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India’s Copyright Bill: Standing Committee On Internet Piracy & Breaking DRM


In continuation of our series on comments made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee looking into India’s Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2010, which submitted its recommendations to the Parliament yesterday, we now look what was said about Internet Piracy and breaking DRM in India. Download the report here.

Internet Piracy: An Authority For Managing Copyright & Piracy Issues

Remember that  much of the representation to the Standing Committee was made by the film and music industry, which repeatedly raised the issue of Internet Piracy. The committee has observed: “Music Industry is particularly plagued by large scale piracy as several websites host pirate music. The law enforcement on this particular issue has been quite lax. It was pointed out that the existing and proposed amendments will not be able to curb piracy unless the copyright legislation is brought in tune with the Information Technology Act, 2000 which provides for power to intercept, monitor or decrypt information through any computer source on certain grounds mentioned therein.
The Committee therefore urges the Department to bring the copyright law in tune with the Information Technology Act, 2000 so far as internet piracy is concerned. A designated authority for managing copyrights issues and piracy is to be created with sufficient policing powers.

Digital Rights Management

New sections were proposed to be inserted into the Act, to protection of rights management information, suggesting that “Any person who circumvents an effective technological measure applied for the purpose of protecting any of the rights conferred by this Act, with the intention of infringing such rights, shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.” What was being allowed? Breaking DRM was not prohibited as long as it was encryption research using a lawfully obtained encrypted copy; or conducting any lawful investigation; or testing the security of a computer system or network, surveillance or identification of a user or for “national security”. (Ref: Clause 36: Section 65 A and Section 65 B)

Comments from stakeholders:

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– Indian Broadcasting Federation wants the person tampering with encryption of content to be punished.
– The Business Software Alliance wants both civil and criminal liability needed to be imposed.
– Google India wanted the act of unlawful circumvention to be made a civil wrong punishable by damages and not a criminal offence.
– The Motion Picture Association said that this section appears to allow unlimited acts of circumvention for theviewing of movies on all digital devices by individual viewers, since, among other things, “access controls” are not covered and the viewing of a work streamed to digital devices may never involve an infringement by the person viewing that film.
– Yahoo India advocated the deletion of section, since DRM technology considerably interferes with a consumer’s right to ‘fair use’. Note that MediaNama had requested the removal of this section as well, since consumers buy the right to listen to music, and shouldn’t be constrained to devices or a medium. In a worst case scenario, we’d requested that breaking DRM of legitimately purchased content be allowed for personal and private use.

Committee Comments: the committe is fairly non-committal on DRM, and has accepted 65 A, effectively, allowing DRM to remain, and making DRM breaking for personal and private use a criminal offence. However, it says it agrees with the approach to give limited legislative guidelines and allow the judiciary to evolve the law based on practical situations, keeping in mind the larger public interest of facilitating access to work by the public. Additionally, it suggested that “the parties responsible for distribution or broadcasting or communication to the public through authorized licence from the author or rights holder and who do not remove any rights management information deliberately for making unauthorized copies need not worry about this provision as long as their act is as per the framework of this provision.”

The committee has also accepted the definition of Rights Management Information, to be included with digital content:
(a) the title or other information identifying the work or performance;
(b) the name of the author or performer;
(c) the name and address of the owner of rights;
(d) terms and conditions regarding the use of the rights; and
(e) any matter or code that represents the information referred to in Sub-clauses (a) to (d), but does not include any device or procedure intended to identify the user.

From a privacy perspective, it’s important that the user not be identified, and despite requests from the India Operations Business Software Alliance, Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation and Indian Broadcasting Federation, this hasn’t been done, because “It would not only create problem for users of devices in which the RMI has been tampered with, but could also potentially affect treaty compliance.”

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Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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