Copyright law shapes the film industry in many countries. As one of the largest producers of popular movies, India provides a case study for exploring the relationship between copyright law and the film industry. This article fills a gap in the intellectual property scholarship literature by analysing the developments of copyright law in Colonial and post-Independence India, and tracing the development of the law to the development of the industry. This historical background serves as a foundation for analysing contemporary debates in Indian copyright law, especially as applied to the film industry. The primary findings are on the recurrrent theme of trade and copyright law, the extraterritorial application of copyright law outside India's borders, and the changing interpretation of the copyright law to reflect changes in the film industry and technology.