Copyright laws provide a safe haven for original content created by authors, designers, software programmers and the like. But the watchdog that protects them in India does not have a place to call its own. Authorities are only just waking up give it shelter.
The 52-year-old Copyright Board, the top quasi-judicial body tasked with settling copyright disputes, does its job by finding temporary accommodation.
In Delhi, when it wants to hold a sitting, it borrows premises at the Indian Law Institute (ILI), and if there is no room available, its hearings are simply deferred.
That is true for all places. The board does not have a building or courtroom anywhere in its five zones in the country---North, South, East, West and Central.
The board comprises a chairman and two members. But none of them has a chamber to sit in, nor clerks, assistants or stenographers—who are hired from outside on a temporary basis.
The disconcerting facts came to the fore during the hearing of a copyright case in the Delhi High Court by Pratibha M Singh, amicus curiae (lawyer appointed to assist the court on an issue) .
On Wednesday, a Bench of Acting Chief Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Mukta Gupta expressed shock over the situation and ordered the centre to take immediate steps to provide the facilities.
Listing the minimum facilities that was needed to be made available, Singh said they were a building in each zone with a courtroom and fully equipped computer and printer facilities, two staff members for each zone, two stenographers and peons.
The Board is entrusted with the task of adjudication of disputes pertaining to copyright registration, assignment of copyright, grant of licences in respect of artistic works, translations and works for certain specified purposes. It also hears cases in other miscellaneous matters instituted before it under the Copyright Act, 1957.
While inventions of machines or drug discoveries are covered by broader intellectual property or patent laws, copyrights cover creative work.