Why Don’t You Copyright Me? Copyrights and Writers (Part 4)

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As seen in the previous posts, a copyright protects original and creative expression in a tangible form. While copyright exists in a work irrespective of registration, writers are advised to register their works. This post looks at the various categories under which a writer’s work can be protected and why it should be registered.

Protecting a Writer’s Work

According to Copyright law, the following types of works form the subject matter for copyright protection:

  • Literary Work;
  • Musical Work;
  • Artistic Work;
  • Dramatic Work;
  • Cinematograph Work; and
  • Sound Recording.

Books are mainly protected under copyright law as literary works. Literary works include poems, song lyrics, letters, fictional works like short stories and novels, contributions to newspapers and magazines, and non-fictional works like news reports, biographies and textbooks.

The Copyright Act distinguishes between literary and dramatic works to ensure that each category of a written work is given the appropriate level of protection. Thus, registering a work as a dramatic work protects the choreography, scenic arrangement any other descriptions/arrangements of the performance of the work. However, this does not include a cinematograph film.

Some part of the books like images in the book and cover page of the book may have to be protected as Artistic works. Similarly, play written to be performed, may have to protected as a dramatic work. Not every literary work intended to be performed constitutes a dramatic work. For instance, the script for a film is also registered as a literary work. However, the script for a performance, along with all other instructions like choreography, prop arrangements, and scene descriptions, constitutes a dramatic work.

The adaptation of a work can be independently protected as a literary work; however, the creation of an adaptation during the subsistence of a copyright in the original can only be done with a license from the owner, or by the owner himself. The same principle applies to translations of an original work into any other language. The copyright office also requires a No Objection Certificate from the writer or copyright owner of the original work, if the adaptation or translation of the said work is done by a third party.

In order to ensure maximum protection for a published work, the writer may choose to also apply for separate copyrights in the description of the book printed on the cover, all images used on the cover and inside the book. Of late, writers have also been creating and registering their own audiobook versions, which are categorised as sound recordings for the purpose of registration.

Certain elements of the book, like the title of the book, the names of important characters, catchphrases used by characters, and coined terms used in the book, cannot be protected independently under copyright law, as they are too short to constitute a work. However, in order to enhance the prote