Copyright Law in India extends protection to creators and artists from unauthorized use/reproduction of their creative work. If you are an artist/creator/software developer etc., then you have a moral and legally enforceable right of complete ownership over your work. This means you enjoy complete and exclusive freedom to use, distribute, reproduce, expand, and share your work. Artists and creators usually own through their work by assigning or licensing their copyright. This means an artist can authorize the use of his creative work through an Agreement of Copyright License or an Agreement of Copyright Assignment. Let us understand what these terms mean.

Agreement of Copyright License: Under an Agreement of Copyright License, the owner of the copyrighted work (creator/artist/owner by contract) can allow another person or an enterprise (such as a buyer of the product or a production house like T-Series) to legally use the copyrighted work. Thus, the party receiving such a license can use the copyrighted material in any way they like, provided such use is in consonance and in alignment with the terms and conditions of use stipulated under the Agreement. The Creator of the work usually receives a royalty in lieu of allowing use of his copyrighted work. Such a license can be exclusive, that is, only the party with whom the Agreement is signed is allowed to use the License; or the License can be non-exclusive, in which case the party receiving the license to use can further distribute exclusive licenses to third parties to use the copyrighted material. A Copyright License Agreement will typically state the duration of such license. Thus, it is not a life-long license. However, it can be subject to extension, revocation, termination or revision as agreed between the parties in written. The Agreement also must describe the copyrighted work in detail. Both the parties must be adequately identified in the Agreement. Further, the rights which are being licensed must also be explicitly mentioned in order to avoid future disputes The License can be granted with respect to existing as well as future work.

Apart from Voluntary License (as stated above), The Copyright Act of 1957 also allows foe Compulsory Licensing. Compulsory Licensing refers to mandatory licensing of one’s work in interest of public.

Agreement of Copyright Assignment: A Copyright Assignment Agreement is different from a Licensing Agreement in various crucial aspects. It is a partial permission to use the copyright and the stipulated conditions have to be strictly adhered to, otherwise unauthorized actions can amount to infringement of copyrights of the owner. The purpose of Copyright Assignment is to allow the copyright owner reach a larger audience for his creative work. Usually, a creator or an artist will not have enough resources or manpower to expand the outreach of his work. In such a case, he/she may hire a company or a distributor for his work, such as a publisher, or a music company like T-Series etc. This is copyright assignment, in so far as the assignee doesn't get ownership rights in the artistic work, but only certain rights to use the work as agreed to in the Copyright Assignment Agreement. Nowadays, Artists use a combination of licensing and assignment in their Copyright Transfer Agreements. However, it must be noted that in either case, it is important to clearly and aptly mention the rights which will be transferred to the second party. For example, assignment of publishing rights of a literary novel shouldn’t mean assignment of right to turn the novel into a cinematograph piece. If it is allowed, the Artist will lose a considerable amount of monetary gains in his work. For instance, a comic book writer must be able to earn profit if a company decided to manufacture plastic figured of characters created by him in his comic book. In such a case, he will sign a copyright assignment agreement, not a license agreement.

An Agreement of Copyright Assignment is valid for five years, if not stated otherwise in the agreement.

It is the duty of the Artist or the Creator to protect his copyrighted work and be vigilant enough. Read our article on Copyright Law in India to understand a Creator’s rights and duties in detail.


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