THE CHANGING FACE OF COPYRIGHT LAW IN THE DIGITAL ERA

Copyright is an intellectual property right that arises from an individual's skill and labour in creating and disseminating an original thought. Copyright protects cultural works like literature, drama, musicals, and sculpture. Copyright is an exclusive legal right granted to a creator or group of creators to prevent their work or creativity from being publicly reproduced, adapted, translated, distributed, or performed without the author's or person responsible for the work's existence's permission. Section 13 of India's Copyright Act of 1957 establishes a list of works that are protected.



The advent of the printing press and the subsequent publication of literary works in many copies gave rise to the concept of copyright protection in the fifteenth century. Traditionally, most copyright protection laws were based on print media, but the scope of intellectual property has gradually grown over time with the growth of technology.

Without a doubt, digitalization has brought beneficial change to the world, but its improper use has resulted in turmoil and crime. The most impacted intellectual property right is the copyright.as a result of growing technology. Digital data became more accessible as technology evolved, enabling the exploitation of copyrighted works.



Multiple computer-based works, such as computer programmes, databases, computer software, and other multimedia works on the internet, have resulted from the worldwide expansion of digital technologies. The Copyright Act 1957 is the most important piece of Indian copyright legislation. The 1994 adjustments were a response to technological advances in communication methods such as broadcasting and telecasting, as well as the emergence of new technology such as computer software. The copyright is now fully consistent with the TRIPS Agreement thanks to the 1999 amendments. The Copyright Amendment Act of 2012 introduces major changes in terms of scope, since they meet the difficulties brought by the Internet while also going beyond them. The 2012 Amendment brings the Copyright Act of 1957 into line with WCT and WPPT.



The Indian Copyright Law has become a forward-looking piece of law as a result of these revisions, and the general consensus is that, with a few exceptions, the updated Act is capable of dealing with copyright difficulties posed by digital technologies, especially those posed by the Internet. "Publication" for purposes of copyright means "making a work available to the public by the issue of copies or by communicating the work to the public." Because of its non-restrictive nature, this definition might be interpreted as including electronic publishing and, as a result, "publication" on the Internet.



Additionally, the meaning of "public communication" has been changed as a result of the 2012 Amendment. The previous definition only applied to "works." If the work or performance is made available to the public, whether simultaneously or at times and places chosen by the individual, it is called "communication to the public." As a result, on-demand services (video on demand, music on demand) will be clearly classified as "public communication."



Section 57 of the Act recognises the author's special rights, also known as "moral rights," which include:

  1. The right to claim the work as one’s own.

  2. The right to restrain or seek damages in connection to any distortion, mutilation, modification, or other act in relation to the said work if such distortion, mutilation, modification, or other act would be detrimental to his honour or reputation ("Right Against Distortion").



Furthermore, the principle of limitation and exception, as envisioned in Article 10 of the WCT, is included in Section 52 of the Copyright Act of 1957. Fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work (not including a computer programme) for the purpose of private and personal use, including research, criticism, or review, the making of copies or adaptations of a computer programme by the lawful possessor of such copy in order to:

(1) Use the computer programme only for the purposes for which it was provided; or

(2) resell the computer programme for the purposes for which it was supplied.

It is expressly permitted under Indian law.



Moreover, the Information Technology Act of 2000 also includes penalties for imprisonment and a fine if copyright-protected content is illegally distributed through the Internet.

Traditional legal systems have struggled to keep up with the internet's rapid expansion. Laws have been passed all around the world to address the digital revolution. It will be impossible for legislators or courts to adopt effective remedies right away. However, changes to current laws and harmonisation between developed and developing countries have contributed to the resolution of the aforementioned copyright issues in the digital domain.



In the case of UTV Software Communications Ltd. v. 1337X.TO and Ors., the Delhi High Court held that there is no distinction between digital copyright infringement and copyright infringement in the physical world because there is no logical way to distinguish crimes committed virtually from crimes committed in the physical world, and the Copyright Act does not provide such a distinction.

Employees of Tata Indicom were indicted on suspicion of attempting to steal a computer source code under Section 65 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which was solely for use on Reliance Infocomm's internet services in Syed Asifuddin and Ors v The State of Andhra Pradesh & Anr.A computer programme, according to the court, is a work of literature protected by copyright under Sections 2(o), (ffc), sections 13 and 14, and any infringement of a computer programme is punishable under Section 63.



In another case, Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Ors. v. Kim Cartoon and Ors., the Delhi High Court prohibited defendants from copying, distributing, streaming, or hosting any cinematographic work or show via the Internet, therefore safeguarding the plaintiff and copyright owner from infringement.

Thus, it can be deduced that copyright protection has become more difficult as a result of digital advancements. It's vital to strike a balance between minor infractions and expensive prosecutions, as well as the hazards of international litigation. The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012, has restructured the Copyright Act to make it more suitable for the protection of copyrighted materials in the digital age.



However, the legislation in India governing copyright in "digital material," which includes computer programmes and software, is weak and ineffective, demanding further specific changes to the current law. The "digital media" behemoths have taken centre stage, and the law is once again inadequate. This can be addressed by enacting new legislation or amending existing regulations, both of which must adhere to international standards.



This article is written by Nivedita M of School of Legal Studies, Cochin University of Science and Technology.

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