What Is ‘Adaptation’ Under Copyright Law?

Copyright is ‘the exclusive right given by law for certain terms of years to an author, composer, etc. (or is assigned) to print, publish and sell copies of his original work’. The subject matter of copyright was restricted to protect the literary and artistic work. But now the scope of copyright has increased, and it covers dramatic and musical cinematograph films. Thus copyright was originally intended for the protection of authors, artists, and composers and to provide a legal foundation for the numerous transactions regarding payment to the authors, artists, and composers for their work. Adaptation is a work which is essentially the same as the original work although there may be a change in the format.

Copyright also includes neighboring rights that consist of the right of performers, rights of broadcasting organization and rights of producers of phonograms. The primary function of copyright law is to protect from exploitation by other people the fruits of someone’s work, labor, skill or taste. 

Copyright is an intangible property in nature. The owner creates the subject matter of the copyrights thus it becomes his property, and he can dispose of it by sale or license it. Ideas and thoughts are not protected under copyright law as they are not considered works of copyright law. But once it is reduced to writing or another material form it becomes worthy of copyright protection. Copyright Registration process is the creation of statute. It is granted and protected under the Copyright Act. It is not a single right it is a bundle of rights. Those rights are:

  • Right to reproduce the copyrighted work;
  • Right to prepare derivative work based upon the copyrighted work;
  • Right to distribute copies of copyrighted work to the public;
  • Right to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
  • Right to display the copyrighted work publicly.

Copyright also protects ‘derivative works’ that includes translation, adaptation, an arrangement of music and other alteration and modification of literary and artistic work- all receive the same protection as original works. Adaptation is generally perceived as a modification of original work to create another work. For example- adapting a novel to make a film or adopting a textbook that is originally written by universities, to make it suitable for a lower level. In some countries, their legislation addresses adaptation as a separate right known as adaptation right. This right entitles the copyright owner to authorize or prohibit the creation and use of derivative works. The author of adaptation has her own copyright in derivative work it fulfills the conditions for protection. Section 2(a) of the Copyright Act, 1957 defines the word adaptation.

You may also like to read: Collective Trademark in India

An adaptation under Indian law is basically a change of format i.e. a copyrighted work is converted from one format to another. If an adaptation is created by adding a significant amount of new material, then such work would not be considered as an adaptation under the Indian Copyright Act. The copyright in a derivative work will only extend to the material contributed by the adapter and does not affect the copyright protection given to the original material. According to copyright theory, adaptation is a work which is essentially the same as the original work although there may be a change in the format.

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