Copyright in the Creative Industry

Almost everyone owns some form of copyright. Those who are in the creative industry – the creators, designers, authors, composers, songwriters, film makers and their investors – should be aware of the special rights subsisting in their creative works. For example, I own the copyright in this article. Anyone who wants to publish the article would first need my permission. I can either charge the person seeking to use my work a certain fee in return for permission to do so, or provide consent without a fee. Likewise, if anyone wants to translate my work into a different language, my permission is again required. Usage of copyright without the owner’s permission is an unlawful act termed as “copyright infringement”.

What constitutes as copyright infringement?

Infringement of copyright can happen when works – such as paintings, books, computer software, films and music – are reproduced or communicated without permission from the copyright owners (including communication over the Internet).

Unauthorized reproduction and distribution of music content, unauthorized downloading of copyrighted material and sharing of recorded music over the Internet are common types of copyright infringement. Making copies of a book and selling them is also copyright infringement. Taking photos off the web and using them without proper attribution is copyright infringement and so is making prints of a painting. Infringement can also occur when works such as plays and films are performed or screened without permission from the copyright owner. A person who sells infringing versions of a work, even if somebody else made them, is in breach of copyright as well. In general, any use of an original work created by someone else is off limits without their prior consent. Use without the owners’ consent may cause serious legal implications.

In Malaysia, copyright owners could rely on the Copyright Act 1987 and sue the copycats, claiming for remedies against the copyright infringement. Among the remedies is obtaining an injunction to prohibit future copying or to compensate for loss of sales and damages.

Geetha K. is the Director of Trademarks and Industrial Designs Division at KASS International. Her comments on case law in Malaysia and Singapore have also been quoted in publications abroad such as Asia IP magazine and Managing Intellectual Property magazine, a Euromoney Publication (UK). If you have any queries or need more information, please visit or drop an e-mail to