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Literary Work Copyright; Benefits, Procedure and Best Practices

What are the benefits, procedure and best practices of Literary work copyright?

Literary work copyright protects the original works of authorship.

“I have created a song whose lyrics are written by me, and the complete song is composed by me along with the song title. I want to obtain copyright protection for my work to prevent myself from any copyright infringement cases. However, is it possible to claim copyright protection for my song and title?”

What type of work is considered as literary work?

In simpler words, copyright means the “right to copy”. The copyright is provided to the original authors to protect the works such as literary, dramatic, artistic, cinematographic film, and musical works

The word “literary” work certainly means the works of literature, but it’s not restricted to only literature works. It includes all types of works that can be expressed in writing, numbers, or numerical symbols, irrespective of whether they have literary merit. It does not matter in which medium they are being expressed, whether in the form of books, movies, videotapes, software, or manuscripts. For example, computer software or databases is considered a literary work. Here, the ideas of a programmer are presented in the computer software, which can be protected under the Copyright law.

Therefore, the works that are considered literary works are:

  1. The work must be unique or original. 
  2. It should not be a replica of another literary work.
  3. When it comes to literary work, more focus is given to the kind of work, nature, idea, and distribution of work. This includes tables and computer programs. 

Literary merit in Literary work copyright

In the case of University of London Press Ltd v University Tutorial Press Ltd, it was stated that it is quite difficult to properly define the term “literary merit”. However, as per the court, it is not restricted to only literary works but has a broad meaning. For example, when reading a novel, the first thing that comes into mind is the quality, the writing style, and how the author exhibits it.

Here is an article about international copyright law that you may find informative:

International Copyright Law, 2022: Top Shocking Court Cases

However, having the literary quality to be eligible for copyright protection is unnecessary. Many creations, such as travel guides and books of original quotations, can be prescribed as literary works. Other examples do not have a literary quality but have obtained copyright protection, such as a book consisting of registered bills of sale, catalogues, letters, brochures, etc. In short, literary work can be copyrighted irrespective of whether the work has a high quality and style. 

Copyright in different types of literary works

types of copyright available for literary works

Copyright in a book

Under the Copyright Act, book registration is the foremost prerequisite for acquiring copyright protection. For copyright registration, it is necessary that the book is an original creation and duly complies with the provisions of the respective jurisdictions of copyright law. Although it’s not compulsory to register for copyright protection, it’s always recommended to register the copyright to avoid any copyright disputes. Once registered, the author or the original creator will have the authority and the property rights in the book. 

Computer Program

A computer program may be termed as a set of instructions that can be presented in the form of codes, which includes a medium that can read machines and is capable of doing a specific task and achieving the targeted results. 

This type of work may be registered for copyright protection if it has covered the prerequisites of registration of copyright and the procedure to obtain copyright protection. 

Computer databases

There is no specific mention of the term “tables” or “databases” but computer databases are a part of copyright subject matter according to the Indian copyright law and UK copyright law. However, the judiciary of Indian copyright law and UK copyright law has given a specific meaning to these terms and provided the required grounds upon which they can be provided with copyright protection, such as the work must exhibit originality and creativity.

In the case of copyright in databases, the criteria of originality and creativity are fulfilled when the author has expressed his creative ability with the help of an original method for selecting or arranging the data. However, along with the originality, there should be some free space for creativity as well. 

The criteria of originality would not be satisfied when the author has set up the databases by considering some rules and technicalities and has not put any creativity into it.

 Headnotes and Short Notes

The copyright in head notes and short notes is not mentioned in any Indian or UK statute. However, some judgments provided clarity regarding the copyright in head notes. In the case of Sweet v. Benning, it was held that the head note or short note of a law report is a thing upon which relevant skills and thoughts or ideas are expressed in a clear language of the principle of law, which brings the case with the rule of law or principle.

In the case of Infoseek Solutions v. “Kerala Law Times”, the court found that a law report is the result of the exercise of skills and expression of the editor’s thoughts. A judgment that includes the entire text and is submitted as a report along with the mention of head notes, short notes, or editorial notes, and in any case, the law report expresses the originality as required by the Copyright law, such work will be regarded as an original literary work. 

Adaptation of literary work

Copyright exists if an adaptation is the original adaptation of another literary work. It can be registered when it gets proved that the author has put his original authorship. To be precise, an adaptation will exist only if the adaptation consists of originality or a new work not present in the original literary work. However, the publication of copyright would not be possible if the original copyrighted work still exists. In this case, the author of the adapted work needs to have a license or written consent from the owner of the original work. 

What cannot be copyrighted in literary work?

Literary title

The term “literary title” expresses the title of books, newspapers, TV series, music, etc. The US Copyright law has put down their view that a title alone of a literary work cannot be regarded as a copyrighted work. The subject matter of copyright law does not include only a title but includes the plot, dialogue writing, songs, etc. In the case E.M. Forster v. A.N. Parasuram, the court held that only a title cannot be provided with copyright protection. 

Blank forms

The first case that articulated copyright in blank forms is Baker v. Selden, the court held that blank forms are not protected by copyrights if they are designed to provide information and they don’t provide any new information. It is not considered for copyright protection because it lacks the criteria of originality. 


Certificates are not considered copyright subject matter because they fall under a category that lacks creativity or originality as described under the Copyright law. Certificates are often used for certain official purposes and can be used as evidence, but they only consist of some mere words and names that are generic and don’t hold any originality. 

Benefits of copyright in literary work

There are numerous benefits an original author can get through the copyright protection in literary work, such as:

  1. Copyright prevents monetary loss in case of any disputes.
  2. It keeps you safe by providing legal protection and evidence in documents used in the registration process so that you don’t have to worry about copyright infringement cases.
  3. It protects the reputations of the authors.
  4. Copyright provides an exclusive right to the author to distribute or sell his work and generate revenue from it.
  5. If your work is copyrighted, no one else can copy or reproduce your work, which would make you stand out in the commercial market.
  6. If you’re a writer or have done any literary creative work, you can make it into the public and get noticed.
  7. Having a copyright in literary work works is a precautionary measure.

Key elements of copyright registration

  1. Some prerequisites need to be followed for copyright registration, such as the work must be original, creative, and can be fixed in a tangible medium.
  2. The original author or the authorized person can reproduce or reuse his work under the copyright law.
  3. Privileges the copyright holder enjoys are the right to issue copies of his work, reproduce his work, or control the reproduction of his work by someone else, etc.
  4. Not everyone can opt for copyright protection. Only creative professionals such as cinematographers, artists, musicians, authors, and writers can opt for copyright protection and register their work under the Copyright law.
  5. The original works should be in a tangible form, which means the work must possess a physical form which can be felt or touched or have a concrete form. 

How to proceed with copyright registration?


As the registration process differs in different countries, the documents required for copyright registration may also vary. In India, the documents required for the Copyright registration are:

  1. Complete details of the applicant.
  2. The author or owner of the copyright must sign Form XIV and SOP (Statement of Particulars).
  3. If the work is published, then 1 copy is required. 2 copies if it’s unpublished.
  4. Power of Attorney is needed If the filling is done by a representative or an advocate and not by the applicant.
  5. NOC (No objection Certificate) is required if more than one applicant is involved.
  6. Statement of further Particulars is required for other copyrighted works but not for cinematography films.


  1. Before starting with the registration, uploading a copy of your original work during the registration process is essential. 
  2. Firstly, you will be asked to enter your contact details for your account, such as email address and telephone number, and once you have filled it out and read the terms and conditions, click on the terms and conditions button.
  3. Then, you need to enter the details of your work and upload the relevant files
  4. Pay the required fees for registration, and the work will be registered.


Here are the three essential steps to guide you through the process of registration in the US:

  • Start by ensuring that your work qualifies for copyright protection. If you’ve created something for an employer, it likely falls under their copyright, negating the need for individual registration.
  • File a copyright registration application, a user-friendly process accessible to anyone. You can locate the application on Registering your copyright is particularly crucial if you ever need to take legal action against copyright infringement. The filing fee for copyright registration typically ranges from $35 to $55.
  • Alongside your registration application, include a copy of the material you intend to copyright. This step finalizes the registration process.

To sum up

Copyright laws consist of numerous provisions that show how an original author can benefit and get the deserving results for his hard work. The same is the case for literary works, where some are copyrightable, and some don’t fall under the copyright subject matter. It gives you a clear understanding of which work you can claim for copyright protection and which not. If you realize that your literary work falls under the copyrightable matter, only apply for copyright registration. 

Click here for your next interesting read on copyright infringement through social media platforms

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