India Pressured to Sign and Ratify WIPO

There is generally little coverage over what is going on in India with regards to digital rights in North American news outlets.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

That may change thanks to pressure exerted onto the country from the world Intellectual Property Organization.

India is said to have the second fastest growing emerging economies in the world. With such a rich and diverse economy, one might assume the entertainment industry is doing well.

This is not the case according to WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) According to a The Hindu:

The WIPO Copyrights Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, collectively termed as Internet Treaties, were negotiated in 1996 under the auspices of WIPO. But India is yet to sign them.

“India has got huge information, film and entertainment industries. For its own benefit, the country must become a signatory to the two treaties. It would ensure a strong protection about the use of creative works on the world wide web not only in that country but also abroad,” Director of Copyright Law at WIPO Jorgen Savy Blomqvist told PTI here.

With internet, web piracy is also fast gaining grounds in the world. As Indian products generate big money in that country and in the overseas, signing the treaties would ensure that producers of creative works in India get their fair share of income the products generate abroad, the Director said.

“It will provide an enormous boost to India’s cultural and creative industries. Through digital networks, that country’s music, art, literature, and folklore can reach new markets throughout the world, and be delivered directly to paying customers around the globe,” he said.

It’s interesting that someone is telling the country with the second fastest growing economy how the country can do better. It’s also interesting to suggest that signing the treaties will suddenly put Bollywood movies on the same shelf as Hollywood movies in movie fans collections.

Of course, who is this Jorgen Savy Blomqvist from WIPO anyway? We weren’t able to find anything specific about this individual, however, we were able to find a previous posting that seems fairly revealing. On March 28, 2007, there was a report on the Financial Express about how piracy is killing India’s entertainment industry. It wasn’t Blomqvist suggesting this, but the the pressure to somehow deal with piracy was certainly present, only the organization that was making these demands was from the USIBC. This stands for the US-India Business Council. From the report:

“Piracy is a growing global epidemic and the proportions of the menace has reached such critical levels that the very existence of global entertainment is at stake,” said Vijay John Lazarus, president, Indian Music Industry (IMA).

IMA and USIBC have chalked out a strategy to fight piracy. Vickery added, “First we have to conduct a study including Indian losses in films, television, music and video games. Secondly, we need to educate people about piracy.”

Timali Sengupta, CEO, T Sengupta Associates, added that there was a need for legislation and utilisation of optical disc technology to aid combat piracy, scientifically. The governments of the US and India have to be more proactive in combating cross-border piracy, agreed the Indian and US delegates present at the event.

So, clearly, this isn’t the first time India was pressured, only this time, it seems the pressure has increased. To summarize, the US-based entertainment industry operating in India demanded action to combat piracy and now WIPO is coming in to make demands that the country sign the WIPO treaties.

Canadians who follow what is going on in Canada with respect to WIPO may get a sense of de-ja-vu. In 2007, congressmen wrote a letter to the Canadian government saying how rampant piracy is in Canada and how it would hurt the economy. This surfaced just after the infamous statistics groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was flooding the Canadian media with which have gone from anywhere between 20% – 90% piracy rates within Canada. At best, the statistics were deeply flawed at best since they were never consistent.

One must remember the key difference between Canada and India – Canada signed (but not ratified) the WIPO treaties. India, on the other hand, didn’t sign them at all. Canada not ratifying the treaties didn’t prevent the industry acting like it had – which was mainly the flawed logic that led to how Canada supposedly had an international obligation to try to reform copyright laws any way the foreign entertainment lobby saw fit. Has India become the new target for law ratification. It may be too early to tell, but the indications suggest that it may be so. If the indications are accurate, India may be faced with being pressured to implement laws that largely won’t address piracy, but rather, consumer control in favor of the largely foreign copyright lobby.

Hat tip: Michael Geist

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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