. Works Protected
  3. Owners of Rights
  4. Eligibility for Protection
  5. Rights Protected
  6. Limitations
  7. Duration of Protection and
  8. Preferential Provisions COncerning Developing Countries

The Berne Convention occasionally revise,13 and in 1994, by TRIPS agreement, is finally adopts as the starting point for all national copyright laws.

The TRIPS Agreement

The TRIPS Agreement concluded in 1994 as part of the Uruguay Round of negotiations under the former GATT (now the World Trade Organization) also contains provisions on copyright protection. It provides that all member countries shall comply with the substantive provisions (Articles 1 to 21) of the 1971 Paris Act of the Berne Convention.

In addition, the TRIPS Agreement introduced the idea of protection for computer programs as literary works under the Berne Convention standards. The duration of protection is 50 years following the death of the author and for works in respect of which the term cannot be calculated on the basis of the author’s life, 50 years from the end of the year of the authorized publication or from the making of the work. It also contains detailed provisions on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Finally, it provides a mechanism with regard to the settlement of disputes among members concerning compliance with the Agreement.

The Rome Convention

The Rome Convention is a counterpart to the Berne Convention applied specifically to ‘related rights’: performances, phonograms and broadcasts. 

get a Copyright registration 

Performers (actors, singers, musicians, dancers and those who perform literary or artistic works) are protected against certain acts to which they have not consented, such as the broadcasting and communication to the public of a live performance; the fixation of the live performance etc. Producers of phonograms have the right to authorize or prohibit the direct or indirect reproduction of their phonograms. In the Rome Convention, “phonograms” means any exclusively aural fixation of sounds of a performance or of other sounds. Broadcasting organizations have the right to authorize or prohibit certain acts, namely the rebroadcasting of their broadcasts; the fixation of their broadcasts; the reproduction of such fixations and so on.

The Rome Convention also prescribes the duration of protection (ranging from 20-50 years) and allows for limitations with regards to private use.

History of Copyright in India

Copyright law entered India in 1847 through an enactment during the East India Company’s regime. According to the 1847 enactment, the term of copyright was for the lifetime of the author plus seven years post-mortem. But in no case could the total term of copyright exceed a period of forty-two years. The government could grant a compulsory licence to publish a book if the owner of the copyright, upon the death of the author, refused to allow its publication. The act of infringement consisted of a person’s unauthorized printing of a copyrighted work for (or as a part of the attempt of) “sale hire, or exportation”, or “for selling, publishing or exposing to sale or hire”. Suitor action for infringement is to institute in the “highest local court exercising original civil jurisdiction.” 

The Act provides specifically that under a contract of service copyright in “any encyclopedia, review, magazine, periodical work. Further, work that publishes in a series of books or parts” shall vest in the “proprietor, projector, publisher or conductor”. Infringing copies were deemed to be copies of the proprietor of copyrighted work. Importantly, unlike today, copyright in a work was not automatic. Registration of copyright with the Home Office was mandatory for the enforcement of rights under the Act. However, the Act also specifically reserved the subsistence of copyright in the author, and his right to sue for its infringement to the extent available in law other than the 1847 Act. 

In 1914, the then Indian legislature enacted a new Copyright Act. Moreover, which merely extended most portions of the United Kingdom Copyright Act of 1911 to India. It did, however, make a few minor modifications. First, it introduced criminal sanctions for copyright infringement (sections 7 to 12). Second, it modified the scope of the term of copyright; under section 4 the “sole right” of the author to “produce, reproduce perform; or publish a translation of the work shall subsist only for a period of ten years from the date of the first publication of the work.” The author, however, retained her “sole rights” if within the period of ten years she published. 

Evolution of Copyright in India

Before the Act of 1957, copyright protection was governed by the Copyright Act, 1914 which was the extension of the British Copyright Act, 1911. The Act amends after 1957 in 1983, 1984, 1992, 1994 and 1999. In May 2012, both houses of the Indian Parliament unanimously passed the Copyright Amendment Bill, 2012.  

Some of the important amendments to the Copyright Act in 2012 are: getting 1957 the Act in conformity with WCT and WPPT. Moreover, an extension of copyright protection in the digital environment. They are such as penalties for circumvention of technological protection measures and rights management information. 

Introduction of statutory licences for cover versions and broadcasting organizations. Ensuring the right to receive royalties for authors, and music composers, exclusive economic. Moral rights to performers, equal membership rights in copyright societies for authors and other right owners. Moreover, the exception of copyrights for physically disabled to access any works. 

The amendments made in the Copyright laws (Amendment) Act 2012 comes under the major categorized into: 

  1. Amendments to rights in artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recordings.

The amendments clarify the rights in artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recordings. Further, by providing that the right to reproduce an artistic work, to make a copy of a cinematograph film. 

2. WCT and WPPT related amendment to rights 

The obligation under Article 11 of the TRIPS Agreement, Article 7 of WCT and Article 9 of WPPT is to provide for ‘commercial rental’ rights.  

The term ‘hire’ in sections 14(d)&(e) with regard to cinematograph film and sound recording, respectively, is replaced with the term ‘commercial rental’. 

3. Author-friendly amendments on the mode of Assignment and Licenses 

Section 18(1) provides that the owner of copyright laws in any work may assign the copyright. And, the proviso to this sub-section clarifies that in the case of future work, an assignment will come into force. Another provision under S. 18(1), through Amendment Act 2012, provides that the author of a literary or musical work. 

4. Amendments facilitating Access to Works 

  • Grant of Compulsory Licenses (Section 31, A, B) 
  • Grant of Statutory Licenses (Section 31C, D)
  • Administration of Copyright laws Societies (Section 33,34,35) 
  • Fair Use Provisions (Section 52) 
  • Access to copyrighted works by the Disabled (Section 31B,52(1)) 
  • Relinquishment of copyright (Section 21) 

5. Strengthening enforcement and protecting against Internet piracy 

Section 53, dealing with the importation of infringing copies, as a substitute with a new section. Further, providing details of border measures to strengthen enforcement of rights by making provision to control. Moreover, the import of infringing copies by the Customs Department. Further, disposal of infringing copies and presumption of authorship under civil remedies. The new section 65A, for protection of technological protection measures (TPM), manages by a copyright owner to protect his rights. Section 65B has been introduced to provide protection of rights management information, defined under clause (xa) of section 2. 

6. Reform of Copyright Board and other minor amendments

Considering the diverse nature of issues being with by the Copyright Board, section 11 relating to the constitution of the Copyright Board amend to make it a body consisting of a Chairman and two members.