"All great changes are preceded by chaos.
"- Deepak Chopra (Indian American author)
Law is an ever evolving topic since it is a response to social problems and,
social issues keep on changing with time. One such area where law needs to be
constantly changing is the area of technology. One of the most brilliant gifts
provided by the human mind to the human community is technology, and digital
technology is the most recent advancement that is in progress on a global scale.
Digitalization have no doubt brought with itself a positive change across the
world, however the wrong use of it is also giving birth to chaos and crime. The
most affected intellectual property right is the copyright. Protection of
copyright has become a key issue in the digital era.
As one may be aware the
copyright is known to be granted to literary, artistic, musical or dramatic
works, however with the development of technology new ideas and concepts have
emerged such as computer programs, database and other works on Internet etc.
vastness of the digital world has made it much easier for a protected work to be
copied, reproduced and collected or distributed. In modern times, cyberspace
which is a non physical platform accessible through various networking systems
has come within the ambit of almost every individual. Such exposure is resulting
to various forms of copyright infringement.
Copyright law and cyberspace
The concept of copyright came into existence right after the invention of the
printing press by Gutenberg. In the very beginning of the copyright era,
copyright protection was brought into existence to safeguard literary and
artistic works but with time the fusion of creativity and technology gave birth
to various new works such as photography, photographs were included in copyright
as artistic work; cinematography films was another category of new work which
was also included in copyright as artistic work.
It can be seen that the
copyright law constantly keeps changing according to the evolving needs of the
society. With global progression in the field of digital technology new
endeavors developed in recent times such as computer programs, multimedia,
computer databases and social media platforms.
Computer programs is defined as:
a set of instructions capable when incorporated
in a machine readable medium, or causing a machine having information processing
capabilities to indicate, perform or achieve a particular function, task or
The issue of earmarking the correct intellectual property right regime
for insuring computer program was a dilemma for the international community for
a long time.
The question was that which intellectual property rights regime
i.e. patent or copyright; should cover 'computer programs'. This debate lasted
for quite a while and was put to an end by Trade- Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS). In one of its provision it is
included "Computer programs whether in source or object code, shall be protected
as literary works under the Berne Convention". In India, however computer
programs were added under copyright before this Agreement.
Database refers to the compilation of various independent, original or
non-original data in systematic manner and is accessible through various
electronic and other means. Now database is made up of two things ~ the program
that handles and manages the data and the data content itself.
The program is
considered as literary work and is thus copyrightable, but the copyright of the
content was in question so, that TRIPS Agreement provided that:
compilations of data or other material whether in machine readable or other form
which by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents constitute
intellectual creations shall be protected as such. Such protection, which shall
not extend to the data or material itself, shall be without prejudice to any
copyright subsisting in the data material itself.
In India databases
is included under the definition of literary work
inserted by ACT 49 of 1999. The US Supreme
Court in the famous case of Feast publications expressed that there should be a
'minimum level of creativity' for a compiled work (database) to be eligible for
protection under copyright.
Multimedia in general sense means the work that consists of various components
such as sound, images (still or moving), texts; which means that multimedia is a
collection of artistic, literary, musical and dramatic works. The classification
of multimedia work in intellectual property rights is complicated as most of the
new works are or can be a mixture of the original work.
Multimedia have not been
defined by the Indian Copyright Act however these works can be guarded under
cinematographic films, computer programs or literary works but each of these
works have different definitions and rights under the copyright law thus issue
of using separate copyrights may arise. Multimedia is considered the most
vulnerable aspects in the copyright segment.
Another vulnerable field where the protection of copyright is very much in
danger is the social media. Social media is a connection platform for its users
from across the world. This platform allows easy sharing of videos, photos and
many other contents and since it is effortlessly accessible to anyone, people
tend to misuse the contents of the social media.
However various solutions to
tackle this problem was introduced such as watermarking the work, restricting
access, blocking the copy pasting features and use of blockchain
Reposting anything without proper credit to the owner also amounts to copyright
infringement. Social Medias such as Instagram and YouTube have features which
allow reporting accounts that infringe copyright Protection. In spite of all the
technology people are still finding counter techniques to violate copyright,
which is a red flag and demands proper legal action to avoid unauthorized use in
the digital domain.
Digital copyright as an emerging trend
The electronic world has with time become a nexus of violation of copyright
laws. Crimes such as downloading and uploading of a copyrighted material without
proper consent, derivative works, hotlinking and software piracy are only a few
examples of how infringement of copyright is carried out in the digital era.
case of you UTV Software Communication Limited v. 1337X.To and Ors.
High Court observed there is no difference between digital copyright
infringement and infringement of copyright in physical world as there is no
logical way of differentiating the crimes committed virtually from the crimes
committed in the physical world, moreover the Copyright Act does not provide
In another case Disney Enterprise inc. and Ors. V. Kim cartoon
the Delhi High Court barred defendants from copying, distributing,
streaming, hosting any cinematographic work or show through the use of Internet
thus protecting the plaintiff and copyright owner from being victims of
copyright infringement. The Indian courts have also adopted a rather new concept
for reducing electronic piracy that is the John doe order
When a creator,
writer or any other person who produces a copyrightable intellectual property
have an anticipation that their work can be or is being copied and used
illegally by an unknown person or entity, can file for the John Doe order. For
passing of the order the identity of the accused need to be known and yet he or
she becomes a party to the case. Order 39 rule 1 and 2 of the code of Civil
Procedure 1908, empowers Indian courts to pass such order.
Technology Act, 2000 also provides provisions for imprisonment and a fine for
illegal distribution of copyright protected work through Internet. The recent
amendment of the Copyright Act that is the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 have
also structured the act to become more compatible regarding protection of
copyrighted materials in the area of digitalization.
With time and technology, the digital world is expanding and keeps changing and
with the change it also brings uncertainty, new problems and different ways to
infringe laws. The new era of digitalization have definitely aided creativity
and its effective spread among public however, have also given birth to
different worries and distress regarding infringement of the same.
Though the legal system; both national and international are gearing up and
adapting to changes and new amendments, still it is subject to an area of
development. And if great minds are put together a lot more can be done to
protect the rights of the copyright owners. This chase to keep the evolving
digital era crimeless will be a never-ending race. But again challenges are the
essence of life.
- Hellmut E. Lehmann-Haupt, "Johannes Gutenberg", available
- The Copyright Act, 1957
- World Intellectual Property Organization, " Copyright, Monthly Review of
the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)" 12 (January, 1978)
- Trade- Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, art.
- Trade- Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, art.
- TC James, "Indian Copyright Law and Digital Technologies ", 7 Journal of
Intellectual Property Rights 427 (2002).
- Feist Publications Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Company Inc., 499
U.S. 340 (1991
- Divisha, "John Doe Order", available at: https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-7158-john-doe-order.html
- The Information Technology Act, 2000, s. 66.