India Accedes to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty

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As a latest development, India has officially acceded to the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) on Wednesday i.e. 4th July 2018.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, approved the proposal submitted by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry regarding accession to the two international copyright treaties that extend the protection of copyright to the internet and digital environment.

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “The approval is a step towards the objective laid down in the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy, adopted on 12th May 2016 which aims at getting value for National Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) through commercialisation by providing guidance and support to EPR owners about commercial opportunities of e-commerce through the internet and mobile platforms”.

To give a brief background, the WCT and the WPPT were negotiated in 1996 to address the challenges posed to the protection of copyrights and related rights by digital technology, particularly with regard to the dissemination of protected material over digital networks such as the Internet. The member countries of the WIPO agreed on the utility of having the Internet treaties in the changed global technical scenario and adopted them by consensus.

WIPO Copyright Treaty came in force on 6th March, 2002 and has been adopted by 96 contracting parties till date and is a special agreement under Berne Convention (for protection of literary and artistic works). It has special provisions to extend the protection of copyrights contained therein to the digital environment and recognises the rights specific to digital environment, of making work available, to address “on-demand” and other interactive modes of access.

WPPT came in force on 20th May, 2002 and has 96 contracting parties as its members. WPPT deals with rights of two kinds of beneficiaries, namely performers and producers of phonograms (sound recordings). It recognises moral rights of performers for the first time and provides exclusive economic rights to them.

“These treaties shall facilitate international protection of domestic rights holder by providing them level-playing field in other countries as India already extends protection to foreign works through the International Copyright order and these treaties will enable Indian right holders to get reciprocal protection abroad”, the press-release stated.

Interestingly enough, although India had not acceded to the WCT and WPPT until now, the main object and rationale behind promulgating the Copyright Amendment Act 2012 was to harmonise the provisions of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 with that of the said WIPO internet treaties; to the extent considered necessary and desirable.

The Copyright Amendment Bill, 2012 in its Statement of Objects and Reasons affirms that –

“3. The amendments proposed in the Bill, inter alia seeks to,—
(i) make the provisions of the Act in conformity with World Intellectual Property Organisation’s WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) and to ensure protection to the copyright holders against circumvention of effective technological measures applied for purpose of protection of their rights and circumvention of rights management information and to provide for punishment for two years and fine for violation of such rights;

(ii) provide exclusive rights and moral rights to performers in conformity with the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT); ……”.

The Copyright Amendment Act, 2012, among other things, introduced an amendment in the definition of “communication to the public” to make it applicable to digital environment [Section 2(ff)] and introduced provisions relating to Technological Protection Measures (Section 65A) and Rights Management Information (Section 65B), Moral Rights of Performers (Section 38B), Exclusive Rights of the Performers (Section 38A) and Safe Harbour provisions over electronic medium (Section 52 (1) (b) and (c)).

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