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Copyright In E-Publishing And The Development In Indian Copyright Law

From drawings on cave walls, to pages and scrolls, to palm leaves, to the first book being written on paper in China, to Johannes Gutenburg's invention of the Printing Press, to the current world of Kindle and audiobooks, storytelling and literature have come a long way. The evolution of literary works and publication of books has given authors the opportunity to reach readers belonging to different parts of the world, speaking different languages, and having varied taste in book genres.

What if someone copies there works and passes it as their own? What if they do not make any earnings from their hard work and receive no royalties? All the effort they put in would go to waste and people wouldn't know an original writing from a copied one. Original content creation in the field of literature, drama, music, art, or any other creative work including computer program gives the creator legal rights to protect their work and own its copyright.

Copyright can be defined as a collection of rights that automatically vest with the creator of an original work, including the right to reproduce the work, or prepare derivate works, or distribute it, or perform and display the same publically[1] in front of an audience. It is important to note that copyright does not protect an idea, but the expression of that idea to the public through any medium. For an original idea to be protected, it must be communicated. If it is not expressed, no legal right arises out of it.

The age of digitization has changed the way authors create their content and publish it. Internet has brought writing and publishing literally at the tips of our fingers. A world with such quick and easy access to other people's work comes with the need and responsibility of protecting the creator's work and their rights.

This article explores the digital world in terms of e-publication, and discusses the copyright law in India, with special focus on copyright in e-publishing. It also talks about the significant amendments to the Copyright Act, 1957 that were introduced through the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012, highlighting the ones relevant in the digital era.

The World Intellectual Property Organization

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty was adopted in December, 1966, by the member States. It is a special agreement under the Bern Convention, seeking to protect the authors' works and rights in the digital environment, and grant them certain economic rights[2].

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Performances and Phonograms Treaty was adopted in December, 1996 and came into effect in May, 2002. It deals with two kinds of beneficiaries in the digital world:
  1. Performers
  2. Producers of phonograms
To performers, the Treaty grants economic rights for their performances fixed in phonograms. While producers of phonograms have economic rights for their phonograms. These rights are:
  1. The Right of Reproduction
  2. The right of Distribution
  3. The Right of rental
  4. The Right of Making Available
The provisions and extent of these two treaties are wide and varied, but the objective of mentioning them when talking about copyright law in E-Publishing in India is to give readers an idea of what these treaties are, and how they are related to the digital world, as India is one among the members of the assembly of both of these treaties[3]. Apart from these, India is a member to various other WIPO treaties and conventions, which shows India's prominent multilateral engagement with WIPO with the objective of creating an efficient network of Intellectual Property[4].

Let us look at whether, and how, is e-publication of literary works protected under the copyright law in India.

The Copyright Act, 1957

The Copyright Act, 1957 was enacted with the objective of protecting works created before the year 1958. The copyright protection is conferred on works in the field of literature, drama, music, cinema, and sound recording.

Within the meaning of Section 3 of the Copyright Act, 1957, publication refers to making the work available to the public by issue of copies or by communicating the work to the public[5]. So, publication of a literary work means making it available to the public either by issuing copies, or by communication.

Under Section 14 of the Act, copyright of a literary work is defined as:
The right to reproduce the work in any material form including the storing of it in any medium by electronic means[6].

E-Publication refers to publication that is made available in digital form for the internet users for online access. Hence literary work that is published by electronic means, or through digital media, is protected under the Act, and authors own the copyright of their work that is distributed through the internet. The right to store the work by electronic means is of importance, given the expansion of digital platforms and digitization of the world in general.

The Copyright (Amendment Act) 2012

The Copyright Act, 1957 was amended to introduce necessary changes to the law and expand the ambit of rights related to content creation for public platforms.

The amendments were made keeping in mind the digital era, and therefore, provisions were made to extend the right of storing work in any medium by electronic means to artistic works, cinematograph films, and sound recordings[7]

Section 65A[8] of the Act prescribes punishment for anyone who circumvents an effective technological measure taken with the purpose of protecting any of the rights conferred by this Act. The offender may be punishable with imprisonment which can extend to two years, and shall also liable to fine.

Section 65B was introduced through the amendment Act to protect rights management information. It is called Digital Rights Management[9] (DRM) which exists to protect the copyright of creators of digital content (including e-publishing), and to prevent unauthorized use or redistribution of digital media and limit third party access to the content.

However, DRM has been criticized on the ground that it takes away free access to internet users, which is one of the most appreciated factors of online content creation and distribution. Platforms like Amazon's Kindle, and Apple's iBook Author are the most popular for e-publishing, and use DRM to protect the digital content available for public access.

Signing the eBook Publishing Agreement is crucial to ascertain that the writes regarding eBooks are protected with regard to copyright and economic rights, including royalties.
The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2017 brought India's copyright laws in conformation with the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). Subsequent to the Amendment Act, the scope of intellectual property in India expanded.

Internet piracy is a common practice in which one downloads and/or redistributes copyrighted material from the internet. It is illegal, and leads to infringement of rights of the creator. Online piracy results in heavy losses for businesses and content creators, with them not getting due credit, and rather having their work stolen.

The advent and expansion of internet in the last few decades has created a digital world which has become a major part of our lives. Digital content on various websites, blogs, and social media platforms has opened up new opportunities for content creators, and increased their reach to the target audience. E-publishing has found a large market audience, which calls for protection of rights of authors in terms of copyright and economic rights.

WIPO Treaties, national laws, and, agreements seek to protect the copyright of works, including copyright in the digital environment. India's copyright law is among other such progressive laws, and through the amendments in the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012, India complied with the Internet Treaties. Also, in 2019, India's instruments of accession to the Nice Agreement, the Vienna Agreement, and the Locarno Agreement showed India's inclination towards protecting intellectual property. The amendment also introduced other changes in terms of artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recordings.

The scope of e-publishing will go on widening in this digitized world, and with the ease of accessing those works, the need for protecting them will also increase. It is of utmost importance that works of authors, and other creators, be protected by laws so that they are not discouraged from creating new content. What is equally important is protection of their legal rights, and punishment to those who infringe them. So far, India as an emerging economy in the digital environment, has fared well in its copyright and intellectual property protection laws, but in the coming times, it will be necessary to adapt to the dynamic world of the internet and digital media.

  2. WIPO Copyright Treaty
  3. WIPO,
  4. Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, World Intellectual Property Organization,
  5. Section 3, The Copyright Act, 1957
  6. Section 14 (a) (i), The Copyright Act,1957
  7. IP Watch, Inside Views: Development In Indian IP Law: The Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012 (Jan 22, 2013)
  8. Inserted by Act 27 of 2012
  9. Digital Rights Management is a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media

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