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Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman says the government wants to give music producers and artistes a better protection of their intellectual property. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman says the government wants to give music producers and artistes a better protection of their intellectual property. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Govt plans strict enforcement of copyright law to tackle piracy

There is complete absence of enforcement of copyright though there is a law, says commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi: Makers of pirated products in India face the prospects of a crackdown, with the government planning strict enforcement of the copyright law under its new intellectual property right (IPR) policy.

“We have to stop this. It tarnishes the image of the country," commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Monday.

The minister said though law enforcement is a state matter, the Centre can help stop piracy at the point products are replicated. “There is complete absence of enforcement of copyright at present though there is a law. Many music producers and artistes are unable to protect their content. Now we want to give them better protection of their IPR," Sitharaman said.

The Centre is also planning to form an IP cell in the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) to coordinate with state governments and train and sensitize them to counter copyright infringements of books, music and movies among other products.

“We will also encourage industry bodies and book publishers to conduct roadshows all across the country, sensitizing general public against falling for pirated products," Sitharaman said.

The US had a few years ago named Nehru Place in New Delhi as among the 30 most notorious technology markets that deal in goods and services that infringe property rights. It had also raised the issue of India not taking enough action against online piracy that has been affecting US-based content companies.

It is, however, the domestic music industry that has been the worst hit by online piracy and it has been seeking more stringent action from the government.

The government has shifted the copyright-related issues from the department of higher education to DIPP, making the latter the nodal agency for all intellectual property matters.

Sitharaman said the domestic music industry has already approached her office and that she has asked them to suggest measures that the government can take.

DIPP joint secretary Rajiv Aggarwal said that Telangana has set up an intellectual property crime unit and that Tamil Nadu has a good track record with 50% of such cases in India being registered in the state. These were models that other states could replicate.

Saikrishna Rajagopal, managing partner at Noida-based law firm Saikrishna and Associates, said that while the objective of the government is laudable, sensitizing the state police forces to allocate resources for IP crimes is the real challenge. “With a dedicated IP cell at the Centre, the Centre can coordinate action on large scale piracy cases across states," he added.

The new IPR policy seeks to put in place a legal framework that will encourage the IPR regime and reduce the time taken by the government to approve a trademark to a month by 2017. Currently, the process takes more than a year.

The policy released by the government last week set enforcement and adjudication as an important policy objective. The policy cleared by the cabinet said there is a need to build respect for IPR among the general public and to sensitize the inventors and creators of IP on measures for protection and enforcement of their rights.

“At the same time, there is also a need to build the capacity of the enforcement agencies at various levels, including strengthening of IPR cells in State police forces. Measures to check counterfeiting and piracy also need to be identified and undertaken," it added.

The policy, which aims to boost innovation, comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, a country that has shown a lot of interest in India’s IP rules, said Sitharaman. Modi has been invited to address the joint session of the US Congress in early June.

The US Trade Representative (USTR) continued to keep India on a priority watch list in its annual Special 301 report released last month while avoiding last year’s rhetoric of threats to impose trade sanctions against India.

“In late 2014, India initiated a process of soliciting widespread stakeholder input regarding its development of a draft national IPR policy. USTR encourages continued engagement with interested stakeholders, as India continues to develop this policy framework," said the report.

Sitharaman reiterated that India considers the US Special 301 report as a “unilateral" report and does not recognize it. “No country has the right of oversight on policy of another country," she said.

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