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The Copyright Act, 1957

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The Copyright Act, 1957
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Sunanda K. Chavan
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The Copyright Act, 1957 - October 28th, 2010

In ancient days creative persons like artists, musicians and writers made, composed or wrote their works for fame and recognition rather than to earn a living, thus, the question of copyright never arose. The importance of copyright was recognized only after the invention of printing press which enabled the reproduction of books in large quantity. In India first legislation of its kind, the Indian Copyright Act was passed in 1914 which was mainly based on the UK Copyright Act, 1911.

During the last four decades modern and advanced means of communications like broadcasting, litho0photography, television, etc. have made inroads in the Indian economy with the result that it became essential to fulfill international obligations in the field of copyright. This necessitated that a comprehensive legislation may be introduced to completely revise the copyright law. To this effect a Copyright Bill, 1957 was introduced in the Parliament.

It introduced several new features which are briefly indicated below:
1. A Copyright Office is sought to be established under the immediate control of a Registrar of Copyrights who shall act under the superintendence and direction of the Central Government. The principal function of the Copyright Office will be to maintain Register of Copyrights in which may be entered, at the option of the authors, the names and addresses of authors and owners of copyright for the time being, and other relevant particulars. Such a Register will easily make available useful information to interested members of pubic in regard to copyrighted works.

In order to encourage registration of copyrights, provision is made that no proceeding regarding infringement of copyright shall be instituted unless copyright is registered in the Copyright Office. In addition to being in charge of the Copyright Office, the duties of the Registrar of Copyrights will be to entertain and dispose of applications for compulsory licenses and to inquire into complaints of importation of infringing copies. An appeal to the Copyright Board is provided for against the orders of the Registrar of Copyrights.


2. Provision is made for setting up a Copyright Board which will determine the reasonableness of the rates of fees, charges or royalties claimed by performing rights societies, consider applications for general licenses for public performances of works and will assess compensation payable under the Bill in certain circumstances. An appeal can be made to the High Court against the decisions of the Copyright Board.

3. The definition of “copyright” is enlarged to include the exclusive right to communicate works by radio-diffusion.

4. A cinematograph film will have a separate copyright apart from its various components, namely, story, music, etc.

5. An author assigning copyright in his work is allowed the option to re-acquire the copyright after seven years but before ten years of the assignment on the condition that he returns the amount received by him at the time of the assignment with interest thereon.

6. The normal term of the copyright is fixed to be the life of the author and a period of 25 years after his death as against the existing term of the life of the author, and a period of 50 years after his death. Shorter terms are fixed for anonymous or pseudonymous works, cinematograph films, mechanical contrivances, photographs, etc.

7. Under the existing law, the sole right to produce a translation of a work first published in India is extinguished after ten years, unless a translation thereof is produced within that period. The Draft Bill makes the right co-extensive with other rights arising out of copyright.

8. Provision is made for the issue of a general or special license for public performances of any work by means of a radio-receiving set or a mechanical contrivance.

9. A license may be issued to any library to make or cause to be made one copy of any book in which copyright subsists and which is not available for sale.

10. Provision is made for regulating the activities of performing rights societies and also for controlling the fees, charges and royalties to be collected by them.

11. Certain rights akin to copyright are conferred on broadcasting authorities in respect of programmes broadcast by them.

12. International copyright relations which are based on international treaties will be regulated by specific orders to be made by the Central Government.

13. A fair dealing with any work for the purposes of radio summary or judicial proceeding will not hereafter constitute an infringement of copyright.
List of Amending Acts
• The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1983 (23 of 1983) (w.e.f. 9-8-1984)
• The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1984 (65 of 1984) (w.e.f. 8-10-1984)
• The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1992 (13 of 1992) (w.e.f. 28-12-1991)
• The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1994 (38 of 1994) (w.e.f. 10-5-1995)
• The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1999 (49 of 1999) (w.e.f. 15-1-2000)

It extends to the whole of India
a) Adaptation means –
• In relation to a dramatic work, the conversion of the work into a non-dramatic work.
• In relation to a literary work or an artistic work, the conversions of the work into a dramatic work by way of performance in public or otherwise.
• In relation to literary or dramatic work, any abridgement of the work or any version of the work in which the story or action is conveyed wholly or mainly by means of pictures in a form suitable for reproduction in a book, or in a newspapers, magazine or similar periodical.
• In relation to a musical work, any use of such work involving its arrangement or alteration.

b) “Work of architecture” means any building or structure having as artistic character or design, or any model for such building or structure.

c) “Artistic work” means –
• A painting, a sculpture, a drawing (including a diagram, map, chart or plan), an engraving or a photograph, whether or not any such work possesses artistic quality.
• A (work of architecture).
• Any other work of artistic craftsmanship.

d) “Author” means –
• In relation to a literary or dramatic work, the author of the work
• In relation to a musical work, the composer
• In relation to an artistic work other than a photograph, the artist
• In relation to a photograph, the person taking the photograph
• In relation to a cinematograph film or sound recording, the producer
• In relation to any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which is computer-generated, the person who causes the work to be created

e) “Broadcast” means communication to the public –
• By any means of wireless diffusion, whether in any one or more of the forms of signs, sounds or visual images
• By wire and includes a re-broadcast

f) “Calendar year” means the year commencing on the 1st day of January.

g) “Cinematograph film” means any work of visual recording on any medium produced through a process from which a moving image may be produced by any means and induced a sound recording accompanying such visual recording and “cinematograph” shall be construed as including any work produced by any process analogous to cinematography including video films.

h) “Communication to the public” means making any work available for being seen or heard or otherwise enjoyed by the public directly or by any means of display or diffusion other than by issuing copies of such work regardless of whether any member of the public actually sees, hears or otherwise enjoys the work so made available.

i) “Infringing copy” means –
• In relation to a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, a reproduction thereof otherwise than in the form of a cinematographic film
• In relation to a cinematograph film, a copy of the film made on any medium by any means
• In relation to a sound recording, any other recording embodying the same sound recording, made by any means
• In relation to a programme or performance in which such a broadcast reproduction right or a performer’s right subsists under the provisions of this Act, the sound recording or a cinematographic film of such programme or performance.

If such reproduction, copy or sound recording is made or imported in contravention of the provisions of this Act.
Copyright Office & Copyright Board

Copyright Office: The Copyright Office shall be under the immediate control of the Registrar of Copyrights and may appoint one or more Deputy Registrars of Copyrights.


Registrar and Deputy Registrars of Copyrights: The Central Government shall appoint a Registrar of Copyrights and may appoint one or more Deputy Registrars of Copyrights.

Copyright Board: The Central Government shall constitute a Board to be called the Copyright Board which shall consist of a Chairman and may appoint one or more than (fourteen) other members.

Works in which copyright subsists

1. Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works

2. Cinematograph films

3. Sound recording

Copyright shall not subsist: in any cinematograph film is a substantial part of the films is an infringement of the copyright in any other work.
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