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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 223
January 21, 2006

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Law Education

Copyright law in Bangladesh

Mohammad Monirul Azam

Copyright is a right given by the law to creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings etc. In fact, it is a bundle of rights including, inter alia, rights of reproduction, communication to the public, adaptation and translation of the work. However, there could be slight variations in the composition of the rights depending on the work. There is no copyright in ideas. Copyright subsists only in the material form in which the ideas are expressed.

There is an acute lack of awareness on various issues relating to copyright and related rights amongst stakeholders, enforcement agencies, professional users like the scientific and academic communities and members of the public. In this article, an attempt has been made to provide a basic idea and clarifications on most of the issues relating to copyright law and its enforcement

Objectives of copyright law
The importance of copyright was recognized only after the invention of printing press, which enabled the large production of books in large quantity practicable. However, the prime objective of copyright law is to encourage authors, composers, artists and designers to create original works by rewarding them with the exclusive right for a limited period to exploit the work for monetary gain. It protects the writer or creator of the original work from the unauthorized reproduction or exploitation of his materials.

Copyright ensures certain minimum safeguards of the rights of authors over their creations, thereby protecting and rewarding creativity. Creativity being the keystone of progress, no civilized society can afford to ignore the basic requirement of encouraging the same. Economic and social development of a society is dependent on creativity. The protection provided by copyright to the efforts of writers, artists, designers, dramatists, musicians, architects and producers of sound recordings, cinematograph films and computer software, creates an atmosphere conducive to creativity, which induces them to create more and motivates others to create.

Domestic laws
In Bangladesh (during the time of the then British regime), the first legislation of its kind, on copyright was introduced in 1914, which was mainly based on the British Copyright law of 1911. After the independence from the colonial rule, new law was promulgated in 1962. The Copyright Ordinance, 1962 is replaced again in 2000 by a new copyright Act, according to the prevailing situation in the Bangladesh and around the world.

Nature and scope of protection
Copyright subsists in original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works etc and relates to the expression of thought, but the expression need not be original or novel. However, to accord copyright, following factors, are taken into consideration-

  • The work must not be copied from another work but must originate from the author.
  • Two authors independently producing an identical work will be entitled for copyright in their respective works.
  • The emphasis is more on the labor, skill judgment and capital expended in producing the work.
  • Section 14 and 15 of the Copyright Act, 2000 laid down the broad scope of copyright protection. A copyright more or less gives the right to do and authorize the doing of any of the following acts, namely-
    1. to reproduce the work in any material form;
    2. to publish the work;
    3. to perform the work in public;
    4. to produce ,reproduce ,perform or publish any translation of the work;
    5. to make any cinematographic film or a record in respect of work;
    6. to communicate the work by broadcast or to communicate to the public by loud-speaker or any other similar instrument the broadcast of the work;
    7. to make any adaptation of work etc.

Ownership of copyright
The author of the work is the first owner.

  • In case the author is employed by newspaper, magazine etc under a contract of service, the proprietor will be the first owner in the absence of an agreement to the contrary in the case of a literary, dramatic or artistic work.
  • Where a photograph is taken, or a painting or portrait drawn for a valuable consideration at the instance of person, such person is the first owner.
  • Where any address or speech is delivered in public, the person delivering is the first owner and where it is delivered on behalf of another person such other person is the first owner.
  • In case of Government work, Government shall be the first owner.

In case of work made or published by or under any public undertaking, it shall be the first owner.

Copyright board
The Copyright Act provides for a quasi-judicial body called the Copyright Board consisting of a Chairman and two or more, but not exceeding six, other members for dealing with copyright issues. The Chairman of the Board is either a present or former district judge or a civil servant having the status of Additional Secretary or a lawyer having the qualification to become a judge of the High Court Division. The Board has the power to:
i. hear appeals against the orders of the Registrar of Copyright;
ii. hear applications for rectification of entries in the Register of Copyrights;
iii. adjudicate upon disputes on assignment of copyright;
iv. grant compulsory licenses to publish or republish works (in certain circumstances);
v. grant compulsory license to produce and publish a translation of a literary or dramatic work in any language after a period of one, five or seven years as the case may be, from the first publication of the work;
vi. hear and decide disputes as to whether a work has been published or about the date of publication or about the term of copyright of a work in another country;
vii. fix rates of royalties in respect of sound recordings under the cover-version provision; and
viii. fix the resale share right in original copies of a painting, a sculpture or a drawing and of original manuscripts of a literary or dramatic or musical work.

Procedure to obtain copyright
In order to secure copyright protection what is required is that the author must have bestowed upon the work sufficient judgment, skill and labor or capital. It is immaterial whether the work is wise or foolish, accurate or inaccurate or whether it has or has not any literary merit. In order to qualify for copyrights the works apart from being original, should satisfy the following conditions (except in he case of foreign works)
1. The work is first published in Bangladesh.
2. Where the work is first published outside Bangladesh the author, at the date of publication must be a citizen of Bangladesh. If the publication was made after the authors' death the author must have been at the time of his death a citizen of Bangladesh.
3. In case of unpublished work the author is at the date of making the work a citizen of Bangladesh or domiciled in Bangladesh.
4. In case of the architectural work of art, the work is located in Bangladesh.

Registration of copyright
The steps for Registration
1. Application in triplicate with prescribed fees.
2. To serve notice of concerned application to every person who has any interest in the subject matter of that application.
3. If the Registrar receives any objection he may after holding such inquiry as he deems fit, enter such particulars of work in the register of copyright, which he considers proper.
Registrar then sends copies of the entries made in the register to the parties concerned.

Next part of the story will be published on January 28, 2006.

The Author is Lecturer, Department of Law, University of Chittagong.


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