Indian Copyright Act may be amended soon, DRM may become legally breakable

By Abhinav Lal | Published on 25 Apr 2010
Indian Copyright Act may be amended soon, DRM may become legally breakable

A recent bill introduced by the Union Government seeks to amend the Copyright Act of 1957, attempting to bring Indian copyright laws at par with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)’s treaties, and give creative contributors to copyrighted material more rights. The Copyright Amendment Bill 2010, if ratified, will greatly affect the music, film, and photography industries of India.

Importantly, the amendment also proposes that private & personal copying will be treated as 'fair dealing'. This interestingly allows users to break DRM (digital rights management) on their legally purchased content, as long as they are not violating copyright terms. This will allow them to move and use the content on various devices. Amazingly, this provision will also allow developers to make and sell tools to break DRM protection.

These are the other major changes:

  1. Independent authorship rights for lyricists, composers, and singers in films, which presently belong only to the producer and music company for the film.
  2. Addressing concerns of music companies for not being able to derive royalties from “version recordings” of their original songs
  3. Producer and principal director will be treated as joint first-owners of the copyright, which at present only belong to the producer
  4. Change in the term of copyright for photographers from 60 years to “life plus 60 years”
  5. Allow physically challenged persons to access the copyright material in specialized formats
  6. Proposes to make the Copyright Act conform to WIPO’s Internet treaties of anti-circumvention, giving equal rights to both online and offline work.
  7. Statutory/compulsory licensing for broadcasting companies to be allowed to access written, audio, and video works.

As expected, the changes proposed have been met by strong opposition and disgruntlement, mainly from music companies, who claim that the Indian film and music industry cannot be compared to any other in the world, and will have to have different laws. Even those who stand to gain by the new provisions are sceptical if the amendment will ever be passed, as many of the changes run counter to the manner in which the Indian industry has worked for many decades, and some changes, such as individual rights for lyricists and composers cannot be found elsewhere in the world.

The ‘fair dealing’ provision on personal copying of DRM-protected content in India, if ratified, will make a lot of Indians very happy, as well as make a lot of people across the world very envious of them. Here’s to the Copyright Amendment Bill 2010 getting passed!

Those interested in reading the Copyright Amendment Bill 2010 in its entirety will find it here.

Abhinav Lal

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