Salient Features Of The Copyright Act, 1957


Copyright law protects the expressions of ideas instead of the ideas themselves. Copyright protection is conferred on all Original artistic, musical, literary, dramatic, sound recording and cinematograph works. The moment a work is created its copyright protection commences, its registration is optional. But, it is advisable to obtain a registration for good protection. Copyright registration, instead of conferring any rights, is merely a prima facie proof of an entry in respect of the work in the Copyright Register maintained by the Registrar of Copyrights.

The domain of Copyright in Copyright Act, 1957?

A Copyright is a collection of exclusive rights which are vested in the owner of the copyright, according to Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957. These rights can only be exercised by either the owner of the copyright or by any other person who is licensed, according to law, in the same regard by the owner of the copyright. These rights include the right of publication, right to make translations, right of adaptation, right of reproduction, etc. According to Section 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957, the author or creator of the work is the first owner of the copyright.

One of the supreme advantages of copyright protection is that protection is available in several countries across the world, although the work is first published in India by reason of India being a member of the Berne Convention. Protection is given to works first published in India, in respect of all countries that are member states to treaties and conventions to which India is a member. Thus, without formally applying for protection, copyright protection is available to works first published in India, across several countries. Also, the government of India has by virtue of the International Copyright Order, 1999, extended copyright protection to works first published outside India.


History of Copyright Acts

The first Copyright Act of India was enacted in 1847, during the reign of the East India Company. As per that Act, the term of copyright was either, for the lifetime of the author plus 7 years or 42 years. The government reserved the power to grant the publishing license after the death of the author if the permission of the same was denied by the owner of the copyright. This Act was replaced by the Copyright Act of 1914.

The Act of 1914 was the first ‘modern’ copyright law of India. It was the first law to include all the works of art and literature under the ambit of copyright. It was inspired and copied by the English law of 1911. It was done by the British so that the passage of literature over the colonial subcontinent become easy.

The Act of 1914 was replaced by The Copyright Act of 1957.  This Act amended the copyright law and introduced some landmark changes. This Act is the oldest surviving intellectual property rights legislation in India.


Salient Features of The Copyright Act 1957

 Some of its salient features are following:-

1. Scope of rights conferred to author

Under section 13 of the Copyright Act 1957, copyright protection is provided to literary works, musical works, dramatic works, artistic works, sound recording and cinematograph films.

For example, books, manuscripts, poetry, theses are protected under the Act as literary works.


*The Copyright Act, 1957 protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and cinematograph films and sound recordings from unauthorised uses. Unlike the case with patents, copyright protects the expressions and not the ideas.

2. Provisions to determine first ownership

According to Section 17 of the Copyrights Act 1957, the first owner of the copyright is the author of the work itself. The exception to this rule is the case in which, the employer becomes the owner of the copyright in circumstances where the employee creates a work in the scope of her/his employment.

3. Civil and criminal remedies

The civil remedies for copyright infringement are covered under Section 55 of the Copyright Act of 1957. These civil remedies include damages, injunctions, interpretation of accounts, destruction and delivery of infringed copies and damages for conversion.


The criminal remedies, for infringement of copyright, are provided under Section 63 of the Copyright Act 1957. These criminal remedies include imprisonment, fines, search and seizure of infringing goods, etc. The imprisonment can range up to 3 years but can not be less than 6 months and the fine ranges from 50,000 to 2,00,000 rupees.

4. Creation of copyright office and copyright board

Provisions for setting up a copyright office, which is under the control of the Registrar of the copyright for the registration of books and other ‘works’ of art, and a copyright board to help in dealing with copyright-related disputes are also given in the Copyright Act, 1957. Section 9 of the Copyright Act, 1957 provides for the inception of an office which is to be called the Copyright Office for the purpose of the Act. Section 11 of the Copyright Act, 1957 provides for the inception of the Copyright Board.

Changes made in Copyright Act, 1957

The Copyright Act, 1957 has been drastically amended. The Copyright Act, 1957 has been amended six times till now, once each in the years 1983, 1984, 1992, 1994, 1999 and 2012 to meet the huge national and international requirements. In May 2012, both houses of the Indian Parliament consensually placed their seal on the Copyright Amendment Bill, 2012. It brought the Indian copyright law into compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization “Internet Treaties”- the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).


These amendments can be divided into:

  1. Amendments to rights in artistic works, cinematographic films and sound recordings
  2. Amendment to rights related to WCT and WPPT
  3. Amendments, which are author-friendly, on Assignment and Licenses
  4. Amendments easing the Access to Works
  5. Increase in Protection from Internet piracy
  6. Reforms in the Copyright Board and other minor amendments

Scope of the Changes

While introducing certain technological protection measures, the amended Copyright Act, 1957 ensures that fair use survives in the digital era by providing numerous special fair use provisions. These amendments include many author-friendly amendments, certain special provisions for the disabled, amendments easing access to works and other amendments to move towards streamlining the copyright administration.

Exceptions to the Copyright Act, 1957

The Copyright Act, 1957 does not include the infringement of copyright in the cases of ‘Fair dealing’. This law is provided under Section 52 of the Copyright Act, 1957. Fair dealing is the legal limitation on the exclusive right of the copyright owner which permits her/him to reproduce or use the copyrighted work in a manner that otherwise would have resulted in copyright infringement.



The history of copyright law is prolonged and complex in nature. For hundreds of years, it is in the developing stage. This is because technology is changing faster than ever. With the discovery of new techniques, the old law is falling behind in the world, especially in the case of non-literal work. Now, most of the time it is very difficult to draw a conclusion on the case of what is similar to the extent of copyright infringement as it is very subjective in nature. Thus, we need more laws which are specific in nature to copyright to lessen this subjectivity and deal with this problem efficiently.



This Article is Authored by Anushk, 1st Year BALLB(H) Student at CHRIST(Deemed to be University).

Also Read – An Overview of The Copyright Act, 1957

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