Balancing Copyrights With Public Access

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New Delhi, Apr 11 (UNI) Authors and other copyright owners were asked today to exercise their rights but help make materials affordable and accessible to consumers.

The suggestion came from Minister of State for Human Resource Development D Purandeswari at a seminar on the Role of Judiciary in Enforcement of the Copyright Law.

Speaking at the event inaugurated by Supreme Court Judge V S Sirpurkar, the MoS asserted India's faith in Rule of Law. ''We pride ourselves in the rule of law which dictates the way we conduct our society... and makes the State accountable.'' India's early Copyrights Act was put in place by the colonial regime in 1914 and the current law enacted in 1957.

She said, ''any law, in the ultimate analysis, ought to provide a level playing field to all stake holders, which is a continuing legislative quest.'' She pointed out how the 1957 Act had undergone several amendments, last in 1994 to comply with ''our commitments under the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

''The need to review its existing provisions continues to exercise us, particularly in the light of the developments in digital technologies.'' She described how India ''respects global sensitivities, irrespective of whether we are signatories to formal agreements or not.'' Although India is not a signatory to the Rome Convention, ''our copyright law is fully compliant with that Convention,'' she pointed out.

Dubbing an ''entirely market driven'' approach to copyright ''somewhat suspect,'' she stressed the need to appreciate the role domestic ''preferences'' play in law-making.

''Copyright is an intangible property right and the rationale for an entirely market driven approach is to my mind, some what suspect.

''We in India acknowledge the need to balance the rights of authors and the larger public interest of enriching education, research and access to information.

''In open democracies like our,'' the law-making process depends ''not merely on treaty obligations or obligations towards the rest of the world, but perhaps even more on social, economic or political preferences from within the Indian society, which is sensitive to mankind's common destiny and morality.

''This,'' she said, ''needs to be appreciated by the outside world, when dealing with a large mature democracy like India, where the legislative intent factors in emerging concerns of humanity and the rule of law ensures justice to all.'' She said the Copyright law, like all intellectual property laws, was a compromise between encouraging creativity and the society's access to new knowledge or creative expressions.

The rewards to the creators come from the value law allows them to derive from consumers in consonance with the rights and protection that the law accords to them from any infringement.

But she said without the concept of ''fair use'' societies would find it impossible to spread knowledge to many as it would then be confined to a few.

She referred to suggestions for special courts to handle copyrights and invited participants in the seminar at the Indian Law Institute to debate their validity.

''The Indian judiciary, as the defender of the majesty of law, has the onerous responsibility of interpreting the balance between private interests and public welfare.

''In the context of the copyright law, this balance is even more delicate,'' she said, stressing the need for courts, specially lower judiciary, to enforce copyright law with speed and alacrity.

UNI MJ RP GC1915

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