Art and Indian Copyright Law: A Statutory Reading

A look at how the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, as amended in 2012, interacts with art (other than films and sound recordings), and, in particular, with Indian art. The first part of this text comprises a feminist and post-colonial reading of the Indian copyright statute while later parts focus on interpreting the provisions of the statute in relation to art.

10 March 2018

[Presentation] Indian Art and Copyright Law

I recently spoke of Indian art and copyright protection. The 1957 Copyright Act which governs the field isn't particularly well-suited to protecting indigenous art. Its predecessors were brought to India by the British in the 1840s, and were thrust on to the country without substantive Indian input worth mentioning. The result has been that the first 'Indian' copyright law of 1847 was closely tethered to Western artistic practices, and indigenous Indian art was sidelined.

Our current copyright law too echoes those early 19th century statutes, and, given that our hands are also now tied by international treaty, there's little that we can do to change the underlying structure of the law. We can, however, attempt to mould copyright law to protect indigenous Indian art even without sui generis legislation. Whether we should do so is another matter altogether considering that the interaction between protected and public domain cultural artifacts is often murky.

This is a subject I've been interested in for some years now. (This is how I see the Indian Copyright Act with reference to art: SSRN) Over here, I've shared a draft of the presentation I used, which provides an overview of the law and the issues involved in protecting Indian art: Slideshare.


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