The Copyright Act, 1957 1
17. First owner of copyright –
Subject to the provisions of this Act, the author of a work shall be the first owner of the copyright therein:
(a) in the case of a literary, dramatic or artistic work made by the author in the course of his employment by the proprietor of a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical under a contract of service or apprenticeship, for the purpose of publication in a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, the said proprietor shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright in the work in so far as the copyright relates to the publication of the work in any newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, or to the reproduction of the work for the purpose of its being so published, but in all other respects the author shall be the first owner of the copyright in the work;
(b) subject to the provisions of clause (a), in the case of a photograph taken, or a painting or portrait drawn, or an engraving or a cinematograph film made, for valuable consideration at the instance of any person, such person shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright therein;
(c) in the case of a work made in the course of the author’s employment under a contract of service or apprenticeship, to which clause (a) or clause (b) does not apply, the employer shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright therein;
2[(cc) in the case of any address or speech delivered in public, the person who has delivered such address or speech or if such person has delivered such address or speech on behalf of any other person, such other person shall be the first owner of the copyright therein notwithstanding that the person who delivers such address or speech, or, as the case may be, the person on whose behalf such address or speech is delivered, is employed by any other person who arranges such address or speech or on whose behalf or premises such address or speech is delivered;]
(d) in the case of a Government work, Government shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright therein;
2[(dd) in the case of a work made or first published by or under the direction or control of any public undertaking, such public undertaking shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright therein;
Explanation. —For the purposes of this clause and section 28A, “public undertaking” means—
(i) an undertaking owned or controlled by Government; or
(ii) a Government company as defined in section 617 of the Companies Act, 1956 (1 of 1956); or
(iii) a body corporate established by or under any Central, Provincial or State Act;]
(e) in the case of a work to which the provisions of section 41 apply, the international organisation concerned shall be the first owner of the copyright therein.
No ownership in case of mere ‘idea’
A person may have a brilliant idea for a story, or for a picture, or for a play, and one which, so far as he is concerned, appears to be original, but, if he communicates that idea to an author or a playwriter or an artist, the production which is the result of the communication of the idea to the author or the artist or the playwright is the copyright of the person who has clothed the idea in a form, whether by means of a picture, a play, or a book, and the owner of the idea has no rights in the product; Donoghue v. Allied Newspaper Ltd., (1937) 3 ChD 503.
Producer can defeat rights of music composer or lyricist
The core of the question, whether the producer of a cinematograph film can defeat the right of the composer of music or lyricist by engaging him. The key to the solution of this question lies in the provisos (b) and (c) to section 17 of the Act reproduced
above which put the matter beyond doubt. According to the first of these provisos, viz., proviso (b), when a cinematograph film producer commissions a composer of music or a lyricist for reward or valuable consideration for the purpose of making his cinematograph film, or composing music or lyric therefor i.e., the sounds for incorporation or absorption in the sound track associated with the film, which as already indicated, are included in a cinematograph film, he becomes the first owner of the copyright therein and no copyright subsists in the composer of the lyric or music so composed unless there is a contract to the contrary between the composer of the lyric or music on the one hand and the producer of the cinematograph film on the other. The same result follows according to aforesaid proviso (c) if the composer of music or lyric is employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship to compose the work. It is, therefore, crystal clear that the rights of a music composer or lyricist can be defeated by the producer of a cinematograph film in the manner laid down in provisos (b) and (c) of section 17 of the Act; Indian Performing Right Society v. Eastern India Motion Picture Assn, AIR 1977 SC 1443.
Right in a drama vests in author
The right in a drama by an author written for a society, is, in the absence of a clear agreement to the contrary, vested in the author; Lama Prasad v. Nabahash, AIR 1967 Ass 70.
Where a person is under an obligation to do something, and in discharge of such obligation, he transfers a certain interest, such transfer is for valuable consideration; Chidambaraiyer v. Renga, AIR 1966 SC 193.
1. Subs. by Act 15 of 2008, sec. 2, for sec. 8 (w.e.f. 15-4-2008). Section 8, before substitution, stood as under:
“8. Payment of medical bonus.—Every woman entitled to maternity benefit under this Act shall also be entitled to receive from her employer a medical bonus of two hundred and fifty rupees, if no pre-natal confinement and post-natal care is provided for by the employer free of charge.”.
2. Ins. by Act 23 of 1983, sec. 8 (w.e.f. 9-8-1984).