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International Copyrights and How to Apply for Them

Copyright-protected content on the internet can be accessed, used, and shared globally. As a result, creators must be familiar with both international and domestic copyright law. 

The concept of international copyright law simply does not exist! Copyright law is territorial and regional in scope and application. Protection against unauthorized use of work in a country will depend on the national laws of that country. 

However, certain international copyright treaties and conventions have greatly simplified the process of granting protection to foreign copyright holders. This has allowed creators and content owners in different countries to enjoy exclusive rights over their work across the world.

International Copyright – Treaties and Conventions

Several international treaties and conventions protect creative works that are the subject matter of copyright. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works is the primary international consortium governing the provision for worldwide copyright protection. 

Other conventions that India is a party to include the Universal Copyright Convention, the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and the Convention for the Protection of Phonograms against Unauthorised Duplication of their Phonograms.

Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works

The Berne Convention addresses the protection of works as well as the rights of their authors. It is based on three fundamental principles and includes several provisions determining the minimum level of protection to be provided, as well as special provisions available to developing countries that wish to use them.

The Berne Convention requires protection for all creative works in a fixed medium to be automatic. This means that no registration or deposit must be made with a government copyright office to have copyright protection. There are, however, voluntary government registration systems where copyright owners can register their works, to obtain certain rights and benefits especially in cases of copyright infringement. 

Therefore, the fundamental principles on which the convention is based are as follows

  1. Principle of National Treatment – Works originating in one of the Contracting States (that is, works the author of which is a national of such a State or works first published in such a State) must be given the same protection in each of the other Contracting States as the latter grants to the works of its nationals
  2. Principle of ‘Automatic” Protection’ – Protection must not be conditional upon compliance with any formality
  3. Principle of ‘Independence’ of Protection – Protection is independent of the existence of protection in the country of origin of the work (principle of “independence” of protection).
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Application for International Copyright

Because India is a signatory to the Berne Convention, copyright protection is available in a number of countries around the world, even if the work was first published in India. Thus, even without formally applying for protection, copyright protection is available to works first published in India, across several countries.

Moreover, any work which falls under the categories of literature, drama, music, art, cinematography, sound recordings qualifies for copyright protection. The work sought to be copyrighted must be original; however, the work doesn’t need to have some original thought or idea. The law is only concerned about the originality of the expression of thought.

Copyright Law in India

The Copyright Act of 1957 (the Act), supported by the Copyright Rules of 1958, is India’s governing law for copyright protection. 

Because India has a common law legal system, it relies on case law to interpret and establish precedents in law, and judicial decisions contribute to the sources of copyright law in India. India is a signatory to the Berne Conventions as well as the Universal Copyright Convention. 

The Indian government also passed the International Copyright Order, 1999. This Order provides that any work first published in any country that is a member of any of the above conventions receives the same treatment as if it were first published in India.

The Copyright Act of 1957 and the Copyright Rules of 2013 govern the copyright registration process in India. Any original artistic work, cinematographic film, music composition, literary/dramatic work, sound recording, or software that is a tangible expression of thought can be copyrighted.

The Following Are Some Basic Recommendations

  • An application for registration has to be made on Form IV (Including Statement of Particulars and Statement of Further Particulars) as prescribed in the First Schedule to the Rules
  • Each application must be accompanied by the requisite fee as prescribed in the second schedule either in the form of a Demand Draft or an Indian Postal Order favoring the “Registrar Of Copyright Payable At New Delhi” or through E-payment
  • The application must contain the necessary signatures and Power(s) of the Attorney
  • Three copies of the work must be submitted with the application. If the work is unpublished, a copy of the manuscript should be sent with the application
  • Following that, a Diary Number is assigned to track the status of the application, which is subject to a 30-day mandatory waiting period for inviting any objections
  • If there are no objections, the application will be forwarded to an examiner. If the examiner does not find any errors in the application, the registration process will be completed.

The entire process takes 8-9 months, subject to objections and discrepancies. Get in touch with the intellectual property experts at Vakilsearch to get the process started right away!

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