Digital Copyright Law


Until the advent of the printing press, nobody was much afraid about stealing their work as making copies was so tedious and heavily prone to manual error that only a few copies were made of the books and manuscripts. It was in the fifteenth century when the invention of the printing machine and consequential publication of literary works in multiple copies gave birth to the concept of copyright protection.

Copyrights are the exclusive rights given to the creators and producers of original literary, musical, dramatic or artistic works. Initially, most of the copyright protection laws were based on print media but over the years the horizon of intellectual property has expanded progressively. The evolution of technology has given rise to new concepts like computer programs, computer databases, various other works on the web, etc. which are covered under the concept of digital copyright law. 

In the present digital age, the communication of these newer forms of intellectual property takes place through the internet in no time but the same internet has raised a new set of challenges to the copyright regime by increasing the chances of copyright infringement by various advanced means. 

This article aims at getting to know about how computer-based works are protected under copyright law and how the international community has responded to the challenges of digital technologies with respect to intellectual properties. It will also discuss how the Indian Copyright law has evolved in this digital era and identify the loopholes in the present framework for the protection of copyrights.


Digital technology is the most recent development in the industry on a global scale. Digital media has had a significant impact on the creation, dissemination, and protection of copyright works. Manipulation, reproduction, and distribution of protected works have all become much simpler thanks to digitization.The digital Age, which is the symbol of the ongoing century, is witness to the Internet ushering in yet another period, and this crossroads is a watershed moment in the long and turbulent history of copyright in many ways. Blending, changing, mixing, and manipulating digital content is easy.By allowing for the low-cost production of perfect copies of copyrighted works, digital technology threatens to disrupt distribution processes and increase illicit use of copyrighted works2.Thus, the Berne Convention’s beautifully structured, dogmatically properly characterised, and righteous image of copy-related and non-copy-related rights has been scrambled in certain ways by the Internet. Digital interactive transmission creates a hybrid way of making information obtainable to a wide number of people and allow them to access it whenever they want.

Digitization is one of the most important technical advancements in recent years. It refers to the process of converting works into a machine-readable format. The ability to record works in a binary format (a series of ones and zeros) in which they can be stored and transmitted is referred to as digitization. Different methods of digitization exist, but they all yield the same result: a binary code that can be replayed to recreate the original analogue experience. All tangible works, no matter how complex, can be digitally captured. As a result of digitization, all forms of subject matter can be made available to users in a standard format.

Not only did digitization change the format of works, but it also changed how they were used and distributed. Work was produced and circulated in the analogue world in the form of books or paintings. The human senses were able to detect these works. The law of copyright covered copyright works that were embedded in material form. It was the material representation of the concept that was covered, not the ideas that underpinned it. As a result, in the analogue world, reduction to material form became a condition for copyright protection. By comparison, digital works have been ‘dematerialized’ into an electronic or digital format.Traditional material formats do not contain them. Although the digital format of works can only be read or interpreted by computers, it can easily be converted into impulses that the human eye, ear, and mind can understand. Any analogue work that already exists can be turned into a digital data object. It is also very common to create new works in digital format because it is quick and easy. The transition from analogue to digital revolutionised not only the forms in which works can be made, but also how they can be used.Perhaps the most important result of digital technology is the ease with which it can be reproduced. Since the consistency of analogue copies degrades with each generation of copying, multigeneration copying has an inherent physical limitation. This acts as a deterrent to large-scale unlicensed copying. Digital copies, on the other hand, are perfect because they require bit-for-bit reproduction. This means that not only is any digital copy perfect in and of itself, but that perfect copies can be made from other copies indefinitely.

Authors’ economic and moral rights, as well as their compliance, are threatened by digitization. It also has the potential to disrupt the current balance between author and consumer rights. With the advent of the Internet and increased usage of the worldwide web, the possibilities of copyright infringement have grown exponentially. Free and convenient access to the web, as well as the ability to download, has generated new issues of copyright infringement. Digital technology has made it possible to take material from one site, change it, or simply reproduce it on another site, posing new problems for conventional interpretations of individual rights and security.A publisher can be anybody with a personal. It only takes a few mouse clicks to download, upload, save, convert, or create a derivative work. As a result, a regulation or process was required to allow writers to manipulate and manage their works in the digital format. The success of online global knowledge networks can be jeopardised if writers’ rights are not adequately secured.


Software is a set of programs/language or instructions that the computer understands.

Companies in various developing and developed nations heavily depend on the use of computer programs for their day-to-day work. These products have a large market and thus they can be easily copied. Copyright protection helps these companies to charge monopoly prices and prevent copying.

Computer programs qualify for copyright protection under the TRIPS Agreement. this agreement allows for reverse engineering of software in the developing countries.

In India, major changes to this law were introduced in the 1994 Amendment to the Copyright Act. It explained:

  • Copyright holders’ rights.
  • Software rental position.
  • Backup copies rights.

Section 14 of the said Act makes it illegal to distribute copies of copyrighted software.

Section 63B mentioned above deals with the punishment and fine. The person violating can be tried both under civil and criminal law for the infringement of software copyright.


Software-based case law

Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes/Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Corley – Eight movie studios had sued Eric Corley, Shawn Reimerdes, and Roman Kazan, editors of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, for posting the code of DeCSS, an algorithm to bypass the Content Scramble System (CSS) used to encrypt DVD content. The studios argued this was an anti-circumvention device under the DMCA. While Reimerdes and Kazan entered into consent decrees and were dropped from the suit, Corley continued the case, arguing that DeCSS as computer code was protected as free speech, and that this was one of the allowed provisions of fair use under the DMCA for users to make copies of media they legally owned. Both the District Court and the Second Circuit rejected Corley’s arguments. While they agreed that while a computer program may be protected speech, distribution of anti-circumvention devices was not considered a fair use option covered by Section 1201, and thus DeCSS violated the DMCA and was not protected by First Amendment rights.

United States v. Elcom Ltd. – Moscow-based Elcom had developed software that was able to remove protections that one could place on an Adobe Acrobat PDF file, such as those used in ebook distribution. Adobe requested the U.S. Department of Justice take action against the company for violating the DMCA. Elcom argued in court that as written, the DMCA was unconstitutionally too vague and would allow for circumvention of use controls for purposes of fair use, and that it violated the First Amendment by placed too much burden on those seeking to use protected works for fair use. The initial ruling at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California rejected both arguments, following on the basis of Corley. The ruling established that the DMCA was not unconstitutional, and that while it place a burden on accessing works for fair use, the DMCA did not outright restrict fair use; in the case of the ebook example, the ruling observed that the user may have to type a quote from the ebook rather than copy and paste from the unprotected version.


There is a lack of one comprehensive act that covers all the developing and developed nations equally. By doing so, the content creators and owners across the world will be encouraged to make more quality work for the rest of the world. It should include strong laws to protect the infringement of the author’s work. Although the current copyright systems and laws protect the copyright owners, it also has some drawbacks. The society must be educated to prevent the infringement of the copyrighted content.




Aishwarya Says:

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