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Authored by Padma Akila

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) of the Ministry of Commerce, had, vide a notification dated 30th March 2021, published the Copyright Rules Amendment 2021. The amendments have been introduced with the objective of bringing the existing rules in consistency with the Copyright Act, 1957. Some of the key highlights of the said amendment to the Copyright Rules 2013 are as under:

1. A new provision with respect to publication of Copyrights Journal has been inserted under Rule 7 (5), thereby eliminating the requirement of publication of copyright works in the Gazette. The Copyrights Journal would now be available on the official portal of the Copyright Office This change has been made to keep up with the technological advancement by adopting electronic means as primary mode of communication in the Copyright Office. The publication of copyright works in the journal as proposed by the new rules is similar to the procedure of journal publications that is prevalent in other IPR legislations such as Trademarks, Patents, Geographical Indications, etc.,.

2. The compliance requirement under Rule 70 (5) for registration of software works have been largely reduced. Now the applicant can file the first 10 and last 10 pages of source code, or the entire source code if less than 20 pages, with no blocked out or redacted portions. This is to ensure that the confidentiality and the proprietary information present in the source code of a computer programme is not given away merely for the purposes of obtaining copyright registration.

3. Rule 65A has newly been inserted wherein the Copyright Societies would be required to draw up and make public an Annual Transparency Report for each Financial year within 6 months following the end of the financial year. This is likely to ensure the regulation of management and functioning of copyright societies which could lead to a more transparent and streamlined functioning of such societies.

4. The time limit for the Registrar of Copyrights to respond to an application made before it for registration as a copyright society is extended to 180 days from 60 days.

5. New provision as sub-rule (3) to Rule 55 and sub-rules (11) (12) and (13) to Rule 58 have been inserted to manage the undistributed royalty amounts and use of electronic and traceable payment methods while collection and distribution of royalties to authors. This modification will help in resolving information imbalances that have disrupted the functioning of copyright societies generally where authors have not received their due share of royalties. This amendment in particular is of significant interest, more so in the light of advent of blockchain technology that can be leveraged upon potentially by copyright societies that can aid in electronic and traceable payment methods of royalties as stipulated under this amended rule.

6. Most notably, the “Copyright Board” has been replaced with “Appellate Board” and the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) constituted under the Trademarks Act, 1999 has been designated as the Appellate Board to hear and decide upon matters under the Copyright Act.

In this regard, it is, however, pertinent to note that this specific amendment whereunder the IPAB has been designated as the Appellate Board under the amended rules has since become redundant as the Central Government has, through the Ministry of Law and Justice, on 5th April 2021, promulgated the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, pursuant to which the IPAB was sought to be dissolved. Accordingly, vide a Notification issued under the said Ordinance on the 22nd April 2021, the IPAB stood dissolved, thereby all the powers and duties of the IPAB stand vested and transferred to the relevant jurisdictional High Courts or Commercial Courts constituted under the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.

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