Business Laws

Copyright law in digital era

Our special correspondent June 27 | Updated on June 27, 2021

The recent blocking of IT Minister’s account on Twitter has brought into focus India’s copyright act

Twitter’s blocking access to IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s account for an hour on the grounds of violations of US copyright Act brings into focus India’s own copyright act as contextualised for digital media content.

From Twitter’s action, it is evident that the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Notice says – the owners of a copyright can notify Twitter (any social media platform) claiming that a user has infringed upon their copyrighted works. Then, “Upon receipt of a valid notice, Twitter (the social media platform) will remove the identified material.”

Twitter has said that it maintains a repeat copyright infringer policy under which repeat infringer accounts will be suspended. “Accruing multiple DMCA strikes may lead to suspension of your account,” Twitter told the Minister in through a message.

The government of India in March this year issued certain amendments to the Copyright Act, 1957 and the Copyright Rules, 2013.

Dr Vinod Surana, Managing Partner & CEO, Surana and Surana, a law firm, observes that the amendments indeed encourage creators to innovate and create more content by maximising public access,” he says.

On shaky grounds

However, when it comes to digital media (including social media), the copyright law in India is a bit on shaky grounds as “it does not fix a liability on the intermediary for infringements”. The clients are therefore not prevented from placing unauthorised information on the platform. The Copyright law in India does not fix infringements of digital copyright, observes Dr Surana, pointing out that “piracy has been the name of the music and film industries.”

For that, one has to go to the IT Act, specifically, to Section 79, which primarily says that the intermediary “shall not be liable for any third-party information, data or communication link made available or hosted by him”.

The section that unless the intermediary has initiated a transmission or selected the recipient of a transmission or modified the content in the transmission, it is exempt from liability. However, when the intermediary learns that it is being used to commit the “unlawful act”, it should “expeditiously remove or disable access to that material on that resource without vitiating the evidence in any manner,” the section says.

The broad-brush expression “unlawful act” can be taken to mean copyright infringements, but there is no specific mention of copyrights.

Therefore, there is a need to beef up copyright protection of both digital creations as well as copyrighted content used over the digital media.

“India needs to upgrade the copyright laws considering the advancements in the digital era. The growth of the internet has accelerated the development of new creative content and has reduced distribution costs such as the series that we watch on OTT platforms,” notes Dr Surana.

Published on June 27, 2021

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