The West Bengal State cabinet has cleared a new ordinance that provides for a minimum term of imprisonment and amount of fine of three years and Rs. 25000 and a maximum term of imprisonment and fine of seven years and Rs. 100000 respectively for piracy offences. The ordinance is touted to be for the benefit of the singers and other artists in the film industry who were suffering huge losses owing to the rampant piracy of audio and video CD’s and who have made repeated appeals to the Chief Minister to take action against the illegal CD rackets in the State. The Ordinance which is expected to receive the Governor’s nod soon is expected to act as a sufficient deterrent to those involved in piracy owing to its enhanced penalties. Additionally, the enforcing agencies have also been asked to look out for those involved in piracy in the State.
However, questions have been raised about the competence of the State Cabinet to clear this Ordinance as well as the necessity of this Ordinance. On the first issue, as copyright falls under Entry 49 of List I in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India, it is argued that the State Cabinet did not have the competence to clear this Ordinance in the first place. Therefore, the validity of the Ordinance can potentially be called into question.
The second issue is whether penalties of this nature and in the form of an Ordinance is required to check the large scale privacy that is apparently prevalent in the State. Arguments have been raised that existing laws are sufficient to curb this practice. Under the amended Copyright Act, 2012, privacy violations with respect to cassettes, CD’s and DVD’s already attract a penalty of imprisonment upto two years along with fine. Moreover, under Sec.51 of the Copyright Act, piracy of CD’s and DVD’s of the nature witnessed in the State would constitute copyright infringement for which civil and criminal remedies are available. It is also argued that there are remedies under the Information Technology Act to curb the duplication of CD’s and DVD’s. Therefore, the necessity of this Ordinance even in the context of the rampant privacy observed in the State is questionable.