A Critical Analysis: Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2021

Copyright is a bundle of exclusive legal rights vested with a creator of original work, including the right to publish and economically exploit his/her work, the right to reproduce his work and broadcast it to the public. Copyright Act. 1957, and Copyright Rules 2013 deal with India's registration, protection, and enforcement of copyrights.

In March 2021, the Government of India notified the Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2021 amending the existing copyright rules to increase accountability and transparency and to ensure that the copyright law aligns with other laws of the country, such as the provisions of the Finance Act, 2017 and the Copyright Act, itself.

The Government of India has notified Copyright (Amendment) Rules 2021 vide Gazette notification bearing reference number G.S.R. 225(E) dated 30th March 2021. In India, copyright is governed by the Copyright Act, 1957, and the Copyright Rules, 2013, last amended in 2016. The primary objective of the amendments is to bring the existing rules into parity with other relevant legislations. It also aims to ensure smooth and seamless compliance in the digital era by adopting electronic means as the primary mode of communication and working in the Copyright Office.

Amendments introduced by the Copyright (Amendment) Rules 2021 and their implications:

  • Provision relating to a Copyright journal:

    Akin to the publication of trademarks in trademark journals, a new provision was inserted regarding the publication of the work in copyright journals, thereby eliminating the requirement of publication in the Official Gazette. The copyright journal will be available on the website of the Registrar of Copyrights.

    Implications: This will ensure smooth and flawless compliance in the modern age by using electronic means as the primary form of contact in the functioning of the Copyright Office. 
  • Provisions dealing with Source Code:

    Earlier, while applying for registration of a computer programme, the applicant was required to file the entire source and object code. However, the amendment has reduced the compliance requirements and allowed an applicant to file the application with only the first and last 10 pages of the source code and, if less than 20 pages, the entire source code without any blurred or redacted parts.

    Implication: This will ensure that the confidential information in the code is not compromised in any manner whatsoever. 
  • Provision relating to Copyright Societies:

    New provisions were introduced to deal with the undistributed royalty amounts and electronic and traceable payment methods while collecting and distributing royalties by Copyright Societies. Further, the Copyright Societies must prepare and publish an Annual Transparency Report for each financial year within 6 months from the end of the concerned financial year. 

    Implications: This will reinforce transparency and encourage accountability in the working of a copyright society. 

  • Provision relating to registration of copyright:

    As per the Copyright Act, the Registrar must approve or reject an application within 60 days. However, this period was increased to 180 days after this amendment. 

    Implication: This will provide additional time to the Central Government for careful examination and scrutiny; however, it will also delay the applicant’s registration process by a further period of 90 days.
  • Provision relating to Appellate Board:

    The amendment has substituted the words ‘Copyright Board’ with the words ‘Appellate Board’ to bring parity amongst the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957, and the Finance Act, 2017. 

    Implication: This will bring parity between the rules and the Act, thereby reducing the public's confusion at large. However, the amendment may increase the burden on courts in India.

The Copyright (Amendment) Rules 2021 have also deleted certain other provisions such as the manner of investigation for the importation of infringing copies, the procedure for tendering notice, etc. The amendment aims to increase transparency and accountability. However, only time will tell whether the objectives of the amendment have been achieved in the true sense or not. 

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