Doctrine of Fixation Under Copyright Law

One of the most crucial principles of copyright law is the doctrine of fixation, which states that any work must be expressed in a tangible medium or a permanent form to be protected by copyright. The Berne Convention, one of the most significant international agreements, allows its member nations to require fixation as a condition for receiving copyright protection. The same is stated in section 2 of Article 2 of the Berne Convention.

Most nations, including France, Spain, and Australia, do not require the work to be tangible or permanent to receive copyright protection, in contrast to civil law nations like Canada and the United States, which do.

Bare Act PDFs

This article presents an overview of the doctrine of fixation, including its definition, advantages, drawbacks, and relevant case laws.

Understanding the Doctrine of Fixation

In essence, a work is deemed fixed when it is recorded on media that can be viewed, heard, and reproduced. For instance, humming a song won’t get you copyright protection unless you write it down on paper. In this situation, the paper serves as the vehicle for the song’s perception, communication and reproduction. The song can also be fixed by voice-recording it. Similarly, when a computer program is saved in its memory, it is regarded as fixed.

In India, the following conditions must be met for a work to be copyright-protected:

  1. A “work” as that term is defined in section 13 of the Indian Copyright Act of 1957.
  2. The work must be original.
  3. The work has to be fixed in a tangible manner.

Tangible means something that can be clearly seen to exist or perceptible to touch.

The Copyright Manual on Registration of Artistic Works and Incidental Issues states in its foreword that:

Bare Act PDFs

“Copyright is a form of protection provided by the Indian legislature to authors/owners of original works of authorship from the time the works are created and expressed in a tangible form.”

Even though the Indian Copyright Act of 1957 does not expressly lay down the above requirement. There is a lot of misunderstanding since the manual does not explain what “tangible form” implies or to what degree it applies. This means that the manual does not cover the matter.

Benefits of Doctrine of Fixation

1. One of the most crucial advantages of the doctrine of fixation is that it facilitates the legal determination process.

2. The fixed work might serve as documentary proof in legal conflicts.

3. The author benefits since his work may be sold, leased, assigned, or licenced, and as a result, the author makes money and benefits financially.

4. The doctrine of fixation makes it easier and more efficient for courts of law and creators to carry out administrative tasks.

Limitations of Doctrine of Fixation

1. The requirement of fixation determines which works can be eligible for copyright protection, but it does not specify the duration of that protection. The duration refers to when the period of protection begins.

2. There is an imbalance between the thriving contemporary art scene and the constraining nature of the fixation requirement. As artistic forms and creations continue to evolve and expand in their expressive possibilities, the condition of fixation, as defined and implemented, restricts their protection. This can hinder the rights of creators and limit the scope of copyright protection for innovative art forms.

It is crucial to recognise that copyright law was created during the age of print and that without constant revisions, it would be challenging to accommodate modern forms of expression that go well beyond print. Since the essential value of many copyrighted works consists in their ideas and images, with the physical manifestation functioning as nothing more than a means of conveyance, scholars have drawn attention to the irony and problems surrounding the fixation requirement. Therefore, an effort should be made to address these issues so that copyright management is simple.

Case Laws

The following two case laws specifically address the “Doctrine of Fixation.” This doctrine is related to copyright protection and deals with the requirement for creative works to be expressed in a tangible form to qualify for copyright protection.

In the case of Emergent Genetics India Pvt Ltd vs Shailendra Shivam And Ors, the defence attorney contended that the Berne Convention gives the work the freedom to exist in a physical form or not. Even though the court rejected the arguments, they will still be valid until the legislature clarifies the doctrine’s stance. Such views, however, are still in the minority, and fixation is seen as a need for obtaining copyright protection in India.

When evaluating the copyright of the topic of a Hindi film, the court in Shree Venkatesh Films Pvt Ltd vs Vipul Amrutlal Shah & Ors concluded that copyright only exists when the idea is transformed into a literary work that is in physical form. Although Indian law has not yet implemented the fixation requirement in its Act, the judiciary has demonstrated via instances that India adheres to the doctrine of fixation.


A fundamental principle of copyright law is the doctrine of fixation, which demands that works be expressed in a physical or long-lasting form to be eligible for protection. It helps the management of copyright, assists in legal determination, offers proof in disputes, allows creators to make money from their works, and aids in legal decisions. There are downsides, too, such as the ambiguity around the length of protection and the possible limitations it places on current creative forms.

Addressing these issues and re-evaluating the fixation requirement’s applicability is crucial in light of new forms of creative expression as technology develops. Copyright law should be flexible enough to consider how creative works change over time while balancing privacy protection and open access. The concept of fixation can continue to play a crucial role in promoting innovation and defending authors’ rights in the digital age by addressing these issues.

Gayatri Singh
WritingLaw » Law Notes » Doctrine of Fixation Under Copyright Law Law Study Material
If you are a regular reader, please consider buying the Law PDFs and MCQ Tests. You will love them. You may also support us with any amount you like. Thank You.