It appears that even renowned institutions such as IIM-Calcutta cannot escape the claws of the copyright regime, with a private college, WLC College India Ltd., accusing the former of ‘intellectual property theft’ in relation to course material that was provided to IIM-C during negotiations for a joint-certificate course.
It is reportedthat WLC is planning legal action against IIM-C for copying the structure and syllabi of a special course that was designed by them. WLC has argued that there is merit in its claim since they designed and developed a course structure for specific sub-professions under the broad topic ‘Human Resource Development’ by including detailed structures for talent acquisition, compensation and benefit management amongst others. The management at IIM-C on the other hand argued that the claim was frivolous and that IIM’s Management Development Program (MDP) course had no relation to the negotiations carried out with WLC.
IIM-C representatives also argued that the terminology used by WLC was generic and they were being accused of lifting subjects that were common and universal. However, representatives from WLC claimed that there were specific details that were unique to them and which IIM-C only gained knowledge of once they were in discussions with WLC. They asserted that their specialisation was ‘digital marketing’ and IIM’s course structure made particular references to website marketing which was the specialised knowledge of WLC.
However, WLC has admitted that it has not registered a copyright for the course. This may or may not prove relevant in the final proceedings since copyright is deemed to vest upon creation and registration serves only as prima facie evidence. But it would serve WLC well to demonstrate that the course material in question had been published earlier, even if internally amongst its professors and administrative staff, which appears more than likely, given that they were in discussions with IIM-C to begin a joint-certification course on the subject.
It is interesting to see that IIM-C representatives are denying the claims so vehemently, even refusing to admit ‘getting inspired by them’. This is clearly a problem with a copyright regime that encourages aggressive enforcement, where individuals are afraid of admitting even being inspired by certain works. Either people are not aware of the law, which clearly states that ideas by themselves cannot be protected and there is no merit in a legal claim that rests on the argument that a particular work was inspired by another, or even worse, people are so afraid of admitting that they were inspired by a piece of work, despite knowing the law, simply because courts have failed to distinguish between an infringement of copyright and a transformative work that draws from a prior creation.
This entire situation reminds me of previous cases in the U.S. and elsewhere where certain individuals approach television networks and pitch an idea for a television program to the executives and are shown the door, only to realise that the network later uses the same idea to bring out a show without crediting the individual. Obviously a determination on the question of infringement is case specific, depending on the extent to which it may be judged an expression and not merely an idea and it appears the Indian courts will have to grapple with the same problem in this case, based on the extent to which specific details in the course structure have been utilised by IIM-Calcutta in their proposed program.
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Tags: Data Theft