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Copyright Infringement Laws in Cyberspace

Introduction

The information technology industry has grown at the fastest pace in the past few decades. The growth in digital technology has revolutionized the world in the field of education, art, and entertainment. The modern era provides all of us with ample opportunities for the creation of content, be it of any kind. But, as every coin has a different side, the easy accessibility to the cyberspace has also made it easy for the content to be easily available to be copied.

In fact, today we are so accustomed to the practice of ‘downloading’ any material from the net that we do not even realize that this is actually copyright infringement in cyberspace. Some important reasons for this practice to be almost unstoppable are the lack of rules on the internet, ease in availability of content, virtual anonymity of the user, etc.

Why does it need to be stopped?

Copyright infringement is an issue that acts as a thorn in the path of the budding authors, musicians, photographers, and many such creators. The ultimate nightmare for such creators is plagiarism, i.e. the content being copied by people and being represented as their own. As wrong as it seems on moral grounds, copyright infringement is a criminal offence under the Copyright Act, 1957.

The irony here is that piracy of data, plagiarism, free downloads, etc have become such common terms for the youth that they do not even realize that they are committing a criminal offence. In a survey, it was concluded that around 63% of people in India download free music from the internet without even knowing about the laws related to copyright infringement.

The Law and Judicial Approach

In India, the Copyrights Act, 1957 protects the rights of a person if a case of infringement occurs. Under this act, a criminal action can be taken against the person found guilty and can be made liable for imprisonment for not less than 6 months and up to 3 years or fine of at least 50000 to 2 lacs.

The Copyrights Act was amended in 2012 and certain provisions were included which specifically deal with copyright infringement in cyberspace. Section 52(1)(b) mentions the safe harbor of a person who might have incidentally saved infringing copies of the content. The remedies are also provided under the Act, segregated into civil remedies including injunction, damages, destruction of infringing copies, etc. and criminal remedies including imprisonment or fine. The Act however is largely unable to protect the unauthorized distribution and use of original works. Taking examples from the USA, the Napster Case is a landmark case in this context.

How to avoid copyright infringement?

As mentioned earlier, a lot of people commit this act without even knowing that it is illegal and without knowing the consequences of the same. So here are some tips for people who do not wish to be a part of copyright infringement but end up doing so unknowingly.

All the licenses and permissions should be pre-checked if one is not using any original literary, artistic, or musical work. Some owners allow their content to be copied without direct permission while the others don’t.

It should be made sure that the term ‘fair use’, as mentioned in the Copyrights Act is understood clearly beyond doubt and thus, the work is being used for educational and research purposes only.

If a person wants to get a copyright for his work, he must consult a copyright lawyer to make sure that he is not infringing the copyright of another creator by unknowingly copying his work.

How to protect your content from being copied?

Technology is the most feasible solution too for the problem of content copying. Some of the best methods are to maximize plagiarism protection, set up an alert which scans your name or title, use better software to protect the data, etc.

Conclusion

Knowledge and awareness about copyright laws definitely play the pioneering step towards curbing infringement. This is an issue that needs to taken much more seriously and should be treated as a criminal offence (which is obviously already is!). The issue of infringement can sometimes go to such an extent that the benefits offered by the cyberspace may get overshadowed. The standards need to be fixed both domestically and internationally to set regulations and monitor the access of material and curb copyright infringement in cyberspace as far as possible.

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