At the risk of over-simplifying things and shooting myself in the foot, copyright is the stream of intellectual property law that protects individual’s creative work. Take for example when you are enjoying a meal at a restaurant; if you were to stop and think about it, copyright exists in the music playing in the background, the menu, the recipe of the food on the table, the design on the table cloth, the photographs on the wall, the software on their system which calculates and prints out the bill… pretty much anything and everything.

Copyright vests with the creator of an original work and it exists in the expression of the work and not the idea. For instance, in a book, the idea of a boy and girl from contrasting circumstances falling in love in times of turmoil (oft repeated storyline I know) is something that cannot be protected. However the characters created, with their individual circumstances, the dialogue exchanges, the descriptions are something that you create and own. So if someone else were to copy those aspects and write a similar story, or use paragraphs from your book, you would have a right to stop them.

Copyright exists the moment it is created and expressed in a tangible medium (not the idea in your head). Registration of the work is not mandatory, but registering it with the Copyright Office, creates proof that you created that work on a specific date, as opposed to bringing to the Court, documents without any date stamps for the Court to try and decide who created the work first.

While I mentioned that Copyright exists for a multitude of different types of works, it does so, only if it fits into the broad categories which are laid down by the Copyright Act, in India. The broad categories are literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works, sound recordings, and cinematographic works.

Literary Work:

The most recognizable type of work under copyright law; everyone knows that the books are protected under copyright law. Copyright exists in more than just books though and in any literary work – It could exist in anything written (typed out – I haven’t written on paper in a while) from a recipe, notes taken down on a lecture in a class, the lyrics of a song, a telephone directory, a company’s client database, and even the source code of a computer programme.

The Copyright office when examining the work, will not look into the literary merit of the work, but merely its originality. My misspelled, Yoda based grammar as a piece of writing could still be protected under copyright law.

The copyright in literary work vests with the original author of the work.

Dramatic Work:

According to the Act, a dramatic work is any recitation, choreographic work or entertainment in dumb show, the scenic arrangement or acting form of which is fixed in writing or otherwise – excluding a cinematographic film.

So a dance routine, a play, a skit, a choreographed set of movements to educate students in class about some subject, a mime, a circus routine, or anything similar that you can think of to fit the bill can be protected as a dramatic work. There have even been attempts to protect the flow of a yoga session under copyright… the Court’s interpretation is the limit!

The copyright in dramatic work vests with the author of the dramatic work.

Artistic Work:

Artistic work, can be paintings, sculptures, drawings, diagram, maps, charts or plans, engraving, photographs, architectural work, however artistic or not. It doesn’t have to be brilliant and make the critics swoon; it could just be a doodle on your book, provided it is original.

Once again it’s not the idea that is protected but just the expression. There could be a thousand different photographers photographing the sunset from a given place, and each of them would have the copyright to their photograph.

The copyright in the artistic work belongs to the creator of author of the work.

Musical Work:

Musical work is work consisting of music and includes any graphical notation of such work. It is just the tune, the melody, the harmony and it exists the moment it is created, and either recorded in a graphical form, through the crotchets and quavers and musical notes on paper or on some other medium.

The copyright in the musical work belongs to the composer.

Sound Recording:

The Law defines sound recordings as sounds from which such sounds may be produced. If you’re as confused as you can be, well the recording of any sounds, either musical or tones and notes that makes your ears bleed is protected under copyright.

In any song, the lyrics are protected under literary work, the melody under the musical work and the recording of both together the song as a sound recording.

The copyright in sound recordings belongs to the producer.

Cinematographic Work:

Cinematographic work includes visual recording showcasing any moving images. It also includes the sound recording accompanying it. So a movie, a documentary, a short film, a home video, a news clipping, the video you took of your dog being chased by your cat on your mobile phone, are all cinematographic work under the law of copyright.

As with sound recordings, in any movie, the copyright in the script and dialogues is literary work, the music, belongs to the composer, the lyricist and movie as a whole with all its component parts belong to the producer.

The copyright in cinematographic work like sound recordings, vest with the producer of the work.

Term of Copyright:

Copyright in each of the works belonging to each of the individuals is the exclusive right of the owner for a fixed period of time. For sounds recordings and cinematographic works it exists for a period of 60 years from the year after it is publication. So if the movie, or song was released in 2013, it for 60 years from January 01, 2014 – until January 2074.

For literary, artistic, musical and dramatic works, the copyright exists for a period of 60 years. If the author of the work is unknown, then it exists for 60 years year following the date of publication.

If the author of the work is known it exists for the lifetime of the author plus 60 years from the year after his/her death. The copyright on this article will rest with me for a period of 60 years after I die. So if I die in 2087 at the ripe old age of…. long enough, the copyright would still vest in my work for 60 years from 2088 – until January 01, 2148.

If I had written this with someone else, then the copyright would exist until 60 years from the year after whichever one of the authors dies later.

Copyright exists for different works and gives the owner different rights. While this post covered merely the types of work, who has the rights and the term, since copyright surrounds us, I will discuss the issues to look out for based on professions… for instance copyright for bands, restaurant owners, use on social media and other types of work in the coming weeks.

This article has been authored by Navarre Roy, an IP Law practitioner.