Digital Copyright Laws

Copyright Laws

Copyright was initially pertinent to works that were sold and published. With the advancement in technology, there emerged new challenges to the existing copyright laws. With technology expanding to new horizons, it made the digital data easily available which lead to the exploitation of the copyrighted work. The Internet/digital media enables the reproduction of original work instantaneously.

The Copyright Act, 1957[1] provides for a list of protected works under Section 13. The copyright law regulates the creation, use and exploitation of mental or creative labour. It promotes the creation of original works by the authors, composers, artists, etc. Copyright acts as a reward for that period for which the said copyright is granted. The law states that anyone who creates an original work shall enjoy the exclusive right to reproduce that work for a limited period.

The growth of technology has given rise to concepts like computer programs, database, layout, etc. In the digital era, copyright is a key issue in Intellectual Property Rights. Various laws protect the following components[2] related to copyright:

  • Database
  • Software/Computer Program
  • Internet


It is a collection of data stored in an electronic form. It allows for easy retrieval of information. It can be a compilation of works, data or other materials. The database should be given copyright protection as they are the compilation of an author’s hard work and skills.

In India, databases are considered and treated as literary or artistic works. They are protected under Section 13(1)(a) of the Copyright Act, 1957. It states that copyright should subsist in India to original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Section 63B of the same Act provides that anyone who knowingly makes use on a computer of an infringing copy of a computer programme shall be punished. Punishment includes imprisonment for a minimum of seven days and a maximum of three years and fine which shall not be less than fifty thousand rupees, but which may extend to two lakh rupees.

Software/Computer Program

Software is a set of programs/language or instructions that the computer understands.

Companies in various developing and developed nations heavily depend on the use of computer programs for their day-to-day work. These products have a large market and thus they can be easily copied. Copyright protection helps these companies to charge monopoly prices and prevent copying.

Computer programs qualify for copyright protection under the TRIPS Agreement[3] . This agreement allows for reverse engineering of software in the developing countries.

In India, major changes to this law were introduced in the 1994 Amendment to the Copyright Act. It explained:

  • Copyright holders’ rights.
  • Software rental position.
  • Backup copies rights.

Section 14 of the said Act makes it illegal to distribute copies of copyrighted software.

Section 63B mentioned above deals with the punishment and fine. The person violating can be tried both under civil and criminal law for the infringement of software copyright.


The first publicly available internet services were started in India in 1995. Since then it is booming on various fronts. Today, copyright law is used to protect the content that is available online in the same way as it did when the internet was not in existence.

The first attempt to reconcile law relating to copyright was made under the adoption of the Berne Convention in 1886[4] on a global level. It was then followed by the TRIPS Agreement in 1994. With the establishment of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), it brought with itself a WIPO Copyright Treaty in 1996[5]. This treaty provides protection and covers all kinds of computer programs.

In 1998, the U.S. adopted The Digital Millennium Copyright Act[6] (DCMA) with the view of governing the copyright law. It protects the works against infringement of copyright on the Internet. The aim is to ‘move the nations copyright law into the digital age’.

In India, the situation is very different. Section 13 and Section 63 provides for the protection of literary work, images, sound and other creative works from being copied without the permission of the copyright holder. It does not fix liability on the infringement done by the ISPs (Internet Service Provider). These are the entities which provide access to internet facilities. They are responsible for proving the copyrighted content online. The ISP’s liability may be questionable as they continuously engage themselves in the reproduction or communication of the copyrighted content. They contribute to the person infringing the copyright laws.

To rectify this situation, The Information Technology Act, 2000, plays a very important role in fixing liability upon these ISPs. Section 79[7] of the Act dispenses the rights and liabilities of an ISP. It provides that an ISP (intermediary) shall not be responsible for any third-party information or data or communication link made available by him.

Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012[8]

This was the sixth amendment to the Copyright Act. This provides for the major changes, namely:

  • A fair dealing exception use for the educational purpose has been made available to all types of work. It has also been extended to the reporting of current events, delivery of lecture in public.
  • Storing any work in electronic form for the purposes mentioned does not constitute infringement.
  • Electronic links made from the transient and incidental storage of work has not been expressly prohibited.
  • non-commercial public libraries” can store an electronic copy of a work if it already has a physical copy of the work.

The Copyright Rules, 2013[9]

These rules came into force from 14 March 2013 and provide for the process to be followed for the relinquishment of[10]:

  • Copyright
  • Compulsory licenses
  • Statutory licenses
  • Registration of copyright societies
  • Membership and administration of affairs of copyright societies and performers’ societies.

Draft Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2019

It was released by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT). It has some main proposals in draft rules, namely[11]:

  • Substitution of the Copyright Board by the Appellate Board.
  • The way the tariff schemes are fixed by the copyright societies.
  • A separate account in the copyright societies to keep the royalty given to the authors.
  • It also proposes that copyright companies should publish an annual transparency report for each financial year.


There is a lack of one comprehensive act that covers all the developing and developed nations equally. By doing so, the content creators and owners across the world will be encouraged to make more quality work for the rest of the world. It should include strong laws to protect the infringement of the author’s work. Although the current copyright systems and laws protect the copyright owners, it also has some drawbacks. The society must be educated to prevent the infringement of the copyrighted content.

Edited by Pushpamrita Roy

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje 













Niket Khandelwal
I am Niket Khandelwal, a student of Faculty of Law, Delhi University and currently in my second semester. I am continuously looking after all the legal reforms happening in the country. I find myself working in various law firms so that I get to gain experience and then come up with my own NGO which will work for the poor and the needy people of this country. Research work and writing is what gives me peace and a sense of accomplishment at the end. Criminal and Constitutional matters intrigue me the most. Apart from all of this, I am an avid reader.