Intellectual Property Rights w.r.t. Cyber Space

Intellectual Property Rights are rights of ownership over products of one’s brainchild. The question arises whether this ownership right is applicable to games or codes which are created by people on cyber space’s and if yes, how. These are issues which also need to be understood with context to privacy terms which are now a huge hue and cry on the Internet. Read along to know more!

Introduction to Intellectual Property Rights and Cyber Space

Information and Communication Revolution (ICR), now underway throughout the world, is challenging established institutions and practices in a manner difficult to comprehend. The systems of socio-economic organization and political governance are undergoing unprecedented changes in compelling Governments to enact laws relating to the management of knowledge in society. In India, the existing intellectual property regime that deals with the protection of computer software is the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. At present, the legal system and framework are inadequate to address all the aspects of Information Technology (IT). As technologies walk into the lifestyle, the law has to learn the changes. A lot of grey areas exist in the legal system. Convergence Law in India aims to promote, facilitate, and develop in an orderly manner the carriage and content of communications including broadcasting, telecommunications, and multimedia. Intellectual property can be categorized into two categories i.e. Industrial property and Copyright. Industrial property deals with patents, trademarks, geographical indications, designs, and semiconductors layout design. On the other hand, Copyright covers literary, dramatic, artistic, musical, cinematographic films and sound recording, etc. etc. The primary legislation regulating Intellectual property in India is The Patents Act 1970, The Trade Marks Act 1999, The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act 1999, The Design Act 2000, The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Act 2000 and the Copyright Act 1957. The article discusses the relationship between cyberspace and intellectual property rights.

Intellectual Property Rights and CL issues in IT Industry

Sec.14 of the Copyright Act, 1957 empowers authors of original literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, computer programmers etc. with various rights in relation to their works. They have an exclusive right to reproduce their work, make copies, perform their work in public or display, make the translation of their work, an adaptation of work etc.[1]

Also Read  Legal Aid in India and the Awareness

Continuous, rapid changes and explosive growth in the pervasive computer technologies demands new focus with thorny legal questions and scrutiny in cyber society especially when information technology is used in a negative way. Hence, all aspects of the laws of the cyber world are applicable to every component created. The height of awareness growth in Indian IT industry in terms of IPR may be good but not in terms of Cyber Law.[2] The existing legal views of Copyright law and patent law are not completely matching with natural technical views of the software.[3] Today, the IT industry needs to be attentive to the CL framework and on several grey areas which are imposing challenges related to the implementation, enforcement, and jurisdiction of the Act. One has to note that territorially-based law-making and law-enforcing authorities have further increased the time, analysis and cost complexity of the software development. In an Indian context, the Intellectual property rights are dealt with under the provision of Indian Copyright Act, 1957. The Act does not have any section dealing with piracy of computer software from the internet. Though the Act, when it comes to software takes care of offline piracy, it fails when it has to deal with online piracy.

Infringement of Copyright in Cyberspace

Copyright law grants the owner exclusive right to authorize reproduction of the preparation of the copyrighted work of derivative works, distribution etc.[4] In Sega Enterprises V Richards[5], it was held that under the provisions relating to literary works in the Copyright Act, copyright subsisted in the assembly program code of a video game and that the machine code derived from it was either a reproduction or adaptation of the copyrighted work. In Apple Computer Inc. V Computer Edge Pvt Ltd[6], it was held that a computer program consisting of source code is original literary work. In Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios[7], the Court addressed a claim that secondary liability for infringement can arise from the very distribution of a commercial product.

Also Read  Triple Talaq: A Contemporary Scenario

Piracy in the Digital Era

The piracy of creative works by organized groups spawned by such advances is a universal concern. There is a consensus on the need for reasonable protection of copyright, but differences have sharpened over the level of safeguards. India’s piracy problems are real but the entertainment industry has not made a serious effort to solve them with a market-oriented approach. An estimate by the U.K. Trade and Industry Department two years ago found that piracy represented 60 percent cannibalization of India’s film industry revenues. Internet by P2P services but by organized groups that have used technology to rake in big profits through illegal duplication and sale of compact discs.

Landmark Judgments on Trademark and Domain Names Issues[8]

  • Yahoo! Inc. v. Akash Arora and another, 1999 Arb. L. R.620 (Delhi High Court).
  • Tata Sons Ltd & Anr. Arno Palmen & Anr 563/2005, (Delhi High Court).

Loopholes in the IT, Trademark and Copyright Act

There is no provision in the current or proposed Information Technology Act in India to punish cyber-squatters, at best, the domain can be taken back. Though there is no legal compensation under the IT Act, IN registry has taken proactive steps to grant compensation to victim companies to deter squatters from further stealing domains. The Information technology Act lack somewhere in respect of jurisdiction issues, cybercrimes related to IPR, cyber stalking, cyber defamation etc. etc. Likewise, the Indian Trademark Act, 1999 and Copyright Act, 1957 are also silent on issues arising out of online Trademark and Copyright infringement. Though computer programmes are protected under the Copyright Act it does not provide remedies for online software piracy.


There is an urgent need for the strict laws in this field so that these crimes related to Intellectual Property Rights could be avoided in the future. The new domain name dispute law should be intended to give trademark and service mark owner’s legal remedies against defendants who obtain domain names “in bad faith” that are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark. It should act as an important weapon for trademark holders in protecting their intellectual property in the online world.

Also read IPR Regime & Covid-19

[1] The Copyright Act, 1957.

Also Read  When can an order to release on probation of good conduct be granted by a court?

[2] Arun Kumar B.R, Issues of Cyber Laws and IPR in Software Industry and Software Process Model, 44, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF COMPUTER APPLICATIONS, 16, (17), 2012.

[3] Arun Kumar B.R, “Need to Strengthen the Cyber Laws”, National Conference on Cryptology, NWC-Aug 2005 held in J.N. National College of Engineering, Shimoga, Karnataka, India.

[4] Tabrez Ahmad, Cyber Law and E-Commerce, APH Publishing Corp., New Delhi, 2003, at Page no.25.

[5] English case reported in Copyright & Industrial Designs by P.Naryanan, 3rd edition, Eastern Law House, 2002.

[6] Australian case reported in Copyright & Industrial Designs by P.Naryanan, 3rd edition, Eastern Law House, 2002.

[7] 464 US 417 (1984) available at, visited on 2 Feb 2006.

[8] Mr. Atul Satwa Jaybhaye, Cyber law and ipr issues: the Indian perspective, BHARTI LAW REVIEW, 171, 179-180, 2016.