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Does Copyright Law Protect Memes in India: An In-Depth Analysis

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  • Post published:October 9, 2023
  • Post category:Copyright


Last Updated on June 13, 2024 by Kanakkupillai

Popular online material that has evolved into a necessary component of internet society is memes. Copied and quickly shared online, they are funny photos, movies, or text bits. Memes often use copyrighted content—such as photographs, music, or videos—which begs legal problems under Indian copyright law. This study will investigate if Indian copyright law guards memes and what best practices bloggers should do to prevent violation.

What is a Meme?

A meme is a quickly copied and disseminated hilarious picture, video, or piece of text found online. Memes often use protected content such as photos, songs, or movies. Often, they draw on irony, satire, parodies, or just simple comedy. Memes may be produced by people using their own skill and effort (type 1) or by exploiting copyrighted content without license (type 2). Copyright law shields type 1 memes as they are original works produced by their originator. Conversely, type 2 memes are regarded as derivative works and are covered by the copyright law of the original work they reference.

Copyright Protection in India

The Copyright Act of 1957 safeguards original literary, theatrical, musical, and artistic works. The Act offers unique rights to the copyright author, including duplicate, sale, and display. This means that the owner of a protected work has the right to control how their drawings are used, which includes the proper to save others from copying or selling them without permission. In India, the Copyright Act describes “creative works” as paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, pictures, works of buildings, and works of artistic handicraft. Since most of the IMG and images used in memes are included via copyright, sharing them without authorization is illegal.

Types of Memes

There are two main types of memes: those made by people using their own skill and work (Type 1) and those formed by using copyrighted material without permission (Type 2). Type 1 memes are covered by copyright law, as they are original works made by the meme author. Type 2 memes, on the other hand, are called derived works and are covered by the copyright law of the original work used in the meme.

Copyright Infringement

Using protected information without permission is called a copyright violation. Infringement can result in legal action, including takedown of material and monetary fines. This means that if a meme maker uses protected material without permission, they can be held responsible for copyright violations. In India, the Copyright Act describes copyright offence as the unauthorized copying, sale, or showing of a protected work.

Fair Use

Fair use allows limited use of protected information for specific reasons like criticism, news reporting, or teaching. Factors to identify fair use include the goal, type, and scale of the use. In India, fair use is stated in Section 54(1) of the Copyright Act as “fair dealing with any work.” Fair use is a legal defence against copyright infringement, but it is not a total security. To qualify for fair use, the maker must meet two conditions: there must be no goal to compete with the copyright owner, and there must be no wrong use of the original photograph/image/video, etc.

Best Practices for Bloggers

To avoid copyright theft, writers should follow the best practices:

  1. Create Original material: Create original material to avoid copying. This includes using your own pictures, songs, or movies.
  2. Obtain Permission: Obtain permission before using protected material. This means getting permission from the copyright owner to use their work.
  3. Use Licensed Stock Content: Use licensed stock content properly. This includes using stock pictures, songs, or movies that are allowed for use.
  4. Give the original author of the work appropriate credit and acknowledgement. This includes referencing the original work and crediting the copyright owner.


In essence, Indian copyright rules protect memes; nevertheless, fair use guidelines provide a defence. To prevent infringement, creators should be knowledgeable of copyright rules and best practices. Following these best standards helps creators make sure their memes are lawful and do not violate anybody else’s rights.

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