Sunday, January 8, 2012

Should Wordpress.Com Be Blocked In India For Copyright Violations?

A Wordpress.Com hosted blog named legal locus, managed by author/owner Raghu Vamsy Dasika, has recently engaged in copyright violation. These things are common in cyberspace and so are the redressal mechanisms to resolve copyright infringement complaints.

The article e-banking in India is not safe has been posted without our approval. Even another article titled mobile banking cyber security is required in India has been posted without permission. Complaints with Wordpress.Com were made on three different grounds yet Wordpress is adamant upon using DMCA procedure to remove apparent copyright violating posts.

What I have realised from this episode is that lack of international harmonised cyber law is the main problem as we have no universally applicable cyber law. Situations like these suggest that an international cyber law treaty is urgently required. Strangely, intellectual property rights (IPRs) are protected by TRIPS Agreement at the international level to which both India and US are parties. Despite this Internet intermediaries like Wordpress have developed their regional procedures with great disregard to International comity and cooperation.

The real problem is that when there is a clear copyright violation, insisting upon following a DMCA notice procedure by a non citizen and international entity is more a problem and fa├žade and a supporting tool to copyright infringer than a solution. The US government in general and US Department of Justice in particular must device some mechanism so that sites like Wordpress.com must comply with international laws as well especially when countries like India and US are both parties to the TRIPS Agreement. Otherwise such episodes can affect mutual harmony and international relations between various countries.

Similarly, the Indian department of telecommunication (DoT) in general and computer emergency response team, India (Cert-In) in particular must device some mechanisms to make companies like Wordpress.Com liable for cyber crimes and IPRs violations if the matter has been brought to their knowledge. If such websites fail to comply with Indian laws, they should be blocked in India. This is more so if a website continuously flouts Indian laws. Wordpress is consistently denying removal of copyright infringing articles from its platform. It seems Wordpress policy and TOS is encouraging copyright violations than curbing the same. If this is not enough, Wordpress is also engaging in censorship of blogs unilaterally without any information to the blog owners.

Now the big question is what should Indian government do to make sites like Wordpress follow Indian laws? If a site or platform has no base in India, it would obviously prefer to apply the law of its country. However, this does not solve the problem of copyright violations and cyber crimes committed by using such platform in India. Blocking of such platform in India may be a viable option to get the Indian laws enforced at such platforms.

However, in India there are no rules and mechanisms through which private individuals can request blocking of websites like Wordpress.Com. India must amend its rules in this regard so that private individuals can enforce their rights as well.

Alternatively, DoT and Cert-In can act on the basic of public information like the present article after being satisfied of a prima facie case in this regard. Sufficient is to say that when copyright violation is apparent on the face of a case, that should be sufficient ground for DOT and Cert-In to block a site if it fails to act even after a written notice pointing towards such copyright violation. Let us see how US Department of Justice, DoT and Cert-In reacts to this proposal.