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This article is written by Namrata, pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws from Lawsikho.com

Introduction 

All the content that is published online is protected under the garb of copyright irrespective of whether there exist a symbol of copyright. This is attained by way of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The content that is protected by the Copyright Act can be in any form be it digital, media or print, all of them will be offered protection. Apart from this, an important aspect to be taken note of is that the prevention of copyright infringement calls for persistent watchfulness; to the extent that a person’s own work being used in two different places and unintentionally plagiarizing one of them would amount to copyright infringement. This article would drag the attention of the readers towards the concept of copyrighting web series, the need for the same, and the various means through which it can be attained. The article also sheds light on various instances where there have been controversies with regard to copyright infringement in web series in recent times. 

Protection of Web-series through Copyright: Why is it important?

  1. It enables a non-entity to make profits– Copyright plays a vital role in protecting online content because it gives legal ownership to a person over a piece of work which the person has produced. It enables the author or artist of such a work to exercise control over the way in which their work is being used. The content that is online can easily be stolen from the creator and put to use by another person, and the profits can be yearned by the person who did not put in efforts in creating such content. Therefore, the protection of Copyright is an important aspect. And it is duty cast on the creator of such content to ensure that there is no undue usage made of such content by others.
  2. Protection against Copyright infringement online– Being in line with the concept stated above, there have been various instances whereby copyright cases have been taken up against numerous sources including music download; file sharing and hosting sites etc. In order to avoid the controversies that follow up, it is advisable to take the required steps and get the work protected. 

How to Copyright a web series?

Put in a usual sense, Copyright laws can be stated to be complicated and tangled. Hence, if one doesn’t want to get into trouble, it would be advisable for one to detect the Copyright infringement and work proactively against the offender; doing so would indeed save a lot of effort and time. The different methods that can be taken up in order to protect the Copyrights have been discussed below:

By Copyright registration of web series- Copyright Registration becomes absolutely necessary in order to protect the work of the creator in films, web series, music etc. Once the work is registered under the Copyright Act, such a work cannot be used unauthorized without paying credit to the creator of such a work. 

The producer of such a web series can get it registered with the Copyright office or the Copyright Act. This will make it clear to the Copyright infringes that the content cannot be copied. Registration gives legal status to the work by making it an Intellectual Property and only the creator will have absolute rights on such a work. It further offers protection to the creativity from being stolen or being duplicated. 

The prime objective behind the Copyright registration

The prime objective behind the Copyright registration is to inspire various authors, musicians and composers to create new work, the created will be granted exclusive rights on such a work for a limited period of time and he/she can reproduce the work to earn monetary benefits out of the same. Once the term of the Copyright comes to an end or expires, such a work will belong to public domain and anyone can make use of such a work. 

Copyright, moreover acts like a patent whereby the monopoly is given to the created and others are restricted from making use of the same. The monopoly is within itself considered to be precise and objective and it primarily prevents a third party from unfair use of such a work. However, it should be made sure that such a right or power is used in an undue manner by making such a power an instrument of coercion and exaction. 

The chief purpose of Copyright Registrar 

The prime purpose of Copyright Registrar is to function as an office of record. At the Copyright registrar, the documents are recorded and the required Copyright is registered. The main aim of the Copyright registrar is to provide information about procedures that are necessary for making registration; it also gives information about the numerous provisions of the Copyright. Lastly, the Copyright Registrar also provides an explanation about the operations and practices of the Copyright office. 

Section 13(a) of the Copyright Act enables web series to be Copyrightable 

Section 13(a) of the Copyright Act states the following:

Subject to the provisions of this section and the other provisions of this Act, copyright shall subsist throughout India in the following classes of works, which are as follows-

  1. Original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works,
  2. Cinematograph films, and
  3. Sound recording.

Since web series come under dramatic works, the same can be subject to Copyright and hence, offered protection by getting it a Copyright registration. 

The process to be followed to Copyright a web series or any work

The process of Copyright registration of a web series or be it any work for that matter will be explained in the following segment:

  1. A Copyright application should be filed along with the prescribed fee.
  2. Once the registration is accepted a no issue dairy would be issued.
  3. A mandatory cooling period of 30 days will persist.
  4. After the 30 days period, a scruitinization will be carried out by the examiner.
  5. Once the scruitinization takes place, a discrepancy clearance letter will be sent.
  6. After this, the discrepancy removal takes place. 
  7. The Deputy Registrar approves the registration.
  8. Once the registration is approved, the certificate is dispatched through speed post.
  9. Once the certificate is dispatched, the process will be deemed to be completed and the duration of the Copyright will last for a period of 30 days.

Recent instances of controversies in Indian web series- With the online platforms gaining ground in the recent past, there has been a preference given to the shows and web series that are released over the top and the same have struck in controversies in the recent past. There have been even instances where the Bombay High Court had to intervene in order to resolve the matters. Some of such examples have been discussed below:

  1. Interim Injunction denied in ‘Betaal’ Copyright infringement case– The writer of another web series named ‘Vetaal’ had approached the Bombay High Court to seek an interim injunction to stall the release of ‘Betaal’ stated it had infringed his Copyright as the web series was very much similar to his work in ‘Vetaal’. As the plaintiff could not provide proper evidence to prove his contentions, the Bombay High Court rejected the interim injunction and passed an order stating there would be not stall on the release of the web series. 
  2. Mirzapur 2 and the controversy that stirred up– Season two of an Amazon Prime original, Mirzapur had stirred controversy as the web series depicted a scene where one of the character was seen referring a book named ‘Dhabba’. The author of the book, Surendra Mohan Pathak had taken strong objection to the usage of the book in Mirzapur 2. He further stated that the voice over which accompanies the scenes misrepresents his work. The writer further also claimed that the whole season 2 is rather shown as an expert from his novel ‘Dhabba’. As a response to this, Excel Entertainment, the creators of the show sought an apology from the writer and reportedly removed the scene from the web series. 
  3. Interim injunction claims on ‘Lootcase’ released on OTT platform– Recently, on Hotstar Disney+, the movie Lootcase was released which garnered positive response from the audience. But, just a day before its release there was an interim injunction sought by the plaintiff in order to stall the release of the movie, the injunction was sought before the Delhi High Court by Mr. Vinay Vats. The plaintiff claimed that the movie’s trailer was similar to a trailer released by him in 2011. The Delhi High Court rejected the grant of interim injunction stating the last minute injunction and the contention that the Copyright protection was made only based on the trailer of the movie. 

Infringement of Copyright and its numerous implications 

In order to understand the consequences of Copyright infringement, it becomes important for one to understand what a Copyright infringement is- Whenever there happens to be distribution, reproduction, public display or performance of a Copyrighted work and without the permission of the rightful owner of such a work, such an act can be termed to be Copyright infringement. An important point to be taken note of is that there exists a major misconception among the audience that online work can rather be used freely and is not protected by Copyright. Nevertheless, this is untrue and the content online is also protected by Copyright. Hence, if one uses a web series or a part of it without seeking the permission of the owner, such an act amounts to Copyright infringement. 

The legal ramifications of the Copyright infringement 

Whenever a producer is found guilty for violating a Copyright owner’s exclusive rights that have been granted to him such a person will be held liable for damages. For a Copyright infringement to take place three things should be satisfied, they are:

  1. A valid Copyright should be in possession of a Copyright owner.
  2. An access to the Copyrightable work should be established by the person who is infringing such a work.
  3. The duplication of the work which takes place should be outside some exceptions which include face-to-face instruction, virtual instruction and fair use etc. 

Whenever a producer of a web series is found guilty of Copyright infringement, such a producer will be made to pay damages. In addition to this, the infringer will be responsible to pay the attorney’s fee and the court fee. Onus will be placed on the person who is claiming damages for the loss suffered by him and the same will be met accordingly. 

Conclusion

There can be protection offered to web series by way of registering them under Copyright. There have been various provisions brought into place in order to attain this and make sure that there is right kind of protection offered to the creators of such work and such a work is protected from being misused by a third party. Whenever there happens to be a misuse off such a work, there is compensation provided to the created of such work under the garb of Copyright infringement. Such developments rather succeed in making a point that which the growing importance being made in the Intellectual Property law, even the laws pertaining to them are made stronger and made to serve their purpose. 


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