Copyright is a bundle of rights that exist with the owner or author of the work who has all the rights of exploitation of the work in any manner he wants which includes rental rights as well. Rental rights are rights to rent copies of work. No person other that the owner of the copyright can rent the work unless they have a license to do so.

Initially, rental rights were not included in the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, and it was introduced in India through an amendment in 1994 by including the term ‘hire’ in Section 14 which dealt with the economic rights of author. The International treaties on Copyright adopted by WTO and WIPO required the member countries to draft domestic laws at par with the treaties. Article 11 of TRIPS agreement, Article 7 of WCT (WIPO Copyright Treaty) and Article 9 of WPPT (WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty) provides for commercial rental rights for Computer programme and Cinematograph films. In accordance with the treaties, the Indian Government (being India is a member country of WTO and WIPO) amended the Copyright Act in 2012, included the term ‘Commercial Rental’ replacing the word ‘hire’ and the term was also defined in Section 2 (fa). It states as follows:

“Commercial rental’ does not include the rental, lease or lending of a lawfully acquired copy of a computer programme, sound recording, visual recording or cinematograph film for non-profit purposes by a non-profit library or non-profit educational institution”

The Amendment also explains that, a ‘non-profit library or non-profit educational institution’ means a library or educational institution which receives grants from the Government or exempted from payment of tax under the Income Tax Act, 1961.

In India, the rental rights are provided for computer programmes, cinematograph films and sound recordings under Section 14 (b), (d) & (e). The rights are, however, limited for commercial purposes and expressly excludes the rental rights for non- commercial purposes. This means an author cannot claim rental rights over lending of books, magazines or other work when it is done by an institution without any profit motive. Hence, libraries, educational institutions can freely rent the books or other work without any license or permission from the author of the work.

Computer software, which are configured as an essential part of the object can only be rented by the owner of the software. For example, the owner can give a software for rent where it is created for merging/splitting up the files, but when a software is accompanying any machine where it is not a substantial part, the owner of the software would not be able to give it for rent under copyright laws.

Cinematograph films can only be licensed or rented out by the producer or owner of the film through distributor or otherwise as case may be. For instance, the theatres such as PVR, INOX, AGS cinemas get the license to exhibit the movies for public as provided under Copyright Law and the owner of theaters are generally not free to make use of the same for other works like exploitation of songs, audio/video, D.V.D. etc., as there is only temporary transfer or permission to use the movie for consideration. However, I am sure most of us have encountered those shops which lends movies on a small amount of rent (which btw most of the time are pirated), is not legal under copyright laws in India. The amended Copyright Laws clearly specifies that, the owner of the cinematograph films has commercial rental rights and accordingly, if any person acts in contravention of the economic rights given under section 14 of the Act will amount to copyright infringement. On the same grounds the Torrent was shut down in 2015 which was a huge platform of pirated movies and other copyrighted work and had no licence to share the content.

The Copyright Laws work the same for Sound recordings as cinematograph films. If you want a song on your phone, you should buy or download it from an authenticated application to avoid the copyright infringement.

The laws in India have become strict in last few years attempting to avoid the copyright infringement and save the economic and moral rights of the author or owner of the work. The Copyright Amendment Act, 2012 provides the commercial rental rights to owner to avoid the copyright infringement by making it easier for the customers/users to use the work in a lesser amount which will certainly result in reduction of copyright infringement. The Amendment has also expressly excluded the rental rights in copyrighted works for institutions with non-profit motive to facilitate knowledge and art for educational and social purposes without any cost.