India Approves WIPO Internet Treaties, IP Protections for Online Content Creators
On July 4, India’s cabinet approved the country’s accession to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (the WIPO internet treaties).
By doing so, India will be able to provide international copyright protections to local creative content-makers and distributors in the internet and digital realm, granting them exclusive economic and publishing rights. Beneficiaries include the audiovisual, film, music, and literary industries.
Accession to the WIPO internet treaties also levels the playing field for Indian creative rights-holders in other countries as it harmonizes India’s intellectual property (IP) regime with international standards.
Since India already protects the rights of foreign content creators, the absence of reciprocal protections was hurting domestic artists.
India’s creative industry is currently projected to earn revenues worth US$25.4 billion by the end of 2018.
A stronger IP regime will boost industry growth and safeguard local artists and content makers and distributors from losses due copyright infringement and piracy.
What are the WIPO internet treaties?
The WIPO Copyright Treaty is a special agreement under the Berne Convention (for protection of literary and artistic works).
Its provisions recognize specific copyrights protections for the digital environment. So far, 96 countries have adopted the treaty; it came into force on March 6, 2002.
The WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty came into force on May 20, 2002 with 96 contracting parties as its members.
WPPT provisions identify the rights of two kinds of beneficiaries in the digital environment:
- Performers (actors, singers, and musicians, among others); and,
- Producers of Phonograms (sound recordings).
WPPT recognizes the copyrights of performers of original content and their exclusive economic rights.
India’s IP protections for online creators, distributors
India maintains that its existing legal regime had already complied with WIPO standards when it amended its Copyright Act, 1957 in 2012 to extend IP rights coverage to content published on the internet.
Sections 65A and 65B of the Copyright Act were added in the amendment, incorporating the legal protections contained in the WIPO internet treaties. In 2016, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion released a memo confirming the same.
Further, India’s Information Technology Act, 2000 contains provisions that regulate content on digital platforms; those found guilty of infringement are notified by the government and asked to take down copyrighted content.
Nevertheless, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) put India on its priority watch list in its annual Special 301 Report due to the country’s non-accession to the WIPO internet treaties.
India is also ranked among the bottom rung of countries by the US Chambers of Commerce’ International IP Index due to its copyrights regime, among other reasons.
Legal analysts speculate that the gap between the local legal amendments by India and its accession to the WIPO internet treaties were because of a perceived incompatibility between anti-circumvention provisions under Section 65A of the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 with Article 11 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty.
However, others point to bureaucratic delays. India recently formulated its National IPR Policy and transferred the Indian Copyright Office to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion from the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Regardless of what the reasons may be, India will now seek to improve its international legal standing on intellectual property protections.
Contracting to the WIPO regime also strengthens India’s participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations.
RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the six Asia-Pacific states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs – Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.