Procedure for Copyright Assignment

Last Updated at: Oct 14, 2020
Copyright Registration
The makers of the upcoming film  ‘Khaali Peeli’  may face legal action against their recently released song ‘Beyonce Sharma Jayegi‘.  As per a report published in Mid-Day, the makers of the song have not sought official permission from international pop star Beyonce Knowles before using her name in the song for commercial purposes. As revealed by the daily, the makers of Khaali Peeli are thinking of rewriting the lyrics of the song to avoid any legal trouble over copyright infringement issues. 

Creative industries are fraught with copyright issues. It’s the director who has a problem with the producer with regard to the ownership of copyright or between say, the director and a scriptwriter.

But there may be other people who can claim a right to the movie, too. Think of the lyricist, the music composer, the sound recorder and the record label company. They’ve all offered some creative inputs and could have some claim to the copyright. This would pose a huge problem for the producer.

Therefore, most individuals either assign or license the rights that subsist in their work to the producer of the movie in return for a royalty. Nevertheless, it is not always as easy as it seems to be on the face of it. There are many questions and loop hole that arise at the time of the assignment and especially after it, a lot of questions involving the moral rights and the future rights and the like. In the article below let us get to know more about the procedure for copyright assignment.

Transfer of copyright

We are all aware of the fact that the first author of the work is the owner of the work except if he assigns someone else to be the owner for a specific thing (like assigning your work to be used in movies) and for a specific period of time. The owner of the copyright in an existing work can assign his work to any person the copyright either partly or wholly either for the entire term of the copyright or part of the term.


Transfer of future copyright

Section 18(1) of the Copyright Act also states that any prospective owner of future work can assign his copyright. Nevertheless, the recent amendment in the year 2012 made it adequately clear that such an assignment will not extend to those modes or mediums of exploitation which did not exist at the time of the assignment. The modes of exploitation constantly keep changing due to scientific developments. Like in the earlier days there used to be only video cassette recorders which were used and now there are MP3 players, iPods and any other music players that exist. Likewise, one cannot foresee the technological developments that are yet to come and hence, the assignment of the copyright that is made today will only cover those modes of exploitation that are available today.

This new piece of legislation has come as quite a relief to the authors as it strengthens their position in the new modes of exploitation of their work come into existence.

Mode of assignment

Section 19 of the Act clearly lays down the requirements to assign a copyright. They are as follows:
1. The agreement will not be valid if it is not in written and signed by the assignor;
2. The rights assigned along with the duration and the territorial extent must be clearly established;
3. The amount of royalty or any other consideration payable must be mentioned very clearly;
4. It is to be noted that in case the assignee fails to exercise the rights assigned to him within one year of the date of the assignment, then such an assignment will be deemed to have lapsed unless there is some provision to the contrary in the agreement;
5. If the period of assignment is not clearly mentioned, then it will be for 5 years;
6. Likewise, if the territorial extent is not clearly mentioned, then it will be presumed to extend within India;

Amendment of 2012 to Section 19
The three clauses that have been added with respect to the assignment to Section 19 which essentially says that the royalty has to be paid to those authors whose work has been exploited in a cinematographic film other than by way of exhibition of film in a cinema hall. This basically means that the authors are entitled to subsequent royalties which might arise in the course of further exploitation of the film which will include their work.

For example, they will also be entitled to the royalty for the satellite right, the home video, the internet right etc. This once again strengthens the fact that the authors of the work are the actual owners of anything apart from their work in the cinematographic film. The second clause that has also been added is for the sound recording and is similar as the above given clause. What the authors can do here is to register their work with a copyright society and subsequently license it to whoever they like.

Moral rights

The creator of any work has the right to claim the authorship of the work and claim the damages in case of any mutilation, distortion or modification caused to her/his work and such an act should be done before the expiration of the term of the assignment as such an act may cause harm to his goodwill.

It is to be noted that the moral rights are independent of the author’s copyright and the moral rights remain with the author even if she/he has assigned his copyright.

So what one can learn from the recent news on the various copyright assignment issues is that while assigning your rights, it is quite important that one clearly lays down the specific right which you are assigning in order to eliminate the chances of any confusion being caused. The amendment of the year 2012 has played a very important and significant role in strengthening the earlier weak position of the authors of works with respect to the assignments. For if someone wants to benefit from their own skill and labour, then they should be able to do so without constantly fearing being crushed by the giants!

A lawyer with 14 years' experience, Vikram has worked with several well-known corporate law firms before joining Vakilsearch.