Remembering, our Father of Nation, a normal search on his life time work resulted in a result which gave different perspective on a dimension of Internet which is gradually becoming a major source of debate and larger issue which needs to be dealt with. The fact was that the copyright on Gandhi’s literary works expired on January 1, 2009 and Navjeevan Trust which was the owner of the Gandhi’s materials did not renewed it as it was not as per the view of Gandhi.
The view of Gandhi on Copyright is expressed in the following words, in a certain section of his compiled works dated March 23, 1926 Gandhi mentions:
“Writings in the journals which I have the privilege of editing must be the common man’s property. Copyright is not a natural thing. It is a modern institution, perhaps desirable to a certain extent”
The Internet is, among other things, a tool for transmitting content. The Internet is neutral, it does not distinguish between lawful and unlawful traffic and Infringement of copyright laws occurs in the online world as well as the offline world. Some of the statutes which are relevant to understand the copyright law are
• The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
• The 1994 Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
• The World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty
• Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement
The most recent is ACTA and the most controversial aspect of ACTA with respect to online enforcement of copyright and intellectual property are in Section 4 of the draft. In their over-zealousness to enforce copyright protections on the Internet, the drafters of this section give broad powers to online service providers to monitor and take swift action against online users who pirate and distribute copyrighted works. Online service providers which fail to comply with this proposed directive will face a flurry of litigation from creators and sole distributors of copyrighted works. This raises the question; Should online service providers be given the task on patrolling the Internet in order to stem such violations?
Most of the countries are coming up with their own law for handling online copyright infringement and will be important to see how Indian government reacts to this. The recent spate of taking out websites if any are an indication then it is important to keep a track on the changes.
It is a different story when you think how Gandhi would have used Internet but his use of press as a media and views on copyright are significant.