Copyright law in Malaysia is governed by the Copyright Act 1987, designed to protect the rights of creators and ensure their works are used fairly. Here are the key principles of copyright in Malaysia:


To qualify for copyright protection, a work must be original. This means it must originate from the author and involve some degree of creativity, even if minimal.

Duration of Protection

The duration of copyright protection varies depending on the type of work:

  • Literary, musical, and artistic works: The lifetime of the creator plus 50 years after their death.
  • Films and sound recordings: 50 years from the date of creation.
  • Broadcasts: 50 years from the year the broadcast took place.

Exclusive Rights:

The copyright owner has exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display the work. They can also create derivative works based on the original.

Moral Rights:

Creators have the right to be identified as the author of the work and to object to any derogatory treatment that may harm their reputation.

Fair Use:

Certain uses of copyrighted material are allowed without permission, such as for research, criticism, news reporting, and teaching, provided it is done fairly and does not harm the market value of the work.


Copyright infringement can lead to legal action, including fines and imprisonment. The Malaysian Copyright Act 1987 provides the legal framework for enforcing copyright.

    Why is Copyright Important?

    • Encourages Creativity: By protecting creators’ rights, copyright laws encourage the creation of new works.
    • Economic Benefits: Creators can monetize their works, contributing to the economy and fostering innovation.
    • Cultural Preservation: Copyright helps preserve cultural heritage by protecting artistic and literary expressions.

    What Constitutes Copyright Infringement in Malaysia?

    Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder, violating the exclusive rights granted to the owner. In Malaysia, copyright infringement can take various forms. Here’s a detailed look at what constitutes copyright infringement:

    1. Unauthorized Reproduction
    • Copying or reproducing a work, such as making photocopies of a book or duplicating a CD, without the copyright owner’s consent.
    2. Distribution Without Permission
    • Distributing copies of the copyrighted work, whether for sale or free of charge, without authorization. This includes sharing digital files through the internet or other electronic means.
    3. Public Performance
    • Performing a copyrighted work in public without permission, such as playing music in a public venue or screening a film without a license.
    4. Public Display
    • Displaying a copyrighted work publicly without the owner’s consent. This includes showing photographs, paintings, or other visual works in public spaces.
    5. Creating Derivative Works
    • Making adaptations or derivative works based on the original, such as translating a book into another language, making a movie adaptation of a novel, or creating remixes and mashups of music, without permission.
    6. Digital Infringement
    • Downloading or uploading copyrighted material without authorization, such as movies, music, software, or e-books, from or to the internet.
    • Streaming copyrighted content from unauthorized sources.
    7. Circumventing Technological Measures
    • Using tools or methods to bypass digital rights management (DRM) or other technological protection measures designed to prevent unauthorized use of copyrighted works.

    In summary, copyright in Malaysia provides essential protection for creators, fostering a vibrant and innovative cultural landscape. By understanding and utilizing copyright laws, creators can ensure their works are respected and valued.

    Legal Consequences of Copyright Infringement

    In Malaysia, copyright infringement is taken seriously, and the consequences can be severe. Under the Copyright Act 1987, infringers may face:

    • Civil Penalties: The copyright owner can file a lawsuit seeking damages, injunctions to stop the infringing activities, and account for profits incurred.
    • Criminal Penalties: Infringement can also lead to criminal charges, resulting in fines, imprisonment, or both, depending on the severity and nature of the infringement.


    Understanding and adhering to the principles of copyright in Malaysia is essential for both creators and users of creative works. These principles ensure that creators can protect and benefit from their creations while balancing the public’s access to knowledge and cultural resources.

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