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 parallel import of content, with implications for regional locks. Note that it’s likely that these recommendations are likely to be incorporated without much debate. Download the report here.

Parallel Import Of Content

The changes to the copyright bill has opened doors for parallel imports of copyright protected content (movies and books in India. The law, as changed in the draft, suggests that “provided that a copy of a work published in any country outside India with the permission of the author of the work and imported from that country into India shall not be deemed to be an infringing copy”. So what does this mean for the digital space? Our reading of this is, that distributors can import multiple digital copies or DVDs for sale in India from markets where it has been released, without it being deemed copyright violation, even if studios have delayed the release in India. One can now legally bypass exclusive regional licenses. You should check with your lawyers, though.

This is consumer friendly: it addresses the creation of artificial scarcity in the market, and encourages price competition.

This is clause was brought in particularly to address educational content, wherein certain books can be priced high in the country, due to exclusive territorial rights. At times, new editions are not published until stocks of an older (outdated) edition of books is not exhausted. Now there’s an option.

Indian distribution companies have, obviously, opposed the move:

– The South India Music Companies Association pointed out that such a move would act as a huge disincentive for sound recording labels to obtain license from foreign producers.

– The Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association were of the view that it would result in copies of a work published outside India to be imported without consent of the owner thereby divesting the rights of owner of copyright in such works and diluting the commercial potential of exploitation of a work.

– The viewpoint of the Motion Picture Association was that repealing India’s long-existing national exhaustion rule for copyright would not be a good policy choice as all the important copyright producing nations in the WTO have the rule of national exhaustion for copyright national. The national exhaustion is beneficial to the economy as it allows exclusive distribution arrangements to be formed and respected and at the same tune, keeps the prices low in the country and helps build a strong domestic copyright industry.

– The Association of Publishers in India pointed out that the books published in one country could be freely made available and sold in India without amounting to infringement of copyright.

Also read, from this series, Standing Committee on Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2010 on:
Internet Piracy & Breaking DRM
On Safe Harbor, Fair Usage & Intermediary Liability