Copyright Registration IP Rights

How to use Copyrighted Content

Copyright Owner

Copyrighted content is the content whose owners have the exclusive rights to use the work. For this, the work needs to undergo copyright registration. Copyright registration is regulated by the Copyright Act, 1957. Copyright Registration grants the right to the creators of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works and the producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings. The rights provided under the copyright law consist reproduction of the work, communication of the work to the public, adaptation of the work and translation of the work. There are scope and duration of the protection, which may vary in accordance with the copyright law and nature of your work.

How to identify the owner of copyrighted content?

Whenever you try to work on something the first thing that comes to your mind is to Google the products and services, you are trying to work upon and use it if found something useful. But have you ever thought about asking yourself a question, whether you are actually allowed to use that piece of work or not? Do I need someone’s approval before their work? If yes, then where do I go and whom do I ask?

How to use the copyrighted content?

Now you must be thinking, whether you require the permission for using the copyrighted content or not. Then let us inform, you may come across either of the cases.

  1. There are basically two instances of using a copyrighted content-When prior permission is required to use a copyrighted content;
  2. When no permission is required.

Now, lets discuss the both in detail;

1. Cases where no prior permission is required-

  • Check if the Copyrighted content is in Public domain.

If the work belongs to the public domain, then it won’t have any copyright owner. First, you need to understand the difference between the publicly available work and the work under the public domain. Publicly available work may or may not be under the public domain. Work under public domain signifies that it is not protected by the Copyright Law and can be used by anyone at any point of time without any hindrance.

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In India generally, this happens if the work has no copyright or it is been already expired, in that case, it comes under the public domain.

  • Have you released the work under the open License?

Whenever work is released under the open license, for example, creative commons, that work can be used by anyone; as long as you comply with the terms of their copyright license.

  • Can I state the Fair use of work for using any work?

There is no need to take permission from the owner of the work if that work falls under the category of fair use. It may be a tricky business, so it is always advisable to take some expert advice on these issues.

Till now we know the categories under which the work can be released, but how do we track the owner of the work?

2. Cases when permission is required-

  • Who is the Owner of the Copyright?

We all are creating copyrights work all the time knowingly or unknowingly. For example, writing an email, clicking a selfie etc. Finding the copyright owner may turn into a tricky business. Let’s take a look, what needs to be at the time of finding the copyright owner.

  • Creator of the work is alive or not

The first step is to contact the creator of the work, the creator is alive. You must seek the written permission to use their work.

  • What if the Creator of the work has already assigned the work to someone else?

If the creator of the work has assigned the work to someone else like a record label or publisher or created work as a part of their job, then you need to contact the entity. You could always contact the licensing department to seek permission. But, you need to keep in mind that work of the creator may be owned by some other entity, rather than whom he assigned earlier.

  • Does the creator of work have Performing rights Organizations and Reproduction rights?

There are certain organizations, to which the creator of the work can subscribe to get the royalty on their work. These organizations are known as the Performing Rights organizations (PRO) and Reproduction Rights Organizations (RRO).

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PROs deal with the publicly related work on the national level, such as music. RROs deal with the work such as technical, medical and cultural work on the national and international level.

  • What if the author of the work is Dead?

If the author of the work dies, then it automatically passes on to the heir of the creator. But, it is not an easy task to track down the family members of the author.

You can always look at the obituary online, in case of a famous author or may visit their Wikipedia page for more reference.

It might be possible that the author of the work has some kind of foundation in the honor or a dedicated library.

Sometimes, it happens that these authors of the work have a library or foundation on their name. In case the author passes away, the copyrights are granted to that foundation or library. You can always look on the internet to find the details of these authors.

  • If the Publisher is alive and Still in Business?

If we look at the current scenario, authors tend to keep the rights to themselves rather than assigning to the publishers. You need to check whether the publisher has the authority over the work you are trying to use.

You have to check, it may be possible that publisher has gone out of work or been taken over by another publisher and it is very difficult to find out the owner of the work, as it is not mandatory to file the application transfer of copyright registration.

  • It might be Possible that work you are trying to use doesn’t belong to Anybody.
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There are orphan works in the market, whose rights holder can’t be determined and it seems impractical to establish the inheritance rights in these cases. Or the rightful owner was never aware of the rights to the copyrighted work.

It usually happens when the copyright outlive their heirs because copyright lasts for a certain period of time after the author passes away.


So for the next time, you come across any kind of content and have intentions to use it somewhere. Then do keep a check on the above guidelines to reach the copyright owner.For any assistance regarding how to use copyrighted content, please contact Enterslice.

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