Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Indian National Digital Preservation Policy

This is the updated version of my previous article titled national digital preservation policy of India. Digital contents issues in India have not received the attention of Indian government for long. The fields of digital contents creation and management as well as digital preservation in India have effectively remained untouched.

Digital preservation means transforming, storing, archiving various forms of media that has been transferred to a digital format and getting a long term access to it. The aim is to ensure that past and present information is accessible in digital format to subsequent generations.

For instance, the Indian government has asked for a nationwide search to locate at least one print of the first Indian Talkies film Alam Ara that introduced sound in Indian cinema. If there were a sound digital preservation policy of India at place, this would not have happened.

Digital preservation (DP) in India is a very recent concept that has not even been conceptualised properly. There is neither a legal framework in this regard nor national policies and strategies in India. Although a National Digital Preservation Programme (NDPP) of India has been launched but it is at a very nascent stage. DP is becoming an important requirement all over the World and India cannot ignore the importance of the same.

The DP initiatives are facing many road blocks that are preventing them from materialising in India. For instance, Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are occasionally found on the crossroads of DP initiatives. The IPRs Issues in the digital era are also closely related to the requirements of DP in India.

With the rapid advancement of technology day by day, old applications and methods are becoming obsolete. We need to upgrade them from time to time. We also need to change form of various IPRs protected works from one form to another. This sometimes results in copyright, trademark, patents, etc violations. In short, IPRs issues in the digital era and cyber space are difficult to manage and we need both good policies and laws to manage the same effectively.

There is no Regulatory Framework for Digital Preservation in India and it is managed by Administrative Side of Indian government, informs Praveen Dalal, managing partner of New Delhi based IP and ICT Law Firm Perry4Law and leading techno legal expert of India. Even the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000) is not sufficient to accommodate the issues of Digital Preservation, Digital Curation, etc and we need a dedicated Digital Preservation Legal Framework in India, suggests Dalal.

According to Dalal Digital Preservation issues are also going to be more complicated with the enactment of laws like Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 1998 (DMCA). Efforts are in the pipeline for adoption of an efficient Digital Rights Management (DRM) system in India. This seems to be a step in the direction of protecting fast-growing Indian Digital Entertainment and Media Industry, informs Dalal.

This may not be fruitful if we fail to appreciate the ground realities existing in India. India needs a Techno-Legal Law that is in conformity with Indian Standards and Norms”. The first and foremost requirement for DP in India is to formulate a good and effective techno-legal digital preservation policy of India.

The task is really difficult unless good experts are involved in this much needed project. With the basic policy framework we can further proceed towards techno-legal framework as well. For the time being, digital preservation initiatives of India are falling well short of the desired actions.