Literary work copyright

Literary Work Copyright; Benefits, Procedure and Best Practices

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 in order to prevent myself from any copyright infringement cases. However, is it possible to claim for copyright protection both for my song and the song title.”

What type of works is considered as literary work ?

In a simpler word, a 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 tells that it means the works of literature but it’s not restricted to only literature works. It includes all types of works which can be expressed in writing, numbers, or numerical symbols, irrespective of the fact that they have literary merit or not. It does not matter in which medium they are being expressed whether it’s in the form of books, movies, video tapes, software or manuscripts. For example, computer software or computer databases is considered as 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 as 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, the more focus is given upon the kind of work, nature, idea and the distribution of work. This includes tables and computer programs. 
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Literary Work Copyright
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Literary merit

In the case 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 seemed that it is not restricted to only literary works but has a broad meaning. For example, when one reads a novel, the first thing that comes into the mind is the quality, the writing style, and the way the author exhibits it.

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

International Copyright Law, 2022: Top Shocking Court Cases

However, it’s not necessary to have the literary quality for being considered as eligible to obtain the copyright protection. Many creations such as travel guides and books of original quotations can be prescribed as literary works. There are other examples which do not have a literary quality but have obtained copyright protection, such as a book consisting of a list of registered bills of sale, catalogs, letters, brochures etc. In short, we can say that literary work can be copyrighted irrespective of whether the work has a high level of quality and style. 

Under the Copyright Act, registration of a book is the foremost prerequisite for acquiring the copyright protection over it. For the purpose of registration of copyright, it is necessary that the book is an original creation and duly comply 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 in order to avoid any copyright disputes. Once it is 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 capable of doing a specific task and achieving the targeted results. 

This type of work may be registered for the purpose of 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 the computer databases are a part of copyright subject matter as 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 case of copyright in databases, the criteria of originality and creativity is fulfilled when the author has expressed his creative ability with the help of an original method for selection or arrangement of 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, technicality and has not put any creativity in it.

Head notes and Short notes

The copyright in head notes and short notes is not mentioned in any Indian statute or in UK statute. However, some judgements 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 principle of law which bring the case with 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 thoughts of the editor. A judgment which includes the entire text and is submitted as a report along with the mention of head notes or 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, we can say that an adaptation will subsist only if the adaptation consists of originality or a new work which is 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 a written consent from the owner of the original work. 

What cannot be copyrighted in literary work ?

Literary title

The term “literary title” is used to express 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 which articulated about copyright in blank forms is Baker v. Selden, the court held that the blank forms are not protected by copyrights if they are designed to provide information and they themselves don’t provide any new information. It is not considered for copyright protection because it lacks the criteria of originality. 


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

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 the form of documents used in the process of registration 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 then 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 then you can make it into the public and get noticed for your work.
  7. Having a copyright in literary work works as a precautionary measure.
  1. There are some prerequisites needed 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 enjoyed by the copyright holder are the right to issue copies of his work, can reproduce his work or control the reproduction of his work by someone else, etc.
  4. Not everyone can opt for copyright protection, only the 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, it means the work must possess a physical form which can be felt or touched or have a concrete form. 


As the registration process is different in different countries, 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 a published work, then 1 copy is required. 2 copies if it’s an unpublished work.
  4. Power of Attorney is needed If the filling is being 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 in this process.
  6. Statement of further Particulars is required for other copyrighted works but not for cinematography films.


  1. Before starting with the registration, it’s essential to upload a copy of your original work during the registration process. 
  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 up 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.

To sum up

Copyright laws consist of numerous provisions which show how an original author can be benefitted and get the deserving results for his hard work. The same is the case for literary works, where there are some literary works which are copyrightable in nature 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 then only apply for copyright registration. 

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