Victory for Akhtar – Rajya Sabha unanimously passes historic amendments to Copyright Act, 1957

The Rajya Sabha, yesterday, sat overtime to debate and vote on the historic Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010. The Bill was passed unanimously by all members of the Rajya Sabha with no opposition from any quarters. The Bill has been in the works for a few years now and was introduced in Parliament in the year 2010. This amendment Bill introduced some of the most sweeping changes in Indian copyright law, especially for the music industry. Other major amendments pertained to the rights of the disabled to used copyright protected works, technological protection measures (TPMs), a new safe harbour clause for internet intermediaries and a reorganization of the Copyright Board. Our previous posts on the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010 can be accessed over here.
The amendment bill, was scheduled to be debated several times over the last year but seemed to be cursed by the events surrounding it. Even yesterday, the Opposition parties suddenly raised the issue of violation of minority rights in Pakistan and for a moment it looked like the scheduled debate on the amendment bill would be derailed once again. However the Chair extended the sitting of House beyond the scheduled time and managed to squeeze in a two hour debate on the Bill.
Usually the Rajya Sabha debates are available on the website of the Rajya Sabha within hours. However yesterday’s debates on the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010 have not yet been made available on the website of the Rajya Sabha. I will therefore unfortunately have to depend on my memory for the contents of this post.
Javed Akhtar (Image from here)
Amongst the many speakers in yesterday’s debate, three particular speakers stand out for their excellent contributions. The first would be Javed Akhtar who made an impassioned plea to the House to help the creative communities by passing the Bill. Akhtar’s plea appeared to have the required effect, since almost every other speaker fondly referred to Akhtar and his talent in their speeches supporting the Bill. In my estimation it is Akhtar’s charisma which ensured smooth passage of the Bill because as one CPI(M) MP put it: “It is rare for us in the opposition to have an opportunity to support a Bill moved by Minister Kapil Sibal”.
The second notable speaker would be P. Rajeev, the CPI (M) MP who demanded answers from the government, as to why the clause regarding parallel imports into the country was dropped from the amendments despite the Standing Committee strongly supporting the same. He also made some forceful points opposing the introduction of TPMs. Earlier in the day this same MP move a courageous, albeit unsuccessful, motion seeking annulment of the controversial IT (Intermediary guidelines) Rules, 2011.
The third notable speaker was the BJP’s Prakash Javadekar who severely criticized the Ministry for what he thought was a shabby first draft of the Bill and also for not conducting any consultations with the stakeholders before introducing the bill in Parliament. Javadekar then detailed how the Standing Committee, of which he was a member, carried out extensive consultations with all stakeholders over 15 long meetings.
With specific regard to the point on ‘parallel imports’, the Minister assured the House that the issue had been referred to a committee which would submit its report in August and that the Govt. would take a final decision on the ‘parallel imports’ issue only after the Committee submitted the report
The final version of the Bill can be found here on the Rajya Sabha website. With regard to the controversial ‘statutory licencing’ provision, the radio and television industry will be pleased to note that the provision has been retained but the Copyright Board will have to fix different rates for each segment. This is the first time ever that the phrase ‘television’ has been used in the Copyright Act, 1957.
The Government has only two days of business left this session to take the bill through the Lok Sabha – Monday & Tuesday. If not the Bill will get deferred to the monsoon session which usually begins in July.
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