COVID-19 has brought about a drastic change in the field of information dissemination due to physical inaccessibility. Mainstream forms of teaching have been replaced with online content and this has led to a large usage of webinars. During the preliminary stages of the pandemic, technology that aided in such information dissemination gained a large user base with some video-conferencing applications recording 62 Million downloads in one week alone. While the preliminary issue with online information being shared through webinars was privacy, another issue that had not seen the light of day was that of copyright infringement. While webinar hosts are completely dedicated to providing their audience with relevant information, they fail to implement measures that prevent copyright infringement. While some webinar platforms have established rules against copyright violation, there is no effective mechanism that prevents the same from occurring.
In this article, the laws revolving around copyright infringement and violation shall be analysed from a lens where webinars and online content serve as the main source of information. Indian copyright law shall be delved into, to better understand the position taken by statutes against copyright infringement of webinar sessions and other online content.
Rights Of The Lecturers/Hosts During Webinar Sessions
As previously stated, lecturers and hosts delve deep into their sessions hoping to provide information to the crowds and hoping to answer their questions accordingly. In the process, they cannot keep check of every person’s activity and it would be hard for them to keep track of whether their Intellectual Property is being violated in any manner. In this section, the rights possessed by lecturers and hosts as copyright holders shall be stated and then analysed accordingly.
Under the Copyright Act, the works of lecturers and hosts would conventionally fall under the category of speeches and thereby be protected as literary works under Section 13. However, this status shall only be maintained if such information was previously scripted as the section in question only accepts scripted works. There currently exists an ‘incoherency’ between Sections 2(y) and 17(cc) of the Copyright Act but it can be argued that unscripted and extempore speeches fall under the purview of work that is eligible for copyright protection. Section 17 (cc) explicitly states in a form of an exception that the copyright of speeches delivered in public, regardless of the employment status of the speaker, shall vest with the lecturer/speaker. However, in Garware Plastics v. Telelink, a distinction was made between public and private depending on whether there was any link that connected the speaker to the audience such as institution, company etc. All in all, content made available to the public shall have its copyright vested with the lecturer and content made available in private shall depend on a contract of employment and its terms accordingly.
Rights of an Organisation Distributing Online Content
Organisations are approached to record sessions through audio-video recording that could possibly cause copyright infringement if the terms agreed upon are not properly discussed. In this section, the rules around recording of such sessions shall be stated and analysed. A significant issue worth considering is the claim made by the person or entity who arranges the webinar over the audio-video (AV) recording after the webinar is completed. There is no presumption of originality in relation to a cinematograph film or a sound recording, according to section 13(1) of the Act. However, copyright does not exist for a cinematographic film if a significant portion of it results in copyright infringement of ‘any other work’. A copyright owner of a literary work has the sole authority to create any cinematograph production or sound recording in respect of the work under Section 14(a)(iv) of the Act. As a result, the lecturers of a webinar’s lecture have the exclusive right to create a visual recording of the same. Therefore, it is imperative for organisations to negotiate the terms of recording after having received a licence from the lecturer. With the licence being granted, the recorder would be the producer and owner of the session and thereby its copyright owner as per Sections 2(1)(uu) and 2(1)(d). In the absence of a licence, the recorder could end up infringing on the lecturer’s copyright and could open themselves up to legal proceedings.
An Exception To Copyright Infringement Of Webinars In The Form Of Fair Use
In certain cases, even if an individual does not possess a licence from the copyright owners of the lectures that make up a webinar or its recording, their use of the lectures/recording does not constitute copyright infringement under Section 52. Section 52(1)(i) and section 52(1)(j) are two relevant fair use exceptions that can be used in the case of using webinar lectures/recordings for educational purposes. Section 52(1)(i) deals with an instructor or student reproducing a job “in the course of instruction.” In the infamous Rameshwari Photocopy case, the Delhi High Court expanded the meaning of the word “in the course of instruction” to include all things that a teacher performs while imparting education. The other significant exception is section 52(1)(j), which requires an educational institution to communicate any cinematograph film or sound recording to an audience consisting of its employees, pupils, parents and guardians of the students, or any other individuals associated with the institution’s activities during the course of its activities. So, whether a webinar lecture/recording is used in the classroom by a teacher or student, or screened as part of an educational institution’s activities, it is not considered copyright infringement.
India is yet to register a landmark copyright infringement case in the realm of webinars and online content sharing. However, this may not be the case considering their extensive usage. It must be noted that scripting of lectures and speeches offer better protection and lecturers and speakers must keep this in mind while disseminating information.
The views are that of author’s own and not necessarily the views of IPTSE Academy. This blog is a platform for academic discussions and hence authors have been given flexibility to convey their thought process.
3rd Year Law Student
Jindal Global Law School