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A Case Against Author’s Special Rights: The pervasive nature of individual creativity

Author- Shwetha Vincent

Designation- BA LLB, OP Jindal Global University

Contact - 9840******


Copyrights are Janus faced. On one hand, they are commercial vehicles, meant to promote and protect business activities. But, on the other hand, they are guardians of artistic interest and cultural heritage. Striking a balance between these two diametrically opposed components is a challenge that the judiciary and legislature have responded to by tipping the scales in favor of art and culture. An author’s special rights exist independently of a copyright, as stated in Section 57 of the Copyrights Act. These rights are meant to protect the integrity of a work of art, and the author’s reputation along with it.

The Court has repeatedly upheld the importance of preserving an author’s special (or moral) rights. The Court’s interpretation of the author's special rights has been shaped by two inferences: firstly, that creative expression is equivalent to an individual’s creativity. This will be explored further. Secondly, that Section 57 should be interpreted widely. Hence, the terms ‘distortion, mutilation and modification’ are to be construed in the loosest form possible.The combined effect of these inferences has come at the cost of the art that the courts sought to preserve. In this article, I will make a case against the author's special rights by analyzing the Court’s flawed perception of creativity.

A critique of the Court’s interpretation of creativity is essential in dissecting Section 57. In the case of Mannu Bhandari vs Kala Vikas Pictures Pvt. Ltd, the Court analysed a film and the deviations made from the source material. In consonance with S.57, the Court stated that the deviations should be such that they do not ”mutilate” the original work. Further, the Court said that even if a film is commercially successful, it should give due recognition to the author’s work. Through this judgement, we can discern the pervasive nature of individual creativity. The book and the film are creative works in their own right. The film should not be strictly compared to the tone and message of its source. An adapter can infuse their own personality into a transformative work. The interpretation of creative works as being synonymous with the original author’s creativity defeats the purpose of creative expression. Creative works are not static. The court places the original work and the author on a pedestal, and considers deviations from the source to be “mutilations” of the original work, failing to recognize that adaptations might be sourced from one author, but are ultimately the creative expressions of another. This narrow interpretation of artistic expression benefits existing authors, while curtailing transformative and adaptive uses of copyrights, like films or spoofs.

A faithful interpretation of creativity would be one that recognized creativity in general, rather than the creativity of an individual author. Further, qualification under S.57 requires authorship. Only an author can realise his moral rights. While S.57 is to be widely construed, the interpretation of “Author” is limited. A director of a film does not automatically qualify as an author; he needs to prove that his contributions in the film are a result of artistic expression. The restrictive definitions of author and creativity give the Courts a monopoly on defining creative expression, which is the very equivalent of stifling creativity.

Interpretations of S.57 have dwelled upon the promotion of art and culture. The flaw was in a skewed perception of creativity and authorship. True creative expression is not restricted to the interpretations of an individual, even if that individual is the creator. Individual creativity is the antithesis of creativity. A more comprehensive understanding of creativity is required to realise the potential of Section 57.


  1. Amar Nath Sehgal vs Union Of India (Uoi) And Anr [2005] Delhi High Court (Delhi High Court)

  2. Mannu Bhandari vs Kala Vikas Pictures Pvt Ltd [1986] Delhi High Court (Delhi High Court).

  3. Patrick Masiyakurima, 'The Trouble With Moral Rights' (2005) 68 Modern Law Review.

  4. Sartaj Singh Pannu vs Gurbani Media Pvt Ltd & Anr [2015] Delhi High Court (Delhi High Court).








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