DCLCC1028 | Digital Copyright Law and Consumer Concerns

Course Information

  • 2019-20
  • DCLCC1028
  • 5-Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.)
  • V
  • Nov 2019
  • Seminar Course

Law of Copyright attempts to protect creative and original works of authors. Original literary, artistic and musical works are subject matters of copyright protection. It aims to confer certain exclusive rights to the authors like the right to copy the work, issuing copies thereof to the public, renting or lending the work to the public, performing, showing or playing the work in public, communicating the work to the public and making an adaptation of the work etc. but these rights are not absolute. The copyright law recognizes certain exceptions to these rights in day to day usage. At common law these exceptions are termed as ‘fair use’ doctrine and are granted to ensure progress of science, art and culture in society. Thus the fundamental justification for granting exclusive copyrights to the authors is to ensure that authors are rewarded for the labour expended by them and are given necessary incentive to produce further works so that society can progress. The fair use doctrine aims to promote knowledge, learning, culture and social development.

Original literature, artistic works, musical composition, songs and lyrics are protected under the copyright laws. Progress in science and development of new technologies like recording machines, radio, video recorders etc. created a conflict of interest between the original holders of copyright, inventors of new technologies and the general consumers or users. Law progressed to deal with such conflicting situations by expanding the scope of copyright protection and works like sound recordings, cinematographic works etc were granted special protection under the copyright laws. Such measures enabled to secure the rights of the existing copyright holders and at the same time protected the financial interests of the new inventors without infringing upon the rights of the consumers to use the new technologies and the creative works for individual and societal development.

Development of the digital technology like Internet and MP3 in the last century has exposed the global community to a similar problem. The digital technologies have enabled easier and superior recording of creative works which can be distributed across the world rapidly and at a much reduced cost. Development of these new technologies has helped to create a new class of inventors and entrepreneurs who by further developing the digital technologies like developing P2P technology etc. has helped to create a new source of income and at the same time has provided the consumers with a much better and advantageous mechanism by which they can access quality music in a global environment without incurring much expenditure, time and geographical difficulty. Such technologies have helped the new generation consumers sitting in the confines of their own home access cultures of different countries, expose themselves to various cultural works from different parts of the world, enable them to bring before the global audience their own cultural heritage by performing live through websites, sharing information and discussing with like minded people etc. Therefore digital technology from a societal perspective has helped to create a diversified and a democratic global culture free from the shackles of the big entertainment industries and at the same time has provided a new lease of life to the losing cultures of various tribes and communities living in distant rural areas in parts of Asia, Africa and South America. The digital technology has also helped academicians and researchers to preserve the traditional cultural heritage as well as modernizing them in tune with the present times. Such research will also help to create new kinds of cultural works. On an individual level digital technology has helped consumers access better quality works at much lower price, has exposed them to a wide variety of intellectual and cultural works thereby enabling them to make a better choice, avoid the various difficulties related to retail shopping, share rare pieces of music and discuss their cultural likings with like minded people.

Inspite of the various advantages, which Internet and digital technology is providing to the consumers and to the society, the existing copyright holders like authors, performers and recording companies are critical about the usage of this technology in a large and globalized scale. The inherent technology involved in the Internet is based on copying mechanism which enables multiple copies of the same material to be produced without any lowering of quality and the MP3 technology enables a user to store large quantity of data in small packets which can be transmitted across the world in extreme rapidity. The impact of these technologies is that multiple copies of a recorded work can be made without any lowering of quality and can be rapidly transmitted to millions of users across the world without consuming much time or money. Copyright holders allege that such activities are likely to cause copyright infringement of their works and have alleged loss of profits. They have hence initiated various legal and technological measures to curb the growth of online distribution of creative works like music. They are taking legal actions against inventors of new technologies, intermediate service providers and individual users. They are demanding new laws like anti-circumvention laws and digital rights management laws to curb online distribution of such works. Lastly they are using various technological means like secure digital music initiative to prevent all forms of unauthorized distribution.

The various measures adopted by the copyright-based industries and other copyright holders are adversely affecting the interests of the society at large and the consumers in particular. Forceful curbing of such technological advancements in distribution of cultural works like music is retarding the cultural development of society and the traditional rights enjoyed by the consumers under the copyright laws and various other laws.

In this seminar course an attempt would be made to analyze the potential advantages of online distribution of cultural works from a societal perspective i.e. in terms of consumer rights and interests and critique upon the existing legal and technological means adopted by the recording and cinematographic industries and other copyright holders which aims to regulate the technological advancements to suit their needs.

The ultimate aim of this course paper is to discuss and analyze the existing jurisprudence of the rights of the users in the area of intellectual property rights and try to identify certain solutions to the existing crisis created between the rights of the consumers and the interests of the copyright holders through a balanced approach.


This seminar course is an advanced course on Copyright Law and its interface with Internet and other digital technology, and is developed upon the foundational core course of Intellectual Property Rights


Yashomati Ghosh
Dr. Yashomati Ghosh

Associate Professor of Law