Blog Intellectual Property Law

Role of IP in the Media Industry

By: Ilakkiya Kamaraj


“Is there anyone who hates entertainment?” The media has never stopped entertaining us. It plays an important role in our lives from fascinating us through films to feeding our brains with up to date information about the happenings in the world. From one corner of the world, we can know the happenings of another part of the world through media. That too in this internet world we can access each and every information or watch films through phones anywhere and everywhere. Media is such a wide area which plays an important role in our lives needs a sort of protection for the work of its people’s work. Such protection can be given to media by Intellectual property. Intellectual property protection is used in various fields. In this paper, we are going to see how IP’s role is important in protecting the works of media.

Intellectual property:

The ownership of any creation of the mind or ideas or designs by a person is known as Intellectual property. IP can be categorized into many types but the most widely used IP are patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.

  • A right granted to a person for his/ her invention is called a patent. It prevents usage of one’s invention by others illegally. The inventor can sell, use, distribute, create, import or export their invention for over 20 years once his/ her work is patented.

“A person has an entitlement to an invention if that person’s contribution, either solely or jointly with others, had a material effect on the final concept of the invention”.[1]

  • Protection of logos and brand names used on various goods and services is known as a trademark.
  • Copyright is used to protect creators artistic works such as music, films, paintings, technical drawings, computer programs etc.,
  • Any secrets related to a company’s business protected, to avoid its accessible by its competitors is referred to as trade secret.

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Intellectual property is very important for protecting one’s innovation. If IP is not in use there are high chances for many individuals and businesses to lose their rights to their innovation.


The storage and delivery of information or data through various modes like radio, television, mobile phones, magazines, newspapers, internet etc., are referred to as media. The information is disseminated as films, news, music, promotional messages etc., Since media consists of artistic work from one’s own knowledge, an individual must protect his/ her work through media. There is how IP plays a very important role in protecting the works of media.

IP’s role in media industry:

We all love movies! But to make a scene and combine it into a movie involves many various complicated works. From making movies to shaping every stage of the filmmaking process Intellectual property rights play a vital role.

  1. Copyright in media:

As copyright protects the artistic ideas of individuals it is considered as the lifeblood for media. Copyright guarantees the protection of creative minds without affecting the creation of new media and protects the creators work from the usage of others without their permission. The copyright of the original material is mandatory nowadays, as a lot of competition has emerged in the entertainment industry.

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  • A public record of the work is registered.
  • Provides with economic benefits such as broadcasting the work, making copies etc.,
  • Filing a lawsuit and taking legal action is enabled when copyright is registered. Legal evidence of one’s own can be obtained.

Passing the rights of one’s work is allowed and one can change the form of his/her work.[2]

  1. Trademark in the media industry:

Any symbol, design, word or phrase that differentiates the goods of one company from others is referred to as a trademark. In media, a trademark is used to protect a movie’s brand or merchandise in connection to it. In media trademark law protects every title of a movie, album, music, famous characters etc., For instance, Disney has its own logo, the same goes for Pixar, discovery and many other channels as its logo to stand out from the crowd in the market. Similarly, movie titles like star wars, harry potter can also be protected using the trademark.[3]


  • The exclusive right of the trade can be enjoyed by the owner.
  • There will be no infringement.
  • Big brand names act as a magnet and attract young minds.


Character merchandising is one of the ways to generate income. In a case where the unauthorised sale of dolls resembling a famous pop singer without their permission injunction was granted for the tort of passing off by the Delhi High Court to the third party.[4]

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  • Patent in media industry:

Just like trademark and copyrights patent also plays an important role in media. Making the film is not an easy task. It needs funding and substantial efforts. It involves lighting, sound effects, editing, special effects etc., Patent is used to protect the innovation of a person which is considered as the eye of filmmaking. By patenting, third parties are excluded from using or selling another person’s product without permission.


  • Restricting the competition in regards to a particular invention.
  • Inventor’s monopoly is been safeguarded with patent registration.
  • The inventor has the right of royalty when he decides to license his product.
  • Patent registration helps in start-ups and small business entities.
  • The credibility of the company in the market increases through patent registration.
  • In media to begin an industry patent registration is necessary.

Laws protecting IP in the media industry:

Therefore copyright, patent and trademark act as a shield for the media industry. Recognition of the rights of the creators and protection against infringement of content are guaranteed through copyright. Whereas the key characters of a film, movie titles and other related elements are protected through trademark. Though there are IP rights for protection, violation of IP rights, trademark and copyright are being infringed as the media industry expands.

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India being a signatory of the TRIPS agreement and other International IP treaties helps in avoidance of misuse and protection of IP. There are certain laws in India in order to prevent such misuse in the media and entertainment industry. They are.,

  • The Copyright Act, 1957
  • The Trademark Act, 1999
  1. The Copyright act, 1957:
  • Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957 defines copyright as the right given over a work to do or to authorise to do that work.
  • If the own work of any individual is been infringed in India then the person who infringed would be punished under section 63 of the copyright act, 1957. If a suit is pending before the civil court then the criminal court cannot give a finding on the infringement of copyright.[5]
  • The Bombay High Court held that the act of the infringer will be preposterous if he attributed infringement without knowing that owner of the copyright has registered under section 44 of the Act.[6]

De minimis infringement:

The principle of “de minimis non-curat lex” that is “the law does not concern itself with trifles” applies to copyright. A court has the authority to apply the de minimus principle in a lawsuit if it is of trivial matter. For instance, the De minimus doctrine is used in music sampling where a music w is modified by sound engineers from a small portion of music work and incorporated in new musical work.[7]

In the case of the India Independent News v Yashraj Films Pvt Ltd[8]., the doctrine of De minimus was applied to decide copyright infringement where parts of popular songs were played in a singer’s interview who appeared on a television chat show. It was held that it was not actionable as the alleged infringement was deemed de minimus.

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  1. The Trademark Act, 1999:

Under the trademark act, the name of songs, music albums, movie titles and their famous characters are being protected.


There are few conditions for the protection of titles and symbols under the trademark act. They are;

  • There must be originality of titles and phrases. Titles should be unique; if not the general ones will not be protected under trademark.
  • Single film titles will not be trademarked. Series of films such as harry potter, Narnia and series like F.R.I.E.N.D.S, money heist etc., can be protected under trademark.

Social media and IP:

The Internet has grown so fast with the evolution of time. In the early days, there was only a television mode of media. And therefore the risk of infringement has been less. There are plenty of content creators on online platforms nowadays. For example youtube. Online platforms also follow strict policies such as copyright verification programs, copyright strikes etc.,

The Bombay High Court held in the case of the Marico Limited v Abhijeet Bhansali[9], that the suit constituted by the defendant cannot be taken into legal action has his video was just his opinion.

Rights of celebrities:

Celebrities’ images are used without their knowledge and have been misused. Both copyright and trademark act protect celebrity rights in India. In addition to these, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also tries to protect celebrity rights.

Under copyright act sections 38 and 39 covers celebrity rights.

Section 38 of the copyright act- the performer’s right is provided to any performer concerning his performance for fifty years.

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Section 39 of the copyright act- a person will be held liable for infringement if he takes the recording of the performance of the performer without his consent.


IP plays a major role in keeping the media industry running smoothly without any problem. Movies are protected through IP. Everything we experience, hear or see-through media is covered by IP. Intellectual property and media should go hand in hand. If IP is not there media would have been at high risk. Everything from television serials to Netflix series involves huge funds and labour of various people such as cameraman, director, producer, screenwriter, actors etc. Therefore protection of such work from infringement is mandatory. Such a role of protection can be given only by Intellectual property. Therefore intellectual property plays a very important and dominant role in the media industry.

[1] Row Weeder Pty Ltd. v. Nielsen, 39 IPR 400 (1997).

[3]CS Prachi Prajapati, Advantages Of Registering Trademark, LEGAL WIZ (Jul. 31, 2017, 11:15 AM),

[4] DM entertainment v. Baby Gift House, MANU/DE/2043/2010.

[5] Cheran P Joseph v. K. Prabhakaran Nair, 1517 CriLJ  (1967).

[6] Dhiraj Dharamdas v. M/s Sonal Info Systems Pvt Ltd, 3 MhLJ 888 (2012).

[7] De Minimus Use, USLEGAL (Aug. 25, 2019, 09:30 AM),

[8]  53 PTC 586 (2013).

[9] 1094 COMIP 596 (2019).

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