Ever had an idea of yours stolen? Wonder how to protect your work for being copied?
Confused by technical words like intellectual property, infringement, etc? You’re at the right place, because we’ve got some expert help for you:


Here are their answers to common copyright questions people from the film industry have:

1) What is intellectual property? And what are copyrights?

Any piece of work in tangible form created using the creative faculties of the mind is termed as intellectual property. Literary work, artistic work, inventions, names, etc. all come under intellectual property. And the right to reproduce the work is called a copyright.

According to section 14 of Copyright Act 1957, the holder of a copyright has the right to:
– reproduce the work in any material form
– issue copies of the work
– perform it in public
– make a cinematograph (film) or sound recording of the work
– make a translation of it
– make an adaptation of the work.

2) What kind of content can be copyrighted?

A wide range of content is covered under the act. But in case of films, eligible content is cinematographic work, sound recordings, scripts, choreography etc. Short phrases, film titles also are eligible for protection, but aren’t eligible for copyrights. They have to be registered as a trademark.

Types of film work protected:
Literary work: Storyline, script, dialogues, lyrics, poems
Artistic work: Background sets, costumes, designs
Dramatic work: Choreography, dance movements, stunts, etc.
Musical work: Songs, background scores, theme music, etc.

3) When & why should one register for copyright?

Ideally, a creative person should register for copyright as soon as their work is put in tangible form. It should also be immediately be registered in an association. This should be done before they expose the idea to any other person, be it the friends, peers or producers. Otherwise, the generic idea is vulnerable to being copied.

4) What’s the procedure for registering?

To register, one can access the website of the Copyright Office https://copyright.gov.in/ , create an account and fill out a form. After registration, the protection is valid for the entire lifetime of the author plus 60 years after his demise.


5) What should someone do after their copyrights have been violated?

Ravindra Arora:
If the original author/creator of the work finds that their work has been copied OR reproduced without their consent, they can approach their association first and try to settle the matter with the violator. 99% of cases I have seen have gotten settled out of court. If the matter isn’t solved by discussion, the creator can approach the court.

In court, a person can file a civil suit. But this can be a long-drawn process, and requires documentary evidence. At this point, copyright registration or an association membership helps prove the author’s ownership.

In a typical copyright case, here’s what happens:
1) A creator files a case
2) The creator then provides proof that their copyright has been infringed.
3) The court compares both works.
4) If there’s a substantial amount of copying involved, the court declares it as an infringement.
In some cases, the court will also provide an interim injunction within 15-20 days of filing –
depending on the jurisdiction of the case.

6) If a producer/filmmaker pays an artist to create a work, who owns the rights?

The ownership depends on the agreement between the person paying and the creator. I recommend formalizing every assignment via a written agreement. The agreement should clearly state:
1) who the owner of the copyright will be
2) what is the compensation of the creator
3) terms and conditions of payment.

7) What role do associations play in protection?

Ravindra Arora:
An association works as an intermediate stage between infringement and going to court. If an artist/writer is registered with the Screenwriters’ Association (SWA) or the Bharat Cine & TV Artists Association, they can report copyright violation to them. The association will then step in and mediate between the complainant and the alleged copyright violator. If there is a clear violation, a decision will be announced. Usually, an association has enough influence to enforce their decision. But if any one of the parties is not satisfied with the result, the association recommends (as stated earlier) an out of court settlement.

For more answers on copyrights and other filmmaking topics, check out the Let’s Talk webinar series on our YouTube channel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *