A copyright is essentially a set of exclusive rights in literary, musical, choreographic, dramatic and other artistic works and concerns the legal protection of creativity. Copyright therefore, involves objects of great fun and immense pleasure; in short anything that adds colour, variety, entertainment, pleasure and joy to our lives and to those around us. Have you ever imagined a world bereft of books, poetry, music, art, drama and movies?
The rights under copyright are automatically awarded to encourage the creative efforts of authors and artists by securing the exclusive right to reproduce their works and derive income from them. This in turn stimulates creative activity leading to increased economic or cultural enrichment and enhanced quality of life. Gone are the days of passionate artists churning out works with altruistic indifference to the flows of remuneration.!
The sine qua non of Copyright
Copyright is available for “original” works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. Original, as the term is used in copyright, means that the work was independently created by the author (as opposed to copied from other works), and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. One cannot therefore, use without authorization or claim ownership over another’s work be it music, writing, art, film, choreography, etc.
The deposit/registration process
Our copyright law, in keeping with international norm and practice does not require any formalities for the exercise and enjoyment of the rights. There is no need to register the work with the Copyright Office nor with any other agency of the Government. We are however, studying the benefits of starting a voluntary deposit and registration system for copyright works. The obvious benefits could be to have a repository of historical and cultural heritage and to serve as prima facie evidence in times of litigation. But this exercise would remain a merely discretionary option for use of the right holders.
The reach of Copyright
The copyright law like most other laws is limited by its territorial nature, it can govern only within the geographical boundaries of a particular country. It is therefore, far-fetched and even preposterous to expect that by having a good domestic law in place here, one could expect to stop piracy and infringements taking place across the border or in the far reaches of Lhasa.
The reach of copyright law and its protective arms can however, be extended through the membership of regional and international conventions whose guiding principle is that authors/creators of works published in contracting states, irrespective of their nationality, should be treated without discrimination under the national law of a member country and without being subjected to any formalities. As it is only through such treaty relationships that we can safeguard and secure protection for the works of our nationals abroad Bhutan joined the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 2004.
A quid pro quo relationship
Having a copyright law is indeed, like a double-edged sword which can cut both ways; It provides us with legal teeth to sue for infringements of our rights but it also provides other concerned parties with the same set of teeth to bite us back if their rights have been infringed by us. Take the case of Bhutan and India, our closest friend and next-door neighbour since both States are contracting parties of the Berne Convention. If our copyright works are pirated in India for instance, we can seek protection under the Convention but this situation is vice versa; our local authors and creators also have an even greater obligation to refrain in-fact to desist, from using, copying, translating or adapting Bollyhood music, lyrics, film scores and story line into our local works as this makes us equally vulnerable and prone to similar lawsuits. The law safeguards our rights but should also deter us from making use of others work without authorization.
The most fundamental axiom of Copyright law is:
Do not copy unless you have permission or are sure it is in the public domain.
The right-holders duty
Our Copyright Law was passed by the 79th session of our National Assembly in 2001 and several National Seminars have also been organized for the right holders and users of Copyright works as well for the enforcement agencies. Awareness and outreach activities have also been conducted among our school children, the local artists and the general public to coincide with the World Intellectual Property Day on 26 April starting from 2003.
The responsibility is now placed on the right holders and the owners of copyright works to be vigilant in both safeguarding and in protecting their rights as it is only through strict and timely enforcement that more lasting awareness of and greater appreciation of the intrinsic value of respecting others creative works can be fostered.
Laws not enforced cease to be laws, and rights not defended may wither away.
- Thomas Moriarty