Wednesday, 14 October, 2009

Copy right and wrong

By Aakriti Agarwal

At the Delhi Book Fair a lively panel session on copyright was organised on 31 August jointly by Kitab, the joint venture of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and the Frankfurt Book Fair. The panel included Urvashi Butalia, publisher Zubaan; copyright lawyer Chander Lall, two representatives from the Federation of Indian Publishers – Anant Bhushan, General Secretary, Indian Reprographic Organisation (IRRO) and Siddharth Arya, legal advisor to the IRRO. The discussion was moderated by Naresh Khanna, editor of Indian Printer and Publisher.

Butalia with over 35 years of experience in publishing, said that the industry is structured around the copyright issue. “India has been at the forefront of leading developing countries in recognizing the imbalances in the power of place of knowledge and therefore demanding this historical imbalance should be set right. So India led a move in the international copyright arena of compulsory licensing which meant that if a foreign publisher was not willing to make a cheap edition of their book available in India then given certain conditions, the Indian publisher had the right to publish and print the book in India compulsorily by taking licenses and had to pay royalties. But there has not been one book that was published in India using compulsory licensing although this was a very important move for India to make,” said Butalia.

Pirates are not bothered about knowledge, they do it for the money. Butalia adds, “the issue is whether small and big publishers could publish ethically,” and she discovered that it was possible. She said that buying the rights was an issue because it was expensive but foreign publishers can be convinced to make rights available at reasonable rates if they are convinced of the business issues in a particular market.

Reflecting on some numbers, Lall told the audience about the scale of copyright infringements. The Association of Indian Motion Pictures does about 700 cases a year and the Indian Music Industry (IMI) does 3,000 cases a year for the music industry. There are at least 10,000 copyright cases in the criminal justice system of India, he said. There is less litigation over print, Lall pointed out, because publisher’s budgets are lower. However a lawyer who is associated with a Publisher’s Association does 100 cases a year. The average time for resolution is very long, he says and “it does go into years unfortunately.”

There are four intellectual properties -trademark, copyrights, patents and designs. “The moment you create, you get copyright, not only in India but across the world,” Lall said. Any work of creativity is a subject matter of copyright. The six copyright areas are literary works, musical works, artistic works, dramatic works, sound recordings and films. Coming to the digital media, every matter on the Internet is a subject matter of copyright. If you cut and paste, copyright is violated. Even if someone takes a few seconds of a music piece, s/he becomes a copyright infringer. Scripts and films are subject to copyright too.

Copyright is a bundle of rights. Lall explained that to translate a book is one right and to sell it in a different country is another. Publishing it in paperback or hardback are two different copyrights. Music to be sold in VCDs and DVDs require two copyrights and if you have the right to run a movie in one theatre then it cannot be run anywhere else. Copyright is not given verbally, it has to be in written or else it is considered piracy or infringement of law.

The duration of copyright cover on any creative content is the life of the author plus 60 years which implies that till after 60 years of the author’s demise, the work cannot be copied. Lall pointed out that if the author dies in January then s/he gets one extra year because the year the author dies in, is exempted.

The difficult realm of copyright is to gauge how much of the content is an inspiration and what percentage is copied from another source without due credit. If you have created and given rights verbally and not in writing to anyone then it is legally with the creator of the content. Explaining that copyright is a very untested and uncharted area, Lall described a case against a movie rental library where movies were contributed and exchanged among members of the club. It was a non-commercial activity and sounded like “reasonable use” but the High Court ruled it as case of copyright infringement.

Siddarth Arya added that, “It is usually cheaper to get the permission than try to circumvent it.” Arya talked about the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO) which helps authors and publishers with copyrights, photocopying, and scanning issues. The publisher thus goes to one place, applies for the rights and gets it at reasonable price. There is a Reprographic Rights Organisation (RRO) in many countries and IRRO has bilateral agreements with them to help Indian authors and publishers.

Although the discussion mainly centred on illegal use and plagiarism and not strictly on piracy in publishing, the connections were there. It became clear that although this is not a difficult subject there is much to learn and a great amount of detail and compliance to sort out for both publishers and authors.

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