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Assignment of Copyright

Assignment of Copyright
Assignment of Copyright


Nature of Assignment

Under Section 18 of the Copyright Act, copyright can be assigned with or without limitations, typically outlined in an agreement between the parties. Notably, copyright can be assigned for future works, effective upon their creation. Post-2012 amendments, Section 18 introduces significant changes:

  • Medium or Mode of Exploitation: Proviso (2) restricts assignments to existing or commercially used mediums or modes, unless explicitly mentioned.

  • Royalty Rights: Proviso (3) safeguards the rights of authors in cinematograph films or sound recordings, ensuring they receive royalties. Authors can assign these rights to legal heirs or copyright societies.

  • Sound Recordings: Proviso (4) similarly protects the rights of authors in sound recordings not part of cinematographic films.

These changes ensure authors receive royalties even after assigning copyright, with any contradictory agreements deemed void.


Validity and Formal Requirements

According to Section 19, assignments must be in writing and signed by the assignor or their authorised agent. Oral assignments are not permissible. Additionally, agreements must include specific details:

  • Identity of the work

  • Rights assigned

  • Assignment duration

  • Territory

  • Royalty payment details

While no specific format is prescribed, written and signed documentation is mandatory.

Termination and Conditions

If the assignee fails to exercise rights within a year, they lapse unless otherwise stated. If the assignment lacks a specified term, it's presumed to be five years. Geographical extent defaults to India unless specified otherwise. These conditions don't apply to assignments predating the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1994.

Transfer Upon Death

Copyright can pass through legal operation or testamentary disposition. In case of bequeathing an artistic work without specifying copyright, the law assumes the bequest includes copyright unless stated otherwise.

Protection and Dispute Resolution

Additional provisions added in 2012 protect author royalties and empower the Copyright Board to resolve assignment disputes. Section 19(A) outlines procedures for disputes, including complaint submission and Board intervention. The Board aims to issue final orders within six months, recording any delays.

Relinquishment of Rights

Section 21 allows authors to relinquish copyright rights by notifying the Registrar of Copyrights. After publication in the Official Gazette and posting on the Registrar's website for three years, relinquished rights cease to exist, placing the work in the public domain.


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