In Malaysia, copyright protection is provided under the Copyright Act 1987. Unlike trademarks, designs and patents (other intellectual property rights), there is no specific system of registration for copyright in Malaysia. Copyright exists as soon as the original work is created and belongs to the creator of the work automatically. Copyright protects creative works made by authors, producers, photographers, musicians, songwriters, artists, sculptors and other persons in creative businesses. Here at KASS, we provide advice to copyright owners and prepare documents for claiming copyright.
What can be protected by copyright?
Books (traditional or digital), scripts, music, pictures, videos, source codes for software, manuals/guidebooks, university journals, and other kinds of creative works or materials have special intangible rights attached to them. These rights, known as “copyrights”, are owned by the people who create the work – authors, producers, photographers, musicians, songwriters, artists and such – who can choose to do anything and everything they wish with their exclusive rights.
Copyright protects the expression of the author’s artistic and literary works and is also related to the exclusive right to prepare derivative works and to perform and display the work. Subject to the provisions of the Copyright Act 1987, artistic, literary and musical works, films, sounds recordings and broadcasts are eligible for copyright protection.
The only criteria for a creative work to be eligible for copyright is that there must have been sufficient effort applied or put into the work to make the work original and the work must be reduced to material form (so the work can be “seen” or “heard” by others). Works are eligible for copyright regardless of the quality of the work and the purpose for which they were created.
How is copyright protected in Malaysia?
Although copyright is a non-registrable right (i.e., cannot be registered) in Malaysia and enjoys automatic protection, ownership of copyright is difficult to establish. As such, proper documentation can be prepared to prove ownership. Copyright owners can claim ownership by way of a Statutory Declaration or by filing a Voluntary Notification at the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO).
Is my copyright recognized overseas?
Malaysia is a signatory of the Berne Convention and therefore, copyrighted work created in Malaysia would be recognized by each contracting member country of the Berne Convention. The list of members of the Berne Convention can be found on this website:
From a local perspective, this means that works created in Malaysia are eligible for copyright not only in Malaysia but also in the member countries of the Berne Convention around the world, including the European Union, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea, etc. Exploitation of creative works in foreign countries is thus possible for Malaysian copyright owners at little or no cost!
What rights do copyright owners have?
The owners of copyrights have the right to prevent other parties from reproducing their work or any substantial parts of their work in any material form, unless authorized by them. As the translation, adaptation and transformation of their work and applications thereof can also be prevented, owners of copyright essentially have broad rights to their pieces of work and these rights can be exploited in many profitable ways.
How long does copyright protection last?
Copyright terms differ from country to country. In Singapore, US and the EU countries for instance, copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.
Copyright in Malaysia is slightly different. In Malaysia, copyright in literary, musical and artistic works subsists during the life of the creator and continues 50 years after his/her death. This means that the estate of the deceased author, artist or designer can benefit from the copyright for a further 50 years.
Copyright in literary, musical or artistic works is released into the public domain once the duration of the copyright expires.