A Shifting Empire
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A Shifting Empire

100 Years of the Copyright Act 1911

Edited by Uma Suthersanen and Ysolde Gendreau

The 1911 Copyright Act, often termed the ‘Imperial Copyright Act’, changed the jurisprudential landscape in respect of copyright law, not only in the United Kingdom but also within the then Empire. This book offers a bird’s eye perspective of why and how the first global copyright law launched a new order, often termed the ‘common law copyright system’.
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Chapter 5: The Imperial Copyright Act 1911 and the Indian copyright law

T.G. Agitha and N.S. Gopalakrishnan


Independent India’s Copyright Act 1957 (hereinafter 1957 Act) still continues to be governed by the fundamental principles and structures inherited from the Imperial Copyright Act 1911 (‘the 1911 Act’). Even though there were attempts to introduce changes in 1983, 1984, 1992, 1994 and 1999, the 1957 Act has not yet been completely freed from its colonial moorings. However, attempts made in the recent amendments indicate a change in the philosophy. An amendment Bill attempting at a comprehensive amendment of the 1957 Act is under consideration and may be introduced in the Parliament in the coming sessions. Originally, as His Majesty’s dominion, India was subjected to the Copyright Law of England. Up to the commencement of the 1957 Act in 1958, the copyright law of India followed the 1911 Act as such with slight modifications needed to suit the dominion’s legal structure. Even the 1957 Act was highly dependent on both the 1911 and 1956 Acts of England. Only very marginal differences could be seen in the 1957 Act until recently. A comparative analysis of different features of the copy- right law of England and India reveals this. The first Indian law relating to copyright was the Copyright Act of 1847 (Act XX of 1847) based on the English Act of 1842 (5 & 6 Vict., c. 45), enacted by the Victorian Parliament. The Act remained in force till the enactment of the 1911 Act, which was extended to India with necessary modifications for its application in India by the Indian Copyright Act.

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