Subject Matter for Copyright registration by

According to Oxford Dictionary in 1856, the word ‘copyright’ is derived from the expression ‘copies of words’.


  1. Copyright subsists only in certain classes of work. They are:

• Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work;

• Cinematographic films; and

• Sound recording.

  1. Qualifications for Copyright subsistence:-

In order to qualify for copyright the works, apart from being original, should also satisfy the following condition-

1) The work is first published in India;

2) Where the work is first published outside India

• The Author, at the date of publication must be citizen of India; &

• If the publication is made after the author’s death, the author must have been at the time of his death citizen of India.

3) In case of an architectural work, the work is located in India.

With regard to cinematograph film, copyright will not subsist if it is an infringement of any other copyright work. Similarly, in making sound recording, the copyright in any literary, dramatic or musical work is infringed, copyright will not subsist in that sound recording.

###Original Literary Work-

Copyright protection is an exclusive right granted to the author of an original work for a limited period of time. Copyright subsists in original literary work & relates to the expression of thought, but the expression not be original or novel.

In the case of Eastern Book Co. vs. D.B. Modak, 2008

SC stated there would be two classes of literary works:

a) Primary or Prior works:

These are the literary works not based on existing subject matter; &

b) Secondary or Derivative works:

These are literary works based on existing subject matter.

###Test of Originality

For a work to be original, it is important that it should not have been copied from another work.
The word ‘original’ does not mean that the work must be the expression of original or inventive thought. It relates to the expression of thought.

####Doctrine of Sweat of Brow

US SC held in Feist Publications Inc. vs. Rural Telephone Service Co. Inc. that sine qua non of copyright is originality. Originality does not signify novelty; a work may be original even though it closely resembles other works so long as the similarity is fortuitous, not the result of copying.

In India, in the case of Eastern Book Co. vs. D.B. Modak, 2008 SC held that only the compiler’s selection and arrangement may be provided.

The court rejected the doctrine of sweat of brow as it had many flaws and most among them that it extends copyright protection in a compilation beyond selection and arrangement – the compiler’s original contributions – to the facts themselves.

Dramatic Work

Copyright subsists in original dramatic work and its adaptation.. Sec 2(h) of the Copyright Act, 1957 dramatic work includes any piece of recitation, choreographic work or entertainment in dumb show. Sec 2(a) of the Act provides adaptation in relation to dramatic work, means

  1. The conversion of the work into a non-dramatic work’

  2. The abridgement of the work or any version of the work in which the story or action is conveyed wholly or mainly by means
    of pictures in a form suitable for reproduction in a book, or in a newspaper, magazine or periodical.

Musical Works

In the case of Indian Performing Right Society Ltd. Vs. Eastern Indian Motion Pictures Assn, 1977 Justice Krishna Iyer observed ‘copyrighted music is not the soulful tune, the superb singing, the glorious voice or the wonderful rendering’.


A poster used in advertisement is an artistic work. The written work in the advertisement may be considered as literary work.

Cinematographic Films
Under Indian law, video films are deemed to be work produced by a process analogous to cinematography. A cinematographic is a film which by rapid projection through an apparatus called cinematograph produces the illusion of motion on a screen of many photographs taken successively on a long film.

Sound Recording

Copyright subsists in a sound recording which means a recording of sounds from which such sounds may be produced regardless of the medium on which such recording is made or the method by which the sounds are reproduced.
The issue of record regarding literary, dramatic or musical work does not amount to publication of the work recorded, although it is publication of sound recording.