Copyright Law in Malaysia: How to Ensure Exclusive Rights

Copyright Law in Malaysia: How to Ensure Exclusive Rights

Having a thorough understanding of copyright law in Malaysia is pertinent in safeguarding the value of your work. In this article, we cover what you need to know about copyright, from its definition to the rights of copyright owners and copyright infringements. 

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is one of the many forms of intellectual property rights that safeguard creative works produced by people in the creative businesses, such as authors, photographers, songwriters, musicians, producers, artists, copyright owners, and performers. 

In addition, copyright protects the exclusive right to create derivative works as well as to perform and display the original work. In Malaysia, the legal framework for copyright is governed under the Copyright Act 1987. 

Copyright Law in Malaysia

In Malaysia, unlike patents, trademarks, and industrial designs, there is no registration process for copyright. Instead, copyright works immediately upon the creation of an original work and is inherently owned by the creator without the need for additional actions or procedures.

Since copyright cannot be registered in Malaysia, it can be challenging to establish ownership of the copyright. Therefore, it is advisable to prepare and create proper documentation for ownership verification. 

To do so, copyright owners can submit a Copyright Voluntary Notification to the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO). Owners can also establish their ownership through a Statutory Declaration.

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What Works Are Protected by Copyright Law in Malaysia

A broad range of works is covered by the Copyright Act. Any eligible work is automatically safeguarded under the Act, provided that certain conditions are met: 

  • Sufficient effort has been expended to make the work original in character; 
  • The work has been written down, recorded, or otherwise reduced to material form;
  • The creator is a qualified person, or the work was created in Malaysia, or the work was first published in Malaysia.

The list of work protected under the Copyright Act includes:

  • Musical works
  • Artistic works (paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, diagrams, maps, charts, engravings, etc.)
  • Literary works (books, articles, plays, pamphlets, scripts, memoranda, tables, reports, compilations, etc.)
  • Broadcasts
  • Sound recordings
  • Films
  • Derivative works

Period of Copyright Protection in Malaysia

The period of copyright protection differs from one country to another. Below are the duration of copyright protection in Malaysia:

1. Literary, Musical or Artistic Works

Firstly, the copyright protection for these categories typically lasts for the duration of the author’s life and 50 years after their death. This means that the copyright can be used for another 50 years by the estate of the deceased author.

2. Film, Sound Recordings, and Performer

Furthermore, copyright for films, sound recordings, and performances subsists for 50 years beginning from the date of publication or fixation for films and sound recordings. The same period also applies to the performance or fixation in a sound recording for performers.

3. Broadcasts

Moreover, copyright for broadcasts exists in the form of transmissions via wire or wireless means and lasts 50 years from the first broadcast date.

When the copyright protection period expires, the work enters the public domain. At this point, the work can be used without the copyright owner’s consent.

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Rights of Copyright Owners in Malaysia

The Malaysian government has presented various privileges to copyright owners, consisting of legal, moral, and economic rights.

1. Legal Rights

Firstly, the copyright law grants the author, copyright owner, and performer the exclusive authority to manage their works. This includes the ability to take civil and criminal legal action against any infringements of their copyright. 

In Malaysia, the Enforcement Division of the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism (MTDCC) or the Royal Malaysian Police are the bodies that handle the criminal prosecution of copyright infringement cases.

2. Moral Rights

Moral rights are categorised into:

Paternity Rights

  • Paternity rights enable copyright owners to claim ownership over their creations’ originality. Owners are entitled to receive credit and have their names mentioned in any appropriate acknowledgements.
  • Under Section 13(2) of the Copyright Act, if a work is referenced, copied, aired, or shared with the public, it must give appropriate credit to the source and author of the work. The creator can also choose to keep their identity anonymous.

Integrity Rights 

  • According to Section 25(2) of the Copyright Act, integrity rights grant owners the authority to prohibit any unauthorised user from altering, mutilating, misrepresenting, or modifying their work’s original meaning.
  • Essentially, owners have the authority to stop their work from being published without consent, copied, used in an unfavourable context, or destroyed without first offering to return it to the author.

3. Economic Rights

Additionally, copyright owners have the economic privileges of reproduction rights, communication to the public rights, performance rights, public display or playing rights, distribution rights, and commercial rental rights. 

These privileges can be exercised within the protection period specified in the Copyright Act 1987. 

Economic rights enable copyright owners to receive financial compensation from others using their works for commercial purposes. These rights can be transferred through assignment, licensing, or testamentary disposition.

Copyright Infringements in Malaysia

Copyright Infringements in Malaysia

Examples of activities of copyright infringements include:

  • Reproducing the work in any form, such as performing, showing, playing, or distributing it to the public
  • Importing any works into Malaysia for commercial or financial gain
  • Creating or renting out infringing copies for sale
  • Selling, renting, exhibiting, or offering for sale or rent any infringing copies
  • Distributing infringing copies
  • Possessing any infringing copy, except for private and domestic use
  • Publicly exhibiting any infringing copy for commercial purposes
  • Creating or possessing any device that is used or intended for creating infringing copies

Is Copyright Law in Malaysia Recognised Globally?

As a signatory of the Berne Convention, copyrighted works originating from Malaysia are recognised by all the member countries of the convention. 

Due to this, creative works produced in Malaysia are eligible for copyright protection in Malaysia and other Berne Convention member countries worldwide. Hence, Malaysian copyright owners can potentially exploit their works in foreign markets with minimal additional cost.

Read More: What To Know About ChatGPT and Malaysia’s Copyright Act 1987

Engage a Professional Copyright Lawyer

In conclusion, it is imperative to comprehend your rights and responsibilities under the copyright law in Malaysia. As a trusted boutique law firm, Sabrina Hashim & Co. provides sound legal advice to protect your intellectual property rights. 

Combining extensive knowledge and legal experience, our lawyers deliver holistic solutions in technology and telecommunication, media and entertainment, corporate and commercial, and on-demand legal services. Above all, we strive to provide tailored solutions that suit your needs.