I realised how there are so many myths that exist in the minds of people around us when I recently got into an argument with one of the people at my gym about music and licensing. So to give a little bit of a background, the lawyer in me urges me to go ask the shop owner/restaurant owner or any owner for that matter who play music in their premises, whether they have the license to do so. So I asked the manager at my gym whether or not they had obtained a license to play the music that they do. They did but apparently people at the gym think it is not necessary for them to get it. So this friend of mine next to me asks me “Why do they need a license to play music? The music is in the public domain”. Copyrights myths and facts!

  1. Work in public domain vs. work available to the public in general

After I recovered from my shock, I tried to explain how even if it is available to the public, it is a requirement as per the law that you take a license for using someone else’s work, whether big or small. I did not bother to explain that work in “public domain” are those works in which copyright has ceased to exist. The general misconception is that work in public domain means that the work is available to the public in general for their use. Hopefully, this misconception will not be a misconception someday.

So after this incident, I sat down and thought of all the times when I have had to actually educate people, which is fun, about copyright and the myths that surround it. Here a list that I am sure every IP lawyer can add to.

  1. To be able to get copyright protection, I need to register it

Good news! No you don’t need to register your work as copyright to be entitled to get protection. The minute you have created it and expressed it in some form or the other, copyright protection subsists from that moment forward (See point 3). While registration is not required for you to be entitled to protection under the copyright law, it is however highly advisable for you to register your work in the Copyright office (Delhi, in India) which is not only cost effective and time saving, but it can also be used as evidence in a Court of Law to show that you are the first author of the work should there be any infringement of your work in the future.

  1. If it does not have a copyright notice, I can use and it will not amount to copyright infringement

There are in fact two myths hidden in one. Most of the people I have come across are of the belief that they need to change the year every year! Well, just imagine the shock on their faces when they came to know that “Copyright or © or All rights reserved followed by the date of first publication followed by the author/owner” is the correct form of notice. So their next question was “So why do I see people update the year?” That has to be done when there are any further modifications made to the website or the work.

“What happens when there is no notice at all? I can use it then, can’t I?” Well, you can’t because there are 168 Countries that are members to the Berne Convention which states that copyright subsists in a work (Literary and Artistic) when it is first published and the protection extends to all of the contracting parties. So irrespective of whether there is a copyright notice or not, copyright protection starts the minute it was expressed in any mode by the author.

  1. As long as it’s not a crime, I can always take it down when asked to

Well, sorry to burst the bubble but copyright infringement in India (and in many other Countries) might result in you having to pay criminal penalties and suffering from imprisonment. Sections 63-70 provides a range of criminal penalties for infringing copyrights which are typically punishable with terms of imprisonment that “may extend up to three years” along with a fine.

  1. Poor man’s copyright

This is probably the most common misconception there is about copyright. Poor man’s copyright is when you send yourself a copy of the work that you have created. This is so done in order to create evidence of use on that particular date by way of the postal seal/receipt that you get on the envelope in which you’ve sealed the fate of your copyright. While there are not many rulings on this matter in India, I would think that this is not a great way of creating evidence of use as the Courts have held that these envelopes can be tampered with and dates can be changed and are thus not reliable. So instead you might just want to apply for a copyright application which cost effective and time saving.

Copyright myths and facts! These are just some of the myths that I have dealt with personally. Though not a good thing, I’m sure there are many more out there which can be added to the list!

This article has been authored by Durga Bhatt, an IP Law practitioner.