Copyright amendment Rules 2021

The Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2021

Introduction

The Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2021 were notified via Gazette notification under reference G.S.R. 225(E)dated 30th March 2021. The purpose behind the amendment is to bring the existing copyright rules on the same level as other legislations relevant to it. It has been passed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which came into effect from 30th March, 2021 itself and it has made changes into the Copyright Rules, 2013.

The laws relating to copyright in India are governed under the Copyright Act, 1957 and Copyright Rules, 2013 thereunder. The last amendment to rules were made in the year 2016. The recent amendment via the Copyright Amendment Rules, 2021 are aimed at attaining a smooth and effective compliance of the Copyright laws. This has been done keeping in mind the push towards digital and electronic modes of communication and conduct of business in the Copyright Office, prompted by the technological advancements and needs of the current times.

There are several key changes that have been made in the current rules in order to increase accountability and transparency in the processes, to deal with issues such as undistributed royalty amounts which affected the earlier rules. Several attempts have been made to coordinate the Copyright rules with the provisions of Finance Act, 2017, by merging the Copyright Board with the Appellate Board. The process has been made easier by reducing the compliance requirements, wherein the Applicant has to now file the first 10 and last 10 pages of source code, or the entire source code if less than 20 pages, with no blocked out or redacted portions.

Further, the time for Central Government to respond to each registration application in cases of Copyright Societies has been extended to 180 days in order to ensure a more comprehensive and detailed examination.

  • Replacement of the words “The Copyright Board” with the “The Appellate Board”

All the responsibilities and duties of the Copyright Board have been transferred to the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), which include, grant of compulsory licenses and statutory licenses, determination of royalty rates, etc. The purpose behind this change has been stipulated as a step to streamline the rules with the parent act i.e., Copyright Act, 1957.

In 2017, the Copyright Act, 1957 was amended wherein the term ‘Copyright Board’ was replaced with ‘Appellate Board’. However, this amendment comes around the same time as the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, via which the Appellate Board was abolished. The promulgation of the ordinance on 4th April, 2021 and scrapping of the IPAB has made this particular amendment a futile act.

However, as a consequence of the amendment and the ordinance being read together, the powers that have been vested in the ‘Appellate Board’ via the amendment shall further be vested in the appropriate Commercial Courts and High Courts as per the ordinance.

  • Reforms in the functioning of Copyright Societies

Major reforms in the amendment deal with the functioning of Copyright Societies in India and a huge emphasis is laid down on the same. One of the major changes made in this respect is setting up of a traceable system with regards to collection and distribution of royalties. In such cases where the author or owner of the copyrighted work is unidentifiable, royalties relating to such works must be deposited in a separate account to be maintained by the copyright society. Adequate measures are to be taken by the copyright society to trace and find the author/owner of such work by publishing the information related to such work on their website.

If even after such steps, the author is does not come forward and cannot be identified, then the royalty may be transferred to a welfare fund set up for the welfare of the members of the society.

Annual transparency reports are to be published by Copyright Societies on their websites and must be accessible for a period of three years. The reports must contain details pertaining to activities undertaken by the copyright society in a given financial year, details of licenses refused, royalties collected and paid to authors, royalties transferred to welfare funds, etc. Following details are also to be provided by the Copyright Societies, which include, a searchable database of all the works in their repertoire and details of the undistributed royalties relating to works of unidentifiable authors.

  • Registration of Source Code

Rule 70 which lays down ‘Registration of Copyrights’ has been amended. The erstwhile provisions provided for entire source code along with an object code of computer programmes to be submitted in the registration process.

However, the amendment has changed the same to first ten and last ten pages of the source code, and only in cases where the source code is less than twenty pages, the entire code is to be submitted. This amendment has been brought in with the object to ensure confidentiality of the information submitted by the applicants in cases of softwares and computer programmes.

Other changes with respect to procedure and functioning

  • All the notifications are now to be published in the Copyright Journal and the Copyright Office’s official journal as opposed to the Official Gazette.
  • Certain applications may be now served via electronic means to the copyright owner of relevant works as opposed to registered posts. These include applications for compulsory licenses under Rule 6, Rule 17 and Rule 18.
  • In addition to demand drafts and banker’s cheques, the payment method for Applicants have been increased to payment through electronic means as well.
  • Time limit to accept or reject an application by the Registrar of Copyrights has been extended from 60 days to 180 days.
  • Members of the Governing Council of a Copyright Society along with the Chairman are eligible to re-election after completion of a tenure 2 years in the office.   

Conclusion

The amendments have taken a major leap towards being at par with the technological development and bringing the functioning of the Copyright Office at the same level as that of digital technologies as employed by Patents and Trade Marks registry. Other requirements such as annual transparency reports and tracing of unidentified authors as included into the rules via the amendment are yet another step towards promotion of transparency and credibility to the functioning of copyright societies.

About the author

Bharat Sharma
Sonal Sinha

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