lawyers in India

Legal Dimensions of Information Technology - issues of copyright

Written by: Dr. (Ms.) Thrity D. Patel and Azim Pathan - (combined article) Dean and HOD, PGTD of Law, RTM Nagpur University and LL.M., Research Student
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  • Today we are in the 21st century and things are changing for India. With the rapid growth of trade and industry in the era of globalization, liberalization, increasing use of internet, e-commerce and convergence of technologies have opened new vistas of opportunities for the people of India. The information and communication revolution is taking place all over the world and it has left the common man bewildered to even comprehend what is happening. The social, economic, political, cultural and educational system is undergoing changes on an unprecedented scale. It is making the life of an ordinary man difficult as he is unable to keep pace with the changing time and especially with regard to matters pertaining to knowledge sector.

    Today technology is evolving fast as result of which the computers have found place in every home, every office and in all important departments. With the touch of a finger the whole world of knowledge, information is available just like magical lamp of Allauddin where an individual would get any information which one desires. A person living in India can communicate with a person in U.S.A. or Australia thousands of miles away. This is done in Cyberspace.

    The advancement of science and technology has made a tremendous impact and change almost in all walks of life. The paper highlights the impact of information technology on library science. The libraries are considered to be storehouse of knowledge and information which is acquired with the help of books. But now with the help of virtual world the scenario has changed. With the easy accessibility to information and knowledge the students of library science will have to equip themselves with information technology and they will be required to learn the cyber language. They will also have to be acquainted with the computer security system. As potential users of information technology it will be imperative for library science professional to prepare themselves to handle the new and exciting world of cyberspace.

    Cyberspace is a world of virtual reality. It has netizens and not citizens. Cyber world is not like physical world. The laws of physical world are different and they cannot be applied to Cyberspace. Physical laws have limitations and are defined. But laws of Cyber space are dynamic, undefined and limitless and they have to keep pace with technological advancements.

    Cyberspace is a space where entry is not bound by geographical boundaries. Today a person sitting in the Chennai can access the information through Internet anywhere in the world. In the light of this librarians and information scientist should know about:--
     1) The right to information and right to freedom of speech and expression,
     2) Crimes related to internet, and
     3) Intellectual property rights.

    The Indian people are governed by the Constitution of India which gives the fundamental rights to the people. The Constitution of India does not specifically guarantee the right to information, but since long it has been recognized by our Supreme Court as fundamental right necessary for democratic functioning of our country. Our Supreme Court has specifically recognized the right to information as an integral part of the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) of constitution and it can also be read within the purview of Article 21. The right to information is not an absolute right some information can be held back where giving of the information would harm the interests which need to be protected.

    Article 19(1) (a) gives the right of freedom of speech and expression including the freedom of press to the citizens of India and the same article 19 sub clause (2) gives the reasonable restrictions which can be imposed by the government on the grounds of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. But today the information which is available on the internet, the access is unlimited and person is free to get the information which under the law is prohibited. To give an example the viewing of pornographic and obscene material or any matter which affect the unity and integrity of the nation can be accessed by the people easily. The question to be answered here is what happens to the reasonable restrictions given in article 19(2)? What control does the government have to restrict the right to information? These are questions which will have to be considered and determined by the government as well as the people of India while making laws for cyber space.

    The advent of technology has brought with it unknown dangers and threats and in the hands of unscrupulous people it could mean a weapon mightier than any other weapon known to mankind so far. Internet crimes can be committed with considerable ease against anyone in the world from any part of the world and even from within the comfort of ones home. There is likelihood for more crimes to be committed in future in India.

    Anonymity makes Internet a preferred weapon of choice for committing crimes. Technological perfection makes it very easy for these crimes to be committed. India has adopted a legislation to facilitate and safeguard electronic transactions and computer related crimes and it is the Information Technology Act 2000 which is applicable to the users of technology. This law is based on the Model Law on Electronic Commerce prepared by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 30th January 1997. The aims and objectives of the Act include enabling or facilitating the use of electronic commerce and providing equal treatments to users of paper-based documentation and to users of computer-based information. It is to promote efficient delivery of government services by means of reliable electronic records.

    It also covers some computer related crimes and contravention which are as follows:

    # tempering with computer source documents (section 65 which provides for punishment with imprisonment upto 3 years and fine extend upto 2 lakh)
    # Hacking with computer system (section 66 under which punishment is imprisonment upto 3 years, fine which extend upto Rs. 2 lakh)
    # Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form (section 67 which provides for punishment of imprisonment {first conviction- which extend upto five years, fine extend upto Rs. 1 lakh}, {imprisonment second or subsequent conviction extend upto 10 years, fine extend upto Rs 2 lakh}.
    # Securing access to protected system notified by the government (section 70 punishment of imprisonment extend upto 10 years, and fine but it is silent about the fine which is to be imposed.
    # Breach of confidentiality and privacy by disclosing any electronic information to any other person without consent of the concerned person (section 72 which provides punishment of imprisonment upto 2 years, fine upto 1 lakh.)

    In addition to the crimes given above there are few more crimes which are given below:-
    # (1) Unauthorized reproduction
    # (2) Software piracy
    # (3) Miscellaneous computer crimes
    # (4) Theft of data and information

    The next important aspect to be considered here is the issue of intellectual property rights. An intellectual property right is a general term which covers copyright, patents, registered designs. The intellectual property rights provide an incentive for the creation of an investment of a new work (literary work, music, film, print media, software performances etc.) and their exploitation. Copyright protects original work of authorship that is in tangible (definite) form of expression.

    The work coming under the purview of copyright includes the following categories:

    (1). Literary works.
    (2). Musical works.
    (3). Dramatic works
    (4). Choreographic works
    (5). Pictorial, graphic, sculptural works
    (6). Motion picture and other audiovisual works
    (7). Sound recording and architectural works

    The categories given above should be viewed broadly. To give an example computer programmes and most compilation may be registered as literary works. Maps and architectural plans may be registered as pictorial graphics and sculptural works.

    The main objective of the copyright law is to promote the access and the use of information and for protecting the works from the infringement and for encouraging the author in pursuit of knowledge. The technological developments, the increasing number of electronic publication and digital libraries pose challenge to the right holder as well as law enforcing agencies.

    Section 14 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 enumerates certain activities which are exclusive rights for the author of the work who can do or authorize someone to do all or a part of those activities. These, when done by unauthorized person or without the explicit permission of the copyright holders, amounts to a breach or infringement of copyright. These include:-
    1) To reproduce the work in any material form including the storing of it in any medium by electronic means
    2) To perform the work in or communicate to public
    3) To issue the copies of (publish) the work to public not being in circulation.
    4) To produce and publish any translation of the work
    5) To make any translation or adaptation of the work.
    6) To make any cinematography film, or a sound recording and
    7) To do in relation to a translation or adaptation of the work any of the above
    specified acts.
    In the case of computer programmes in addition to what is given above the Act also mean to do or authorize:-
    8) To sell or give on hire or offer for sale or hire any copy of the computer program regardless of whether such copy has been sold or given on hire on earlier occasions.

    There are certain exceptions to copyright infringement

    In section 52 of the Indian Copyright Act enumerate 5 categories of acts which when performed do not fall under the infringement of the copyright, they are:

    # Reproduction in the course of fair dealing that is, for private use, research, criticism, review, reporting, broadcast, etc.
    # Reproduction for educational purposes
    # Reproduction for official purposes that is for judicial, legislative, etc.
    # Reproduction where there is remote relation to the original which does not cause and loss to the copyright holder.
    # Reproduction for private entertainment

    There is no such thing as an international copyright that will automatically protect an author's writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends, basically, on the national laws of that country. However, most countries do offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions and these conditions have been greatly simplified by International Copyright Treaties and Conventions.

    In the words of Vakul Sharma, copyright infringement is the courtesy of technology. According to him: Technology support Copycat- you brows, you select and you copy. Copying has become a dynamic 24/7 activity. The law has to differentiate between memory and copying. Computers have been programmed in such way that they save data automatically, whereas copying is a command, which is deliberate and intentional and may infringe a copyright law.

    There is word of caution for the young users of information technology. Do not adopt the method of cut, copy and paste.

    Technology is boon for mankind and new developments are taking place everyday. Computer is at the core of information technology activities. These activities are no doubt is regulated by law but the prevailing laws are not sufficient to control the unscrupulous activities. If this technology is used for negative things in life it can prove to be disastrous and if it is used for enriching ones personality, for getting information and for gaining knowledge it will benefit the humanity.

    1. Vakul Sharma, Handbook of Cyberlaw, Mackmillan and India ltd., (2002).
    2. M.P. Jain, Constitution of India,(Fifth edn.), Wadhwa and Company, Nagpur (2005).
    3. Barkha and U. Rama Mohan, Cyber Law Crimes, (2006).
    4. Nandan Kamath, Law Relating to Computers Internet & E-Commerce, (2000).
    5. Website,

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