Copyright Amendment Bill in Parliament

Posted by Nirmita Narasimhan at Aug 30, 2011 09:26 AM |
The Copyright Amendment Bill is expected to be presented in the Rajya Sabha by the Minister for Human Resource and Development, Kapil Sibal today afternoon. The much awaited Bill (since it has been in the offing since 2006) has undergone significant changes since its initial appearance.

Given below is a very quick first cut highlight of the Bill from a public interest perspective. A more detailed analysis will follow after the session discussions. 

  • Parallel imports: The parallel imports clause which had been put in as sec 2(m) has now been dropped from the present draft. This is a big setback because educational institutions, libraries and archives, second hand book, etc., were looking to this provision to bring down the prices and hasten the availability of books. This also affects persons with disabilities since they will be unable to import books in accessible formats.
  • Persons with disabilities: There are two provisions relating to persons with disabilities which have been introduced. Section 52 (1) (zb) relates to the conversion, reproduction, issues of copies or communication to the public of any work in any accessible format, provided that these activities are meant to enable access to persons with disabilities and sufficient safeguards are taken to ensure that these materials do not enter the mainstream market. This section in a sense is broader and more encompassing than some provisions found in other countries, which relate exclusively to the blind or visually impaired. This section would adequately cover persons with other disabilities who cannot read print. A new section 31B also provides for compulsory licensing for profit entities wishing to convert and distribute works in accessible formats, provided that they are primarily working for persons with disabilities and are registered under sec 12A of the Income Tax Act or under chapter X of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
  • Many exceptions under 52 (1) (i) relating to fair dealing have been extended to all works except computer programmes. New sections 52 (1) (b) and (c) protect transient and incidental storage from being classified as infringing copies, which offers protection to entities such as online intermediaries. 
  • The scope of compulsory licensing under sec 31 has been expanded from ‘any Indian work’ to ‘any work’. Three new sections 31 B, 31C and 31 D have been introduced. Section 31 B has already been described in the paragraph on persons with disabilities. Section 31 C lays down strict measures relating to statutory licensing in case of cover version, being a sound recording of a literary, dramatic or musical work. Section 31 D relates to statutory licenses for broadcasting organizations wishing to broadcast a literary or musical work or sound recording.
  • Non commercial public libraries can now store electronic copies of any non digital works they own (52(n)).
  • The new Bill introduces Technological protection measures (65A and 65B) and makes circumvention and distribution of works in which rights managements systems have been removed an offence which is punishable with imprisonment upto two years as well as fine. In addition the copyright owner can also avail of civil remedies. As such India is not really required to have these provisions in the copyright legislation since we are not yet a signatory to the WCT or the WPPT and such provisions will hamper consumer interests. 
  • Terms of copyright have been increased significantly without reason, thus preventing works from falling into the public domain. For instance, the term of photographs has been increased from 60 years to life of the photographer plus 60 years. This is far in excess of the minimum term stipulated by international treaties.