The union cabinet has approved acceding to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s internet treaties. These treaties — the WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty — both came into force in 2002 and were designed to protect intellectual property as the internet started getting big. The cabinet said in its statement that acceding to these treaties, sixteen years after they came into force, would help Indian rights holders get ‘reciprocal protection’ of their IP abroad.

In the US, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — which is known for the web takedown orders it provides a framework for — is the official implementation of these treaties. India did not sign either treaty.

IP protection on the Internet in India

In 2016, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion issued a memo saying that the Copyright Act, 1957 covers content on the internet as well. On top of that, the IT Act has DMCA-esque provisions to ensure that online platforms take down copyrighted content on their website after being provided notice. As such, India is already compliant with the WIPO’s internet treaties.

Both the treaties empower copyright holders to deploy technologies like Digital Rights Management software that make it harder to create copies of online content. In India, sections 65A and 65B of the Copyright Act were added in 2012 via amendment, and these amendments essentially harmonized the copyright regime with the internet treaties. All that was remaining was to clarify that the Copyright Act includes internet content, which the DIPP did in 2016.

The legal regime in India is therefore already in keeping with the requirements of WIPO’s internet treaties, so no further legislative changes are required. The government said that signing the treaty will help India “instil confidence and distribute creative works in digital environment with return on investment”.

About the WIPO’s internet treaties

From the government’s statement:

The WIPO Copyright Treaty came in force on March 6, 2002 and has been adopted by 96 contracting parties till date and is a Special agreement under the Berne Convention (for protection of literary and artistic works). It has provisions to extend the protection of copyrights contained therein to the digital environment. Further it recognises the rights specific to digital environment, of making work available, to address “on-demand” and other interactive modes of access,

The WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty came in force on May 20, 2002 and has 96 contracting parties as its members. WPPT deals with rights of two kinds of beneficiaries, particularly in digital environment – (i) Performers (actors, singers, musicians etc.) (ii) Producers of Phonograms (Sound recordings). The treaty empowers right owners in theit negotiations with new digital platforms and distributors. It recognizes moral rights of the performers for the first time & provides exclusive economic rights to them.