A simple guide to India's New Copyright Law: What's Good, What's Bad

Posted on April 23, 2010 By topicguide Topic: Law,

The Indian Copyright Law was last overhauled comprehensively in 1957, although it was updated five times in the '1980s and 1990s'. The new copyright bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha this month. Overall, the verdict on the new bill has been favorable. Much of the goodness in the new copyright bill comes from the fact that the Indian government hasn't succumbed to the pressures of big media companies. India still hasn't signed WIPO treaties and the new copyright bill does not come across as draconian like the American DMCA act.

A look at what’s good in the new copyright bill:

1. Better deal for film authors: Presently producers of films keep all rights with themselves. Under the new law, authors will receive royalties and the benefits enjoyed through copyright societies.
2. Film lyricists and singers will receive royalties whenever their works are used for commercial purposes.
3. A new system of statutory licensing for all sound recordings: That will ensure that the interest of the copyright holder is protected whenever a sound recording of any literary, dramatic or musical work is made.
4. Up to 2 years imprisonment and fine for using technological measures to infringe upon someone else's copyright.
5. (Building up on #4) Bypassing DRM "with the intention of infringing" copyright is illegal, but if there is no intent to infringe, it is all right: Cory Doctorw explains that it means private, personal copying is "fair dealing".

That means that you can break the DRM on your iPad to move your books to your Kindle or vice-versa. It also makes it legal to make, distribute and sell tools to accomplish this.


What is not all right with the new Copyright bill

1. The new bill gives physically challenged persons the right to access copyright materials in specialized formats: However, the opposition parties in India, the BJP and Left parties say they will oppose the bill because it does not care enough for blind people.
The new bill allows repurposing only in Braille. However, the parties say, "many visually handicapped people have already moved on to electronic and audio formats such as screen-reading software and digital talking books." And, there are not provisions for these in the new bill.

2.. The Copyright length has been increased to the international End of life + 60 years length.
Perhaps, India should have avoided the Mickey Mouse way. Long copyright may end up helping big companies get rich rather than the creators' immediate descendants.

A researcher has claimed that the optimal copyright term is 14 years. This shorter term encourages

…the best balance of incentive to create new work and social welfare that comes from having work enters the public domain (where it often inspires new creative acts).


Related Items
The Bill [Pdf]
The Copyright site


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