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Ownership and Authorship of Copyright in India


Last Updated on July 4, 2024 by Sachin Jaiswal

India has different ideas about who owns the copyright and who wrote it. The author is usually the first copyright owner in a work, but Section 17 of the Copyright Act of 1957 lets lawmakers make adjustments so that someone other than the creator can own the rights. For instance, the company or person who orders the work becomes the first owner, whether it’s made for work or research purposes.

Knowing the difference between authorship and ownership will help you figure out who has the only right to copy, share, change, or show the work in public. The public, creators, and customers all rely on this information to ensure a balance between protecting creators’ rights and promoting creation and innovation in society. Being familiar with these ideas is essential for managing copyrights well and avoiding problems.

Authorship of Copyright in India

Authorship occurs when someone uses their mental abilities and artistic sense to create a unique work. There is only one author of a work, even if someone else owns the copyright. This person is recognized as the author. Being the author gives various moral rights, including the right to protest any bad portrayal of the work and to be recognized as the author. Authors also have the right to be paid for using their work.

The Copyright Act, 1957’s Section 2(d) defines the “author” for any kind of work:

  • Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works: Though the original idea for the work comes from another source, the author uses skill and judgment to create literary, theatrical, musical, and artistic works. The author settles the idea in a concrete form and conveys it first.
  • Photographs: In the case of pictures, the author is the person who clicks the shutter button and gets the image since they use artistic choices in layout, lighting, and frame.
  • Cinematographic films and Sound recordings: The producer is known as the author of cinematographic films and sound records as they bear the whole responsibility for the production of the work, including talent and resource organizing.
  • Computer-generated works: The author of computer-generated works is the person who creates them, whether by building the computer program or defining the parameters for the piece.

Ownership of Copyright in India

Conversely, copyright ownership provides more general rights and benefits. The copyright owner has exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, show, or make derivative works based on the original work. Under the Copyright Act, an author is often the original owner of their work. Section 17 of the Act lists various exceptions to this rule, nevertheless.

Exceptions to Author as First Owner:

  • Unless there is an agreement to the contrary, the boss becomes the first owner of the copyright of a work made by an employee during their job. This exemption is based on the idea that the employer has invested in tools and given the necessary setup to create the work.
  • Commissioned works: Unless there is an agreement to the contrary, the person who hires certain kinds of works—such as pictures, photos, and cinematograph films—becomes the first owner of the copyright. This exception acknowledges the role the commissioning party plays in helping the work to be made.
  • Lectures and Speeches: Should a talk or speech be given on behalf of another person or company, the individual or group on whose behalf it is given becomes the first owner of the copyright. This exemption shows the organization’s funding or help.
  • Government works: For works created either under government direction or control, the government becomes the initial owner of the copyright. This exemption is based on the idea that public access to government-created works ought to be possible.
  • Works generated or distributed under the direction or control of a public undertaking—that is, without an agreement to the contrary—become the first owners of the copyright.

Transfer of Ownership

Licenses or contracts let one transfer copyright ownership. While an assignment entails the whole transfer of ownership rights to another person or company, a license lets the copyright owner give authorization to another person to use the work. The ownership might be limited to particular rights or areas and may be partial or whole.

Limitations on Copyright Owner Authority

Copyright holding rights are not without limits:

  • Fair dealing: People are allowed to create copies for personal and non-commercial use—for examining, providing feedback, reviewing, or reporting information, among other things. According to the Copyright Act of 1957, just dealing is the use of protected work for personal use, study, criticism, evaluation, or reporting on current affairs.
  • Backup Copies: People can make backup copies of computer software for their use. This exception lets users copy computer software for backup needs so they may access them should hardware fail or data loss occur.
  • Waiver of Rights: Authors may give notice to the Registrar of Copyrights to waive their rights. This clause allows writers to easily waive their rights over their works, allowing their availability for general usage.
  • Compulsory Licenses: In some situations, such as when the copyright owner declines to have the work published or translated, the government might provide forced licenses for the publication or translation of works. The Copyright Board gives compulsive licenses in cases when the copyright owner unjustly declines to have a work translated or reprinted.


The critical difference between ownership and authorship of copyright in India is that ownership refers to the person or entity that holds exclusive rights over copyrighted work. In contrast, Authorship refers to the person who creates or originates the work, with the author generally being the first owner of the copyright, subject to certain statutory exceptions where the ownership vests with someone other than the author, such as an employer or a person who commissions the work. Understanding the distinction between Ownership and Authorship is crucial for adequate copyright protection and management, as it determines who controls the rights to reproduce, distribute, adapt, or publicly perform the work and ensures that creators are properly recognized and compensated for their contributions.

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Sachin Jaiswal

Sachin Jaiswal B.A.(Hons)! Sachin Jaiswal has been writing material on his own for more than five years. He got his B.A.(Hons) in English from the well-known University of Delhi. His success in this job is due to the fact that he loves writing and making material that is interesting. He has worked with a lot of different clients in many different fields, always giving them high-quality content that their target audience will enjoy. Through his education and work experience, he is able to produce high-quality content that meets his clients' needs.