Feb 24, 2022

Copyright and its significance for Cinema

The Mumbai police have arrested Maha Movie  television channel’s CEO Sanjay Verma in a copyright violation case. Allegedly, the Maha Movie channel illegally broadcast movies like “Zanjeer”, “Lawaris”, “Jadugar”, “Mohabbat Ke Dushman”, “Muqaddar Ka Sikandar”. Let us look at copyright law to understand why it was illegal.


What is copyright?

Copyright is the exclusive right to do or authorise an action concerning a:

  • Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work
  • Cinematograph film (movie)
  • Sound recording


The copyright owner can assign the copyright (fully or partially) to any person, along with any conditions.


Who owns the copyright on a movie?

The producer is the first (original) owner of the copyright on a movie.   


What are the rights of a movie’s copyright owner?

Copyright on a movie gives the owner the right to:

  • Make a copy of the movie, including a photograph of any image from the movie 
  • Sell any copy of the movie
  • Offer any copy of the movie for commercial rent
  • Store the movie in any medium through electronic or other methods


Can the copyright on a movie expire?

Yes, the copyright on a movie expires after sixty years. This period starts from the 1st of January after the movie is published. There is no renewal of copyright in India, and the copyright on a movie is valid for the entire sixty-year period without renewal.


Can the copyright owner give up their copyright?

Yes, the copyright owner can give up their copyright (fully or partially) by giving a notice to the Registrar of Copyrights, or a public notice. Their copyright will stop existing from the date of the notice.


What is the punishment for violating copyright?

Anyone who knowingly violates the copyright in a work can be punished with imprisonment for six months to three years, and a fine of Rupees fifty thousand to two lakh rupees. However, if the violation is not for commercial gain, the court might agree to imprisonment for less than six months or a fine of less than Rupees fifty thousand.