How to protect copyright in Malaysia?


  1. The law on copyright in Malaysia is governed by the Copyright Act 1987 (the "Act"). Unlike patents, trademark and designs, there is no system of registration for copyright in Malaysia. Copyright protects a wide variety of works. A work that is eligible is protected automatically under the Act upon fulfillment of these conditions:
    • sufficient effort has been expended to make the work original in character;
    • the work has been written down, recorded or reduced to a material form[1]] ;
    • the author is qualified person or the work is made in Malaysia or the work is first published in Malaysia.[2]]

  2. The kinds of works protected under copyright law are[3]] :
    • literary works - including books, pamphlets, plays, drama, scripts, articles, letters, reports, memoranda, tables and compilations, computer programs;
    • artistic works - including paintings, drawings, diagrams, maps, charts, engravings, photographs, sculptures, works of architecture, works of artistic craftsmanship;
    • musical works;
    • films;
    • sound recordings;
    • broadcasts; and
    • derivative works.

  3. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, method of operation or mathematical expression as such.[4]]

  4. For literary, musical and artistic works published during the author's lifetime, the term of copyright protection is for the life of the author plus 50 years after his death. For a work published after the death of the author, the copyright shall subsist for 50 years from publication of the work.[5]]

  5. Copyright shall not subsist in any registered industrial design.[6]] Also, for any design that is capable of being registered and has not been registered, copyright in the design shall cease after it has been industrially exploited by making more than 50 articles according to the design.[7]]

  6. There is a distinction between the author of a work and the owner of copyright in it.

  7. Copyright ownership shall initially vest in the author except where the author was commissioned under a contract of service or apprenticeship, or where the work was created in the course of his employment, copyright shall vest in the commissioner or employer. These exceptions are subject to any contrary agreement where the copyright in the work shall be deemed to vest in the person who commissioned the work or the employer.[8]]

  8. The owner of copyright is entitled to assign or licence the right. Such an assignment or licence must be executed in writing.[9]]

  9. On 1 March 2012, the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012 which came into operation introduced new Sections 26A, 26B and 26C into the Act 1987. These provisions establish a new and revolutionary framework for the voluntary notification of copyright into Malaysian copyright law to afford copyright owners to a more tangible protection where they are able to notify and deposit a copy of the work eligible for copyright with Malaysia Intellectual Property Organization (MyIPO).

  10. Voluntary Notification under the Copyright (Voluntary Notification) Regulations 2012:

    The Copyright (Voluntary Notification) Regulations 2012 (the "Regulations") came into operation on 1 June 2012 which permits any of the following persons, namely:
    1. the author of the work;
    2. the owner of the copyright;
    3. an assignee of the copyright;
    4. a licensee of an interest in the copyright; or
    5. a person acting on behalf of any of the persons referred to in items (i) to (iv),
    6. to submit a notification of copyright to the Controller of Copyright.[10]]

  11. Copyright notification is made by filing:
    1. the prescribed forms;
    2. a statutory declaration;
    3. a copy of the work with the Controller; and [11]]
    4. payment of the prescribed fees.

  12. The statutory declaration that accompanies the notification must, inter alia:
    1. identify the work and exhibit a copy of the work;
    2. confirm the status of the applicant, i.e. author, assignee or licensee; and
    3. state the date on which the work was created.

  13. In the event where the applicant is not the owner of the work, the owner must be identified in the statutory declaration and a copy of the instrument under which the applicant claims a right to the work, such as a licensing agreement, must be included as an exhibit to the declaration.

  14. The copy of the work submitted together with the declaration must be clear and of durable quality and may be in printed form or stored in digital format such as CD-ROM, digital video disc, thumb-drive, secure digital card or external hard disk.[12]]

The law is stated as at 1/4/2015.

For further insight, please contact us at or call 03 -2171 1484 and speak to Shahida Najme Khir.

[1]] Copyright Act 1987, s 7(3)
[2]] Copyright Act 1987, s10(3)
[3]] Copyright Act 1987, s7(1)
[4]] Copyright Act 1987, s2A
[5]] Copyright Act 1987, s17
[6]] Copyright Act 1987, s5
[7]] Copyright Act 1987, s7(6)
[8]] Copyright Act 1987, s26(2)
[9]] Copyright Act 1987, s27
[10]] Copyright (Voluntary Notification) Regulations 2012, Regulation 5(2)
[11]] Copyright (Voluntary Notification) Regulations 2012, Regulation 5(3)
[12]] Copyright (Voluntary Notification) Regulations 2012, Regulation 5(6)

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