When one spends a considerable amount of time and effort in creating something, one should be made aware of the intellectual property protection that one could avail. Copyright is one such right that is made available to the creator of an original literary, dramatic, artistic, or musical work. Such right becomes vested in the creator as soon as the work is created.  Copyright registration ensures that an author or creator of a work can claim a copyright over items ranging from software programmes to movies, and even performances at times.

But a question that often arises in the minds of the people is whether or not it is mandatory to register the copyright in a work in India?

The answer is : No, you do not necessarily need to register your work to be granted a copyright the reason being that the Berne Convention forbids formalities such as registration as a requirement to protect copyright. However, registration of copyright constitutes prima facie evidence in case of a copyright infringement.

For whom is Copyright registration most important?

Production houses in India should be made aware that registration of the copyright in the movies produced by them is a vital step in the movie-making process. However, in common practice, this turns out to be expensive and hence is a step that most Production houses choose to skip. Well, what they are not aware of is that in the process of making a small saving, they make a huge loss in the course when copyright infringers leak their movies online even before the actual release date of the film.

Piracy is a problem worldwide and it affects all the major content industries such as software, television, and movies. Indian courts have passed various judgments enforcing the provisions of the copyright law. Section 52A(2) states that no person shall publish a video film in respect of any work unless the following particulars are displayed in the video film, when exhibited, and on the video cassette or on any other medium:

(a) if such work is a cinematograph film required to be certified for exhibition under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, a copy of the certificate granted by the Board of Film Certification under section 5A of that Act in respect of such work;

(b)  the name and address of the person who has made the video film and a declaration by him that he has obtained the necessary license or consent from the owner of the copyright in such work for making such video film; and

(c)  the name and address of the owner of the copyright in such work.

In support, the Supreme Court has also in various cases held that where the particulars as mandated under Section 52A are not contained on the video, film, etc., infringement of copyright will be presumed.

One of the most controversial movies recently has been the Bollywood box office hit “Udta Punjab” which faced multiple difficulties before its release. The movie which was based on the theme of drug abuse in the state of Punjab caught the attention of the Central Board of Film Certification which halted the release of the movie at first and later cleared its release after cutting 89 scenes from the film. However, Bombay High Court came into the frame and cleared the release of the film with only one cut. But this was not all. The movie was leaked on the internet two days prior to its scheduled release and was reportedly available on torrent websites.

The makers of the film filed a criminal complaint of copyright theft pursuant to which the movie was removed from the websites. Several movies in India encounter such leak of their movie on the internet prior to its release. This fever struck Kollywood as well with the leak of the most awaited Tamil film in recent times – Kabali. Video clips from the movie were leaked two days prior to its release followed by the entire film being leaked on the day of its release on several online websites.  This was despite the fact that the Madras High Court granted an interim injunction on all Internet Service Providers from illegally downloading the film.

In view of such prevalent instances of illegal broadcast of movies, several times production houses invoke the remedy of John Doe Orders (against unknown defendants) to restrain illegal downloads and prevent cable operators from broadcasting the movie without proper license or authorisation from the producer.

Additionally, the Copyright Amendment Act, 2012 also introduces provisions like protection of technological measure (Section 65A) and protection of right management information (Section 65B) which entail digital rights management measures for preventing piracy in cinematographic films.

What we need to make known is that Copyright is an important asset for every author or owner of a work and registration of the copyright can reduce the possibilities of such copyright infringement which in reality causes a much heavier monetary loss.