How Does the Creative Industry Reap its Riches?

By exploiting their copyrights, of course!


Books, music, pictures, videos and other creative works have special intangible rights attached to them, known as “copyright”. These rights are owned by the creators of the work – authors, producers, photographers, musicians, songwriters, artists and such – who can choose to do anything they wish with their exclusive rights.

The copyright owners have the right to prevent others from reproducing their work (or a substantial part) in any material form. The translation, adaptation and transformation of their work can also be prevented, so owners of copyright essentially have broad rights to their pieces of work, which can be exploited in many profitable ways.

The only criterion for a creative work to be eligible for copyright is that there is sufficient effort put into the work to make the work original and the work must be reduced to material form (so they can be “seen” or “heard” by others). Works are eligible for copyright regardless of the quality and the purpose for which they were created.

To maximise its wealth, the creative industry relies on exploiting copyright to the fullest extent. Licenses to use copyright owners’ works and adaptations thereof are common in the book publishing, music, film and TV industry. A scriptwriter approaches film and TV industry players with his original work in view of sealing a copyright licensing contract, whereas a songwriter or composer will similarly approach a music production or record company with original ideas reduced to musical notes and melodies.

An author of a book might get a publishing house to publish his books and even exploit the creative work further if the book is successful enough and he authorizes a movie studio to produce a movie based on the book. A famous instance is author J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter book series, which was turned into a wildly successful series of movies by Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. Her books made her an overnight billionaire and accorded her worldwide fame, which was further catapulted by the movies. In 2010, the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Orlando Resort opened to the public – a further example of how copyright can be capitalised on! The theme park was built by General Electric Co.’s Universal Parks & Resorts (who won the rights after beating Walt Disney Co. to build the theme park) and christened “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”.

Don’t forget that Bill Gates made and still makes his money from copyright – in computer software. Similarly, Walt Disney characters – Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the others – have generated a multibillion dollar business, all based on copyright.

Geetha K. is the Director of Trademarks and Industrial Designs Division at KASS International. She has extensive experience in handling all aspects of trademarks and designs in various industries, including pharmaceutical, food & beverage, property development, automotive and apparel industries, and manages local, regional and international portfolios. She has written articles for various local and overseas publications, such as the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA) magazine. 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