You PAID for it, but can you use it FREELY?

PCQ Bureau
New Update

You buy an e-book or a sound track online and there is an attached condition

that you can read the book for a whole year (a year being defined in the

software as 365 solar days from the time you activated your purchase) or

transfer your music to any other device a total of 5 times. In the

beginning, you might think that everything is hunky-dory, till you find that
there were 500 pages in the e-book and you're on the very last page when your

book reader software harshly prohibits you from reading it because you just ran

out of licensed time. Or, you cannot transfer and play your favorite melody in

your car stereo because the limit for the number of transfers has been reached.


While the experiences detailed above may resemble what's been your own

personal experience, they have caused the anti-IPR activists to demand a saner

world for 'rights protected' content. Digitized content like the traditional

(non-digital) content is subject to similar if not worse issues of copyright,

DRM, licensing issues and so on. But are the woes of RPC (rights protected

content) so much that the purpose of rights protection seems cruel and unjust?

Protected content

There are various ways to protect your content. When it comes to the digital
world, the issues are slightly more complicated.


Consider this: if I buy a hard bound book and give it to you, I have

physically transferred the book to you. And with it goes my ability (or 'right')

to read that book. Now I may photocopy the pages or the whole book and so on,

but that's a different issue (called piracy). When I buy a digital version of

the same book, say as a PDF file, I can easily give you a copy of the book,

retaining a copy for myself. Such copying is the bane of digital content rights

management. The number of issues that we pointed out at the beginning of this

discussion stems from methods being adopted to prevent such 'unauthorized'


Similarly encrypted DVDs prevent their being copied for legitimate uses-like

someone creating a backup of his favorite movies on another medium. Activists

like the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) term this as unilaterally

eliminating the public's fair use rights.

To eliminate infringements, one must also consider why that occurs. For

instance, if one were to take the case of computer software, then price is the

main culprit. After all, who wants to pay tens of thousands of rupees for

software that will be outdated in less than a year? For instance, even before

Microsoft released the latest edition of their Visual Studio .NET 2005 (a

developer environment), they started work on its successor codenamed 'Orcas,'

which is already into its first beta! Similarly, in the entertainment industry,

the reason maybe more of getting your hands on a new release early enough. The

cost of printing copies on a global scale is prohibitive to let the content

publishers (like movie houses and record labels) release something worldwide.

So, they do it in a staggered fashion. And, by the time it reaches some

countries, it maybe a few months later. At that time, the novelty of having seen

or heard it has long worn off. How many times have you seen the 'latest'

Hollywood flick only to be told hours later by a friend or colleague that he has

already seen it in the US the previous October?

"The IT ACT 2000 does not mention about intellectual property rights, copyright, trademark or patents."
Pavan Duggal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India at the FICCI (July 2004)

Fashion players in the EU are so worried over counterfeiting that all

passengers at EU airports are being randomly sampled for counterfeit goods they

may have purchased. So, if you bought an imitation Gucci bag at Palika Bazaar

(or any other imitation goods market), do not carry it with you if you're

planning a trip to one of the EU countries. Penalties are severe and even

include imprisonment. Illegal tourist street traders (ones that sell you fake

watches and cameras at popular tourist spots) in Italy are fined up to ten

thousand Euros on the spot.

The key question is what recourses are available to the creators of an IP

when an infringement occurs. The Indian industry and foreign analysts believe

that the IT Act of 2000 was a step in the right direction. It gives the law

enforcement some teeth and adds penalties against violators. One necessary

element of such protection is the ability to inspect premises and seize evidence

at will (on suspicion). This privilege has been granted to the Indian law

enforcement agencies via the IT Act. However, this act does little to let law

enforcement agencies raid a location suspected of being the venue for the

Bhai-ka-adda, where scores of software copies are created sitting over gunny

bags. Known Supreme Court advocate Pavan Duggal made exactly the same argument

at a presentation to the FICCI in April 2004.

Did you know?
You are not

protected globally if you hold a registered trademark, copyright or

patent in one country. You need to file and be granted the rights in

every country where you think you might encounter

violations/infringements. One way around is for your country to sign

up as a WIPO member and file registrations through this body.

What is needed?

Something more concrete and something that's enforceable. Countries like
Malaysia and Hong Kong have adopted something called an OML (Optical Media Law).

The OML has provisions similar to what the IT Act gives us for cyber crimes-the

right to inspect at will and seize and destroy IPR violating goods. The model

OML also seeks to license and control (via de-licensing or stopping) entities

involved in optical media piracy activity. They legislated on optical media than

something else because it is the most popular method of information distribution

today. You get software and entertainment material on CDs and DVDs (and soon on

HD-DVDs and dual layer discs).

That said, the industry agrees that optical media will be imminently

displaced by networked downloads. While they are not sure if the bandwagon would

be specially crafted delivery sites, P2P downloads or content sharing mechanisms

(like YouTube), they do agree that this is the way you will see content

distributed (and pirated) in the future. Traditional forms of trying to prevent

piracy include various forms of disc encryption and adding signals that are

transparent to the human eye but destroy quality of input to a recording device.

Policing Digital Content

Hugh L Stephens

Sr VP, International Relations & Public Policy, APAC, Time

One of the reasons why content gets pirated is

its late release in some parts of the world. For instance, Hollywood

movies are released a few months late in India...

The staggered release format is there for a reason-cost of prints.
Using modern digital film does reduce the costs, but one must

consider the right timing for a release. For instance if a product

makes sense for the summer holidays, one must keep in mind that the

American and Australian summers do not happen at the same time of

the year! So, yes theoretically piracy can be brought down with

right timing... but this is difficult to do in practice.

How do you protect IP interests given the likes

of YouTube?

The problem is one of scale. No one can actually manually sift
through the pile of video or audio to identify violating content.

Yes, the future of digital distribution is the Internet (or via a

download). With this, one would also take advantage of differential

pricing-i.e., content could be priced based on how long it needs

to be stored or how many times it can be used or if one should allow

it to be replicated a limited number of times or shown to friends.

Technology exists today to allow such kind of control and pricing.

You mentioned that vast amounts of digital

content cannot be manually sifted through. So, what's the way out?

There should also be efforts made to make legitimate download sites
more accessible. Poor accessibility of these sites is the reason why

illegal download sites have become popular. At the end of the day,

there are only so many ideas that are unique.

You are personally the proponent of an Optical

Media Law. What are the key elements of such a law?

There should be a competent authority for oversight, inspection and
record keeping, that should be able to issue production licenses for

media creation plants, with the authority to revoke or suspend their

operations if found in violation. Licenses would be issued to

manufacture and export material as well as equipment. An SID

(security identifying) code would be applied to all media to trace

it back to its manufacturing plant. Rights holders will be able to

issue authorization to plants for production of a specific quantity

of material. The enforcement authority would have the right to

inspect at will as well as seize, dispose or destroy material in

violation. There should be a deterrent penalty against violations.


WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) is a self-financing UN
organization with a special interest in IPR and IPRE. To draw benefits from WIPO

resources and commitments, a country needs to be a signatory to the WIPO

treaties. WIPO administers an international bureau that accepts and processes IP

registrations and applications. The organization is tasked with developing

international IP laws and standards, providing IP protection services, promoting

the use of IP for economic development, educating users and bringing members

together for discussions on intellectual property rights and their protection.

Other Side of DRM

Cory Doctorow Activist and novelist 

DRM systems are usually broken in minutes,

sometimes days. Rarely, months. It's not because the people who

think them up are stupid. It's not because the people who break them

are smart. It's not because there's a flaw in the algorithms. At the

end of the day, all DRM systems share a common vulnerability: they

provide their attackers with cipher text, the cipher and the key. At

this point, the secret isn't a secret anymore.

New media don't succeed because they're like the

old media, only better: they succeed because they're worse than the

old media at the stuff the old media is good at, and better at the

stuff the old media are bad at. Books are good at being paper white,

high-resolution, low-infrastructure, cheap and disposable. ebooks

are good at being everywhere in the world at the same time for free

in a form that is so malleable that you can just paste bomb it into

your IM session or turn it into a page-a-day mailing list.

The hardware-dependent ebooks, the DRM

use-and-copy-restricted ebooks, they're cartering. Sales measured in

tens, sometimes hundreds. Science fiction is a niche business, but

when you're selling copies by the ten, that's not even a business,

it's a hobby.

Technology that disrupts copyright does so because

it simplifies and cheapens creation, reproduction and distribution.

The existing copyright businesses exploit inefficiencies in the old

production, reproduction and distribution system, and they'll be

weakened by the new technology. But new technology always gives us

more art with a wider reach: that's what tech is for. Tech gives us

bigger pies that more artists can get a bite out of. That's been

tacitly acknowledged at every stage of the copyright since the piano

roll. When copyright and technology collide, it's copyright that


Which means that today's copyright-the thing

that DRM nominally props up-didn't come down off the mountain on

two stone tablets. It was created in living memory to accommodate

the technical reality, created by inventors of the previous

generation. To abandon invention now robs tomorrow's artists of new

businesses and new reach and new audiences that the Internet and the

PC can give them.

There's one thing that every new art

business-model had in common: it embraced the medium it lived in.

This is the overweening characteristic of every single successful

new medium: it is true to itself. The Luther Bible didn't succeed on

the axes that made a hand-copied monk Bible valuable: they were

ugly, they weren't in Church Latin, they weren't read aloud by

someone who could interpret it for his lay audience, they didn't

represent years of devoted-with-a-capital-D labor by someone who had

given his life over to God.

The thing that made the Luther Bible a success was

its scalability: it was more popular because it was more

proliferate: all success factors for a new medium pale beside its


Licensed under Creative Commons License from


Internet Treaties

Finding information and hiding it is equally easy on the Net, but tracking usage
of that information (which can happen in the offline world) is a very difficult

task. WIPO offers a combination of two different treaties: WCT (copyright) and

WPPT (performances and phonograms). There are new methods of recording, copying,

distribution and control. The Internet is the most common method for

distribution today. For this reason, the duo of WCT and WPPT is referred to as

the Internet Treaties.

IP can include traditional cultural expressions, knowledge and genetic

resources of a geographical region. To protect all this, currently, WIPO

administers 24 international treaties that include 16 on industrial property and

7 on copyright issues. The US DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and the EU

Copyright Directive are two well known implementations of the WCT and WPPT.

At the time of writing this piece, India is not a signatory to the WIPO

treaties although we have participated in many forums involving WIPO proposals,

drafts and discussions.

  • 9,00,000 trademarks registered. Will

    reach 1 million by 2009. China is the 8th largest trademark user

    in the world
  • There were 1.4 million patents filed in 2004

    (total of 5.4 million patents active worldwide) and the

    trend is growing at 4.75% for the past 10 years
  • 7.4% patents are filed cross-nation for better international

    rights protection


What infuriate the user community against protection mechanisms and checks and
measures are the sometimes strange uses of copyright or licensing laws. In one

instance, Microsoft had invoked the DMCA against Slashdot posters, who had

published the specifications of Microsoft implementation of the Kerberos

Protocol. Criticizing the move, Georgetown law professor Julie Cohen contended,

“A publisher can prohibit fair-use commentary simply by implementing access

and disclosure restrictions that bind the entire public.

Anyone who discloses the information, or even tells others how to get it, is

a felon.” See the box elsewhere in this story for extracts from a speech from

noted activist Cory Doctorow, delivered at a Microsoft briefing on digital

rights management.

Similarly, HP resorted to region-coding their ink cartridges, and software

that's embedded on the cartridge reported the unit to be empty even if it

still had ink, after a preset time interval. The region coding prevents use of

those cartridges in printers belonging to different regions, similar to DVDs

with the same technology.

India and IPR
  • Institute of Intellectual Property Research

    and Practic
    e based at Noida and Gurgaon educates and assists

    corporates on IP related issues (
  • The Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual

    Property Law
    of IIT Kharagpur teaches and researches IPR law


Final word

Copy protection and DRM are good things to prevent unauthorized usage and
duplication of creative art. But, there must be the limits defined and

protection techniques should stay within those limits. When protection

technologies start preventing fair use, then users will complain and find ways

to break the chains and locks. Let the person coming to the cash clerk withdraw

his money in peace. The moment tedious or complicated red tape is introduced, he

will find ways to rob the bank to get his money.