Posted : 07 Sep, 2014 00:00:00
Copyright infringement: Bangladesh & India perspective
M S Siddiqui
Coping of products of competitors has a long history as a practice ignoring the right of the innovator. Japan gained western technology in the form of reverse engineering after Second World War and exported products to Asian countries and developed their economy. They are rightly followed by Korea, Taiwan and China to offer products and equipment at a very low price and become economic powers. They were fortunate that the patent and copy right laws could not apply effectively beyond the borders.
Now the world is almost a single market with reforms applied by the multilateral agreement on Trade related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). All WTO members are pledge-bound to TRIPS rules for IP rights and protection of infringement of copyright.
Copyright protects literary (whether in written, printed or digital form), musical and artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings, broadcasts, programme-carrying signals, computer programmes etc. It is for protection of the rights and interest of both authors and publishers.
Piracy of books is a concern and also a cheapest mean of collecting books. The physical property (the book) is separate from the intellectual property (the content) contained in it. Ownership of the book is not the same as ownership of the ideas expressed in it. Expression of those ideas belongs to the author. The publisher has a separate copyright in the published edition or the typographical arrangement.
Copyright consists of a whole bundle of rights: the right to reproduce a work; to publish it in a certain territory; or in a certain language. It enters into force through agreements between authors and publishers.
The standard copyright law includes the "first sale doctrine." It says that after that first sale, the buyer may sell or otherwise dispose of that book. A buyer may safely sell or give away any book published in the same country without fear of violating the copyright law. The copyright law prevents from copying a book, but not from reselling the copy bought from the publisher.
The Copyright Act does not say anywhere that someone may copy as much as he likes as long as it is not for commercial purposes. The regulations to the standard law offer certain concessions for educational institutions and for non-profit libraries. These include a defined number of multiple copies strictly for classroom use or discussion, but exclude compilations.
These days unscrupulous publishing industries in many countries practise rampant piracy of books -- textbooks, professional books (scientific, technical and medical), as well as scholarly journals.
The marketing of pirated books at stoplights in New Delhi has reached epidemic proportions, despite repeated complaints to the Delhi authorities. All varieties of pirated books, from poor quality cover-to-cover photocopies and obviously pirated cheap reprints, to hardbound, high quality copies of medical reference volumes, are readily available. The Nilkhet market near the University of Dhaka is the centre of photo copying of books for students. Most of the books are from India with mark "for Sale in India" and some books from USA and Europe. Both Bangladesh and India are in infringement of copyright of US or European copyright holders.
One of the reasons for piracy in Bangladesh and India is the poor purchasing power. A study on Bangladeshi book market observed that the respondents do not want to pay more than Tk 250 per book. A majority of the Indian publishers reports pricing a bestseller at as low as 95 rupees to boost legitimate sales.
The worst sufferers of piracy are the western authors and publishers. Some US and European publishers have authorised publishers in India of their books intended for the Indian market. But there are plenty of books pirated regularly and sold and distributed through out the country as a clear reflection of absence of any mentionable punitive measures. The US has placed India this year (2014) on the Priority Watch List with an Out-of-Cycle Review (OCR) highlighting the increasing importance of the role of IP in the world's second most populous country. The other priority watch listing included Pakistan in the region. The book market in Bangladesh is yet to be under such scanner, but it was very much under watch for piracy of disk and CD. Indian authors and publishers have concern of piracy of their books in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has an updated law of copyrights since 2000 but it needs further modification. There is both civil and criminal remedy in case of infringement of copyrights. Civil suits provide remedy for claiming compensation for infringement of copyright and loss of profits as well. The owner of the copyright can go for civil suits in which actions such as-- search order injunction and damages can be sought. Administrative remedies consist of moving the Registrar of copyright to ban import of infringing copies into Bangladesh, when the infringement is by way of such importation and the delivery of the confiscated infringing copies to the owner of the copyright. They can destroy counterfeit/pirated goods, if the act of infringement is proved by the court of Law. Criminal remedies provide for the imprisonment of the accused or imposition of fine or both, seizure of infringing copies.
It is expected that over time the copyright situation in this region will improve through awareness building, improvement in financial capacity and effective enforcement of law.
India is both beneficiary and loser as result of infringement, and Bangladesh is a beneficiary in the short run. Bangladesh and India can work closely to prevent infringement of copyrights with active administrative and judicial support.