Emerging Trends in Digital Copyright Law

With the increase in digitization, it is imperative to protect original work on the internet as much as possible. While some developed nations have adopted legislations to reduce exploitation of digital works, circumvention and piracy is still high. In India, the Copyright Act, 1957, is not nearly enough to ensure protection, despite its “fair use” exemption.

Thu Jun 30 2022 | Business Law | Comments (0)

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With the growth of Technology, and more particularly, digitization, the  world has always recognized the need for a Digital Copyright Law. Therefore, the existing Copyright law has evolved, as the trend of maintaining records in the form of Digital data clearly requires protection; a need felt all around  the world.

The advancement in technology posed new challenges to the existing copyright laws, as the law was initially developed in the era of print media that slowly brought under its protective shelter creative works, paintings, drawings, sculptures, which later expanded to photography and cinema as well. These age old legislations and their core concepts in copyright law had to be revisited, so as to make the digital societal record progress. The technological copiers or recorders make the digital data easily available, which could lead to exploitation of the work vis a vis a free flow of information in society, as the moment this digital record is placed in the public domain on the internet, the author losses all control.  Therefore, as Copyright law, per se, grants certain negative rights to its owners to prevent anyone from doing acts pertaining to his work, as the Copyright law has now been modified to suit the new age digitization. 

Measure taken towards implementing the Digital Copyright regime worldwide

USA was the first to implement the provisions of the WCT (WIPO Copyright Treaty) and WPPT (WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty). It enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 1998, that discussed protection of technological measures by dividing it into two categories -   a measure that prevent unauthorized access of data and measures that prevent unauthorized copying. Thus, it prohibits circumvention of technological measures controlling access. The second limb of the DMCA 1998 was that it dealt with the technological measures used by authors to protect their copyright. However, this was severely criticized by critics who state that this legislation prevented scientific research and academic development; although, the DMCA had a good impact in updating copyright law for the digital environment, as it was the first legislation of its kind.

The Digital Economy Act 2010 (c. 24) was enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom regulating digital media and was introduced by Lord Mendelssohn. It received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010, and came into force on 8 June 2010. However, the Open Rights Group, privacy and consumer rights organizations criticized the online copyright infringement provisions viz section 3 to 18 of the Act, because it partly had a proposal of a graduated response scheme, which could eventually disconnect Internet accounts used for persistent copyright infringement. The Group took their concerns to the House of Lords and raised issues about the impact on businesses offering Internet access to their customers, such as libraries and universities.

Developing countries, as they entered the digitization age, face a major challenge as they are always dependent on developed countries as a source of information. Developing countries must be allowed to maintain exemptions for educational and research purposes. It is very important that such works are available for the overall growth of the Country. Thus, providing access is important; although, what form of access may depend, in part, upon the type of institution and its desire to engage in broad, public dissemination.

An Indian Perspective:

In India, the Copyright Act does not fix a liability on the Internet Service Provider (ISPs) for infringement of Digital Copyright. Therefore, as an initiative, the Information Technology Act, 2000, redressed the issue of fixing liability on the ISPs for infringement. It states that no Service Provider was responsible for an offence committed or for violations happening without his knowledge, if the service provider has exercised all due diligence to prevent the violations.

Indian law resembles the provisions of the US Home Recording Act 1992, as section 52 of the Indian copyrights Act 1957 describes the concept of “fair use” exception. It exempts works done for private use or for criticizing or reviewing of the work. However, the major drawback in Indian law is that the Indian Copyright Law does not implement the anti-circumvention provisions under the WCT and WPPT, as US and UK have done. Therefore, there are no provisions that prohibit circumvention of digital rights management systems in India. Therefore, piracy is rampant-  benefiting the users, who are getting copyrighted material at half the cost. On the contrary, the owners are getting publicity, fame and prosperity, whilst losing out on an opportunity to sell their original works that would have yielded them good revenue. The only remedy, at this moment, is to initiate legal action under the Copyright Act to prevent piracy.

Conclusion:

In this discussion, it is important to note that the interests of both developed and developing countries cannot be satisfied in the digital world due to lack of territorial limits. Therefore, it is appropriate to have one single legislation for the entire world, being a strong DRM system. Therefore, all content owners across the world would be encouraged to do more business on the internet, which would result in more profits because of the wide reach and quality offered by the digital world. This, in turn, would provide good economic incentives, which would result in an increase in the use and creation of useful arts. It would work to have strong laws against circumvention of DRM systems in order to curb piracy to a large extent. In turn, to make India sufficient in vital information and knowledge, the government could guarantee supply of content by subsidizing it.

Given the indivisible nature of the Internet having different rules for different countries, based on the developmental status of the country, the working turns  out to be cumbersome. Therefore, in common interests of both developed and developing countries, it would be advantageous for the world, as a whole, to have  strong legal protection against circumvention of DRM systems; thereby encouraging creativity in useful arts, which, in turn, is beneficial for everyone.

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