The Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2021i (here in after referred to as “the Amendment”) were published in the Gazette of India on 30th March, 2021. This Amendment amends the existing Copyright Rules, 2013ii (herein after referred to as “the rules” or “the Principal Rules”) which were last amended in 2016. The Amendment seeks to bring the rules to parity with existing legislations keeping in mind the technical advancements made in digital era. The Amendment seeks to promote transparency and flawless compliance with laws; and deals with the use of electronic and traceable payment methods, distribution of royalties, annual transparency report by copyright societies, among others.
KEY ASPECTS OF THE AMENDMENT
The Appellate Board
The Amendment rules substituted ‘Copyright Board’ with ‘Appellate Board’.iii This was done to get the rules in consonance with the Copyright Act, 1957 (hereinafter referred as “the Act”) amended by the Finance Act, 2017. The Finance Act, 2017iv substituted ‘Copyright Board’ with ‘Appellate Board’.v Further, this must be read along with the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021vi where the powers of ‘Appellate Board’ have been distributed between ‘Commercial Courts’ and ‘High Court’ implying the abolishment of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB)vii.
The amended rules have substituted the requirement of publication in the Official Gazette and has provided for a Copyrights Journal like the Trademark Journal instead.ix The journal shall be made available online on the Copyright Office’s (hereinafter referred as “the Office”) official website.x This digitization shall enable an efficient compliance and help both- the authors/owners and the Office- in keeping checks on infringing works.
Introduction of Digital Medium for Processes
It is clear from the Amendment that it is aimed to make the compliance smooth and hassle-free. The Amendment enables the Office and authors/owners to communicate electronically with each otherxi, it also enables the ‘Copyright Societies’ to collect and distribute the royalties electronicallyxii, it enables the registry to keep the records and indices in either physical or electronic formxiii and it allows the applicants to pay the requisite fees electronicallyxiv. This move not only simplifies the process for stake-holders but it also promotes sustainable work-culture as it lessens the dependency of the Office and the authors/owners over printed paper. Further, electronic records enable the stake-holders to increase the efficiency as it makes it easy to keep checks and balance as compared to going through piles of data. Also, it makes the Office accessible to the applicants in the times of Pandemic since compliance can be done while sitting at a safe space.
With respect to the Copyright Societies (hereinafter referred as “the Societies”), the time-limit to accept or reject the application for the registration of the Societies has been increased from 60 days to 180 days to improve the efficiency of the scrutiny system of the Central Government.xv Further, the Chairman and other members of the Governing Council are now eligible for re-election.xvi As discussed earlier, the Amendment enables the Societies to create a system of payment through electronic modes for both collection and distribution of royalties by the way of insertion of sub-rule 3 in rule 55 of the Principal Rules.xvii The Societies are further required to take all necessary measures to locate authors and other owners and publish information with regards to the title of the work, the name of the authors/owners on their website.xviii If the authors cannot be identified or located and as a result royalty remains undistributed, the Amendment instructs the Societies to keep such royalty separate in the accounts.xix In cases where the royalty remains undistributed at the end of three financial years from the end of the financial year in which collection occurred, the royalty shall be transferred to the welfare fund of the Society.xx The insertion of Rule 65A in the Amendment mandates the Copyright Societies to draw up and make public an Annual Transparency Report on its website for each financial year within 6 months following the end of the financial year.xxi This not only provides improved functionality, accountability and transparency to the working of Copyright Societies but also makes sure the rotation of royalties and tariffs is traceable.
Registration of a Computer Program
Clause 28 of the Amendment amends the sub-rule 5 to the rule 70 of the Principal Rules that earlier provided that every application for registration of a computer program was to be accompanied by the source and object code. This posed with not only problem related to the compliance since the codes to a program can run into hundreds of pages but it also posed with the risk of leaking of confidential information present in the codes. The 2021 amendment fixes these issues by providing that along with the application at least first 10 and last 10 pages of the source code have to be submitted and the whole source code has to be submitted only in the situation where the source code is less than 20 pages. The amendment further provides that such pages should not contain any blocked or redacted portions and since only a portion of source code has to be submitted, it shall not pose any confidentiality issue.
KEY TAKE-AWAY AND CONCLUSION
The Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2021 provide for a better, simplified and an efficient system that does not shy away from utilizing technological advancements for improving its functionality and conforms better to the laws in force. The move to digitize the communication, record keeping and monetary transactions shall not just ensure the traceability of the money but shall also make it easier to work out the compliance remotely.
With all being said, the amendment leaves a loophole. As discussed earlier, the amendment substitutes ‘Copyright Board’ with ‘Appellate Board’ to come in consonance with the Copyright Act 1957 as amended by the Finance Act, 2017. But as of 4th April 2021, the Act was again amended by The Tribunal Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 in which the powers of the appellate board were distributed between the Commercial Courts and the High Court. Even if the amended rules are read with the ordinance to interpret the Act, this induces an element of confusion and as such leaves the space for another amendment to the Principal Rules.
With the pros outweighing the cons, this amendment surely shows a promise to a brighter future for the copyright regime in the Country.