Government Babu Claiming Copyright??

A very Happy New Year to all of you. Thought I would start 2006 with a news item that may bring a few laughs. The Economic Times asks:

Should a government servant be awarded a copyright for drafting a document in the regular course of work and can he then charge a fee every time that document is used?

Apparently, “the new Model Concession Agreement (MCA) for public-private partnership projects in the road sector has created history as well as scandal by being the first government document to carry the copyright of its author, Rajasthan cadre IAS officer Gajendra Haldea.

The copyright would have entitled Haldea to a royalty fee of 1% on every contract signed, but this demand was opposed and finally shot down. However, government sources say this waiver is only for central government contracts, which means that if a state government or any other body uses Haldea’s MCA, it will have to pay him a royalty fee.”

Given India’s recent focus on building a robust IP culture, the fact that government babus are now creating and claiming IP rights is a welcome trend. It seems stupid though to suggest that copyright would vest with the author (Haldea). In most cases (i.e. absent an agreement to the contrary), copyright vests in the employer–i.e. the government. I can’t see how Haldea could claim to have created this outside the scope of employment with the government (perhaps his weekends are spent in churning out such documents in his garden??). Government clearly owns the copyright here–but it seems that the Central Government may be able to charge State Governments that wish to use this.

I cannot comment any further as the facts are not clear. And I refuse to rely fully on a news report that begins with the title “Can a govt officer claim patent for drafting a document?” when this is clearly a copyright issue.


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