Copyrights: exclusive rights of the creator.

Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the exclusive rights of the creator on an original work to its use and distribution, usually for a limited time. The exclusive rights are not absolute; they are limited by limitations and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use.

Copyright is an important form of intellectual property, applicable to any expressed representation of a creative work. Under Bangladesh copyright law, however, legal protection attaches only to fixed representations in a tangible medium. It is often shared among multiple authors, each of whom holds a set of rights to use or license the work, and who are commonly referred to as rights holders. These rights frequently include reproduction, control over derivative works, distribution, public performance, and “moral rights” such as attribution.

Copyrights are considered territorial rights which means that they do not extend beyond the territory of a specific jurisdiction. While many aspects of national copyright laws have been standardized through international copyright agreements, copyright laws vary by country.

Copyright came about with the invention of the printing press and with wider literacy. As a legal concept, its origins in Britain were from a reaction to printers’ monopolies at the beginning of the 18th century. Charles II of England was concerned by the unregulated copying of books and passed the Licensing of the Press Act 1662 by Act of Parliament, which established a register of licensed books and required a copy to be deposited with the Stationers’ Company, essentially continuing the licensing of material that had long been in effect.

Copyright may apply to a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic forms, or “works”. Specifics vary by jurisdiction, but these can include poems, theses, plays and other literary works, motion pictures, choreography, musical compositions, sound recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, computer software, radio and television broadcasts, and industrial designs. Graphic designs and industrial designs may have separate or overlapping laws applied to them in some jurisdictions. There are protections available for those areas copyright does not cover – such as trademarks and patents.

Copyright laws are standardized somewhat through international conventions such as the Berne Convention and Universal Copyright Convention. These multilateral treaties have been ratified by nearly all countries, and international organizations such as the European Union or World Trade Organization require their member states to comply with them.

A copyright, or aspects of it, may be assigned or transferred from one party to another. For example, a musician who records an album will often sign an agreement with a record company in which the musician agrees to transfer all copyright in the recordings in exchange for royalties and other considerations. The creator (and original copyright holder) benefits, or expects to, from production and marketing capabilities far beyond those of the author. In the digital age of music, music may be copied and distributed at minimal cost through the Internet, however, the record industry attempts to provide promotion and marketing for the artist and his or her work so it can reach a much larger audience. A copyright holder need not transfer all rights completely, though many publishers will insist. Some of the rights may be transferred, or else the copyright holder may grant another party a non-exclusive license to copy and/or distribute the work in a particular region or for a specified period of time.

Copyright, like other intellectual property rights, is subject to a statutorily determined term. Once the term of a copyright has expired, the formerly copyrighted work enters the public domain and may be freely used or exploited by anyone. Courts in common law countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, have rejected the doctrine of a common law copyright. Public domain works should not be confused with works that are publicly available. Works posted in the internet, for example, are publicly available but are not generally in the public domain. Copying such works may, therefore, violate the author’s copyright.

The basic legal instrument governing copyright law in Bangladesh is the Copyright Act, 2000 based on Pakistan’s Copyright Ordinance, 1962.

When copyright is infringed (s. 71), the owner of the copyright (as well as the exclusive licensee) is entitled to certain civil remedies (injunction, damages, accounts; s. 76). Jurisdiction lies with the court of District Judge of the place where the person instituting the proceeding resides or carries on business (s. 81).

Infringing copies are deemed to be the property of the owner of the copyright, who accordingly may take proceedings for the recovery of possession thereof or in respect of the conversion thereof (s. 79). Infringing copies may be seized by the police (s. 93) and can be forbidden to be imported (s. 74).

Copyright infringement may also lead to criminal charges (ss. 82 to 91) to be tried by no court inferior to that of a Court of Sessions (s. 92).

Like most of the other areas of law, the law of copyright in Bangladesh is based on English common law. Development of copyright law is closely linked with the invention of printing press. At its initial period, right to publish in England was controlled by royal licences and patents granted, and the grant of these printing privileges became a source of considerable income for the State. These licences were not granted to the authors rather were granted to the printers. With an increase in the number of printers, the publishers belonging to the Stationer’s Company were granted the original Charter in 1556. The first British copyright statute that was made applicable in British India was the English Copyright Act, 1842. The Copyright Act, 1911 of England was extended to India as part of His Majesty’s dominions and was brought into force, albeit in limited scope, by the proclamation of October 1912. Later on the Copyright Act, 1914 was enacted with extended rights. The present copyright law of Bangladesh is contained in the Copyright Ordinance, 1962 (“the Ordinance”). This Ordinance was later amended by the Copyright Act, 1974. One of the significant amendments that were brought about by the 1974 Act was that of requirement of registration of copyright work. A new subsection was introduced which provided that in order to bring a civil action for the infringement of copyright the work must be registered or deemed to be registered.

(This article is a segment of author’s research on “INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS IN BANGLADESH: CURRENT STATUS WITH PROBLEMS AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENT” for the degree of MASTER OF PHILOSOPHY, Under International Culture University. This article is published for educational purpose only, plagiarism is strictly prohibited)

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Rajin Ahmed

Ph.D. (Fellow), Advocate. Member: Bangladesh Intellectual Property Law Society (BIPLS). Member: Society for Information and Research on Business Intellectual Inventions (SIRBII). Associate: Intellectual Property Association of Bangladesh

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