Why Intellectual Property Rights

Dec 2022

Intellectual property rights create a situation in which the inventor or the creator enjoys full ownership and rights to commercial exploitation of his creation while everyone else is excluded. The justification is that such a creation, if it has material value, must benefit the creator while preventing others who would otherwise commercially exploit the concept without paying for it thus excluding the creator from its benefits.

However, this has been the subject of debate since introduction of the concept and there are various theories propounded for and against grant of such rights. A couple of these theories are discussed below.

From the perspective of Finance

Jurists across the world favour this argument on the premise that anyone who has invested time, efforts and physical as well as mental efforts has an undisputed right to enjoy its benefits and unless there is an incentive or rewards no man will make any intellectual effort to innovate, invent or create. Society, as a whole, benefits and must repay the creator.

The principle of natural rights

A person must enjoy the fruits of his labour, whether these emanate from physical work or mental efforts or a combination of both as well as other resources including time. It is natural right for such a person to claim undisputed possession and rights to his creation and efforts.

Applying Copyright laws

Any author claiming ownership and copyright protection must comply with requirements of copyright laws such as:

Identifiability

The law requires that the idea and its author must be distinctly identifiable as being unique and original creator of the product of that idea. IP laws confer ownership rights on the author so that he may benefit commercially or otherwise. However, there is no mandated test to identify originality or imaginativeness of the idea but it lies in the novel and creative expression of the idea.

Originality

Copyright law and Article 2.1 of the Berne Convention stipulate that the outcome of an idea must have a distinctive creative style expressed by the creator. The idea need not be original but the way it is expressed does. Value of work or its purpose does not influence protection. Protection gives freedom to author to exploit his work and prevent others.

Duration

Duration varies from one country to another and it is also related to type of work, whether it is the output of an individual or a corporate entity and whether it is published or not. Regardless, there is a limit after which work is in public domain. 50 years is the minimum with countries to extend the period at their discretion.

Key condition

An idea is nebulous. Transforming into a recognizable material creation is a key condition for claiming rights and protection. Berne Convention’s article 2.1 specifies that even oral works such as lectures, sermons and similar are protected, which can be interpreted to mean that material form is not necessarily a pre-requisite for protection.

The sphere of Copyright

Copyright laws define extent of protection to the author and refusal of access to others unless expressly authorized by the author for specific purpose for a defined or undefined time period. An author has exclusive rights, mainly economic in nature as well as moral rights. Moral rights give him rights to object to misuse or distortion of his work and withdraw copyright licence if such misuse tarnishes his reputation.

Copyright owner may grant licence to:

  • Copy his work (and sell it)
  • Perform in public
  • Reproduce the work
  • Make an audio recording or motion picture o both
  • Broadcast through media
  • Translate
  • Adapt it with or without modification.

Associated rights cover:

  • Rights of performing artists
  • Rights of producers of audio recordings
  • Rights of broadcasting organization for audio or audiovisual broadcasts

Those who assist authors to disseminate their works also have rights and protection.

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