ABDVol.31 No.2

Copyright in India
Dina N. Malhotra
 

Protection of Copyright and Free Flow of Information

India is a vast country with long traditions of learning from ancient times and today India publishes over 60,000 new titles every year. Indian publishers have developed outstanding new technologies in publishing. With this background, Indian publishers are greatly concerned about the protection of copyright.
 In this age of global information technology when all information is available to everybody the problem of protection of copyright assumes great importance. The source of all knowledge and information is creativity and unless it is protected we cannot give encouragement to it. On the other hand, the ideal of free flow of information is also as important and it has been one of the cardinal principles which UNESCO has been propagating. The citizens' 'right to read' has to be expanded and protected if we have to bring to par all the people of the world.
 One question arising out of this situation is how to harmonise the upholding of copyright and at the same time to see that free flow of information is not hampered. An important point which intelligent people have discussed is that the free flow of information has been, by and large, uneven. It has been a one-way flow of knowledge from the West to the developing countries. Due to their strength and their advanced technology, the Western media has been monopolising the flow of information and their slant of the information as well as news has been Western-oriented. While information is fed, it gives the point of view of the West which they want the whole world to accept, including judging of the nations by the formula of GDP (gross domestic product) without considering its relevance to the well-being and happiness of the people of various countries. Therefore, we have to equip the developing countries to face this challenge by developing advanced technology and creating sufficient awareness of copyright with the people in general as well as the publishing industry.
 The concept of copyright and its protection by the society has not been easily understood in many oriental societies. The tradition in India had been that those who gave sermons or wrote books, did all this for the welfare of people and never thought of accepting any remuneration for that. Knowledge had always been free and freely given. So when the concept of protection of copyright developed in Europe towards the end of the 19th century and later on percolated to India and other Asian countries, it took time for people to understand it properly and have a new awareness that the literary creations of a writer or a scholar were to be protected and the creator remunerated. Also, logically, that if anybody used that material without permission and payment, it was infringement of copyright and was an offence. But, by and by, this awareness has been created during the 20th century, especially during the last 50 years, and today copyright is understood and protected properly in India.

Current State of Copyright Law in India

India has a very strong and comprehensive copyright law based on Indian Copyright Act. 1957 which was amended in 1981, 1984, 1992, 1994 and 1999. The amendment in 1994 were a response to technological changes in the means of communications like broadcasting and telecasting and the emergence of new technology like computer software. The 1999 amendments have made the Copyright Act fully compatible with Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. With these amendments the Indian Copyright law has become one of the most modern copyright laws in the world.
 Moreover, India is signatory to both the international copyright conventions i.e. the Berne Convention of 1886 and Universal Copyright Convention of 1952. Indian representatives have taken part in the international copyright conferences putting forward the Indian point of view and thus helping in getting proper amendments made in the interests of developing countries. Much credit goes to India for getting the 1971 Paris Act which recognises the needs of developing countries and given a special treatment for that.
 During the last two decades a number of measures have been taken by the Government of India towards the implementation and enforcement of copyright law. Under the Ministry of Human Resources Development a special Copyright Enforcement Advisory Council has been set up in which the heads of police from all the States of India participate and join forces to see to it that copyright is properly enforced. These developments have made a check on copyright infringement, by and large quite effective. Of course, some cases of copyright infringement do take place just as other crimes keep on happening e.g. even thefts take place in spite of the law against stealing.
 The Federation of Indian Publishers has a Copyright Council which organises training courses in copyright for the benefit of publishers and authors all over the country from time to time. It gets assistance from the Ministry of Education and sometimes even the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) also gives a helping hand.
 Recently, the Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) in collaboration with the 'Authors Guild of India' have established 'Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation' for the protection of the interests of copyright holders in India and abroad and also to act as a Collecting Society. Being a member of the International Publishers Association (IPA) Indian publishers take an active part in the International Publishers Copyright Council (IPCC) from time to time.

For the Benefit of the People

Protection of copyright can never become an obstacle in the way of dissemination of knowledge and information. As a matter of fact it leads to encouragement to writers and publishers to bring out more books for the education and enlightenment of their people.
 We all know that the term of copyright is not eternal. In the Indian law, copyright falls into 'public domain' 60 years after the death of the author. This means the author during his lifetime, and his successors for 60 years after his death can enjoy the benefit of income from the writings of the deceased author. But after that the public has to enjoy freely those writings. Now in the case of India, we have a great reservoir of valuable literature handed down to us from ancient times which is freely available. Any publisher, and in actual practice, many publishers, publish those classics for the benefit of the people.

Facing Digital and Electronic Publishing

Now coming to the progress of digital technology and electronic publishing, we, like other countries, are facing problems which have to be dealt with in the same technical manner by devising solutions to digital and electronic piracy. It has been rightly said that 'the answer to the machine lies in the machine itself'. New techniques are being developed globally and India is part of that, in order that copyright laws don't go hay-wire due to the easy availability of equipment for reproduction of original works. In the case of traditional books, the offset printings process and photostat machines had created problems for copyright protection. Now with computers and Internet, wherein anybody can download books or the original work of a creator, the situation has become much more complicated.
 During the last couple of years the IPA, specially helped by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), have developed a system called Digital Object Identifier (DOI). The technocrats in India are also developing methodology by which firstly, copyright infringement can be checked and secondly, it can detect the source from where the infringement has originated. Such developments have deterrent effect on the pirates. The police force is also being trained to trace the pirates in all these technical and intricate electronic devices.
 But over all the electronic publishing, digital and Internet being in the initial stages in book publishing in India, not many problems have surfaced here in a big way as in advanced countries. But times are coming when Indian publishers will have to face these challenges and they are gearing up for that.

Dina N. Malhotra, Chairman, Copyright Council and President Emeritus, Federation of Indian Publishers.
He is the recipient of UNESCO's prestigious International Book Award for 1998 given by the International Book Committee of UNESCO. His main contribution in the field of publishing has been to usher in the Paperback Revolution in India by publishing low-priced books in Indian languages for the masses. For that purpose in 1958 he established Hind Pocket Books (P) Ltd. He took his Master's Degree in Political Science from Punjab University, Lahore, securing top position and started his career as lecturer for post-graduate classes in Srinagar. He has been a member of the National Book Development Council of India since its inception. He has served as a UNESCO Book Consultant since 1966 and visited many countries organising seminars, workshops and presiding over conferences. He is an expert in the field of copyright. He was the first Chairman of the Joint International Copyright Committee of UNESCO and WIPO.