15th April 2021

Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2021

The Central Government on 30th March, 2021 notified and brought into force The Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2021. This will replace the current regime which is governed by Copyright Act, 1957 read with the Copyright rules 2013.

Salient features of the Rules:

1. Filing Copyright for software eased: The compliance requirements of registration for certain works such as software has been largely reduced. The applicant now has the liberty to file the first ten and last ten pages of source code with no blocked out or redacted portions.

In the past, it was essential to file the entire source code which also involved disclosure of a lot of confidential information;

2. Shorter time limit: The time limit of the Central Government to respond to an application has been extended. When an applicant applies to get registered as a copyright society, the central government shall now respond in one hundred and eighty days. This has been done to provide enough time so that the application can be comprehensively examined.

3. Merger of Copyright Board with Appellate Board: The Rules intend to merge the Copyright Board with Appellate Board which is the same Appellate Board that was constituted under the Trade Marks Act, 1999. However, recently, with the introduction of the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021 dated 5th April, 2021, the Appellate Board ceases to exist and the jurisdiction has been transferred to the Commercial Division of the High Court. Hence this Rule would require further amendment and cannot be implemented in the present state;

4. Copyright Journal: The requirement of publication in the Official Gazette has been removed and a new provision regarding publication of a copyrights journal has been introduced. The journal would be available at the website of the Copyright Office.

5. Copyright Societies: As is known Copyright Societies serve manage copyright in original works it is entitled to grant or issue licences in respect of copyrighted works. Certain changes are brought about to ensure transparent working of such Copyright Societies:

6. The time limit for acceptance or rejection of an application of registration of a Copyright Society by the Registrar of Copyrights has been extended from 60 days to 180 days;

7. The Chairman and other members of the Governing Council of a copyright society are eligible for re-election after completion of their 2-year terms;

8. Copyright societies are required to publish their tariff schemes.

9. With regards to royalty the Copyright societies are required to create a system of payment of royalties through electronic modes so that they are traceable.

10. Where the authors/owners have not been located or identified and their royalty cannot be distributed, the copyright societies are required to maintain record of such unpaid royalties separately in their accounts.

If the royalty remains unpaid for 3 years from the end of financial year in which the collection of royalty occurred, then such amount same shall be transferred to the welfare fund of the copyright societies.

Copyright societies are required to take all measures to identify and locate authors/owners and is required to publish certain information on its website quarterlywhich could assist in identifying the right holder

The Society is to prepare an annual transparency report for each financial year and they are required to make it public within 6 months following the end of that financial year. The report must contain information on activities of the copyright societies, number of refusals to grant licence, information on total royalties collected etc.

Copyright Societies will have to furnish on their websites: 1) a facility to search from database of works; 2) copy of the annual transparency report; and 3) details of undistributed royalties in relation to authors / owners who cannot be identified or located.

Communication made by the Copyright Office by electronic means would be deemed to be communicated. Furthermore, fees due to the Copyright Office can be paid electronically.

The Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2021 have brought many changes mainly to bring the existing rules in parity with other legislations. The amendment would encourage more transparency of the Copyright Society as now they have to maintain electronic records and will also have to publish an annual report. The new provisions have also introduced electronic means for communication and working, this step is very progressive keeping in view of the technological development and the increased dependency on technology due to COVID 19.

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