Copyright Issues in Cyberspace

By | March 28, 2021
Copyright Issues in Cyberspace

With the headway of Cyberspace, copyright issues in cyberspace are not restricted to the customary intellectual property yet has stretched out to intellectual property over the web. With the advancement of technology and bundles of advantages that come in handy, there are also quite a lot of disadvantages associated with it.

Hackers find the first opportunity to misappropriate the genuine content created by owners. Hence, the role of IP regimes comes into play. Copyright protection protects the legal right of the owner of intellectual property.   There are different rules given by worldwide settlements to secure IPRs online which are helping internet businesses and e-organizations to extend with no mischief to them.

I. Introduction

The fastest-growing communication vehicle in the human era is Information Technology. The inception of digital technology has been phenomenal in the IT sector. The present generations are witnessing the age of the internet which has invariably changed everything; from traditional markets and conventional trade to e-commerce and online shopping. In the present-day world, the reliance on computers and the internet is so extensive that it has made televisions, radios, telephones, and fax totally redundant.[1]

However, with the advancement of technology, comes new risks and challenges. The domain facing the greatest challenge is that of copyright. As per the provisions of the Copyright Act 1957, “copyright is a negative[2] monopoly right which grants a right to the author of the work in preventing others to exercise the right which he has due to him being the original author of the work.” The author is the exclusive owner of what he creates. The definite test to determine one’s entitlement over copyright is whether he has used skill, judgment, and labour in making the work.[3]

The scope of copyright law extends to works such as literary, dramatic, and artistic works; computer programs; cinematographic movies; databases, and compilations. The right over any original work directly goes to the owner and any act in pursuance of the work without the consent of the owner leads to the infringement of this right.

Copyright law allows the owner a selective option to approve the generation of the arrangement of the copyrighted works. However, the use of this idea on the web can’t be carefully applied to copyright. Duplication of the data is a fundamental step in the transmission of data on the web and plain browsing data at a computer terminal (which is identical to perusing a book or a magazine at book shop) may bring about the production of an unapproved duplicate since a brief duplicate of the work is made in the RAM of the client’s computer with the end goal of access.

The law regarding the matter advancing and the overall view is that accessing a web page would not be an encroachment as the duplicate made is impermanent or transient.

 Another normal issue among web webpage owners is to make connections to different sites inside the plan of their own web pages. Would such linking be viewed as a duplicate right violation as these connections offer admittance to other copyrighted sites? In a strict sense, it might be a violation of copyright. In any case, there is a suggested principle of public access to linking to other web pages. The Internet was made on the fundamental of having the option to append hypertext links to some other area and it is expected that once a page is put on the net, suggested assent is given, except if explicitly denied by the web website owner.

A. Linking

A “link” in simpler terms, is a set of commands in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), which direct a user to another page. The new page can be anything from a website to or any page of another site. On the flip side, many organizations who don’t wish to associate their content with any other site are not that optimistic with the idea of linking and have also challenged such practices. There can be various activities that may restrict the right to link in some circumstances.

Linking can be used as a tool for defamation. It can defame and its main motive is to create an untrue statement/image about someone to shatter their reputation. An apt example might be a student creating a link titled “Drug lords and Alcoholics” and linking the same to a picture of his school principal situated on a different site. Linking can also be used for the invasion of privacy and copyright infringement. In practice, it is not wrong to create a hyperlink, however, it is violative of law if the link created contributes to unwarranted copying of a copyrighted work without the knowledge or the consent of the owner.[4]

A notorious practice in the area of linking is “deep linking”. Usually, a website’s home page contains all the information contained inside that web page and invites users, establishes the nature of the website, and provides further links to navigate through the website. The purpose of deep links is to defeat the intended method of navigation of a website. Further, they could also deviate the traffic from the original homepage to another homepage, reducing the revenue generated by the webpage with the aid of advertisements.

It can be understood better with the case of Shetland Times Ltd. v. Jonathan Wills and Another.[5] This case is known to be the first “linking” case; “the issue presented in Shetland Times was whether the Shetland News’s (“News”) “deep link” to embedded pages of the Shetland Times’s (“Times”) web site, through the use of Times’ web site’s news headlines, was an act of copyright infringement under British law. The matter settled on the day of trial, shortly after the court had issued a preliminary injunction precluding the deep link. Although much discussed, this opinion has proved to be of little legal significance, in part because of the extremely low evidentiary standard applied by the court.”

B. Inlining

Inlining, which is also referred to as ‘in-line linking’ authorizes a web page to issue different elements from different sources in the process of making an altogether new Web page. This process doesn’t involve direct copying of elements from one page to another, but elements such as images and video files are pulled from another site.[6]

An apt example would be that of an art website that contains thousands of diverse paintings. If the user clicks on “Picasso marvels”, it would direct the visiting browser to gather images of the searched result from various other pages. To the user, it seems like an integrated operation, however, it is just pulling in data from other sources for your own benefit. Thus, the user is never aware of the fact that the image is being retrieved from some other source and presumes that it is part of the original webpage. It is different from deep linking in this aspect because, in the latter, the user gets to know that he has “changed pages”.

Sections 51 read in consonance with Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957 tests the legality of inlining. These sections state that generating any copyrighted work, and further making copies of the same would amount to the infringement of copyright.

The individual who utilizes an inline link on his site isn’t bringing about any proliferation of the copyrighted substance. This is on the grounds that the link’s maker never duplicates the pirated content; rather just gives a program direction to recover the image, which is at that point consolidated into the general page on the user’s site.[7] Along these lines, the individual who duplicates the secured image is the last user who never comes to realize that his program is getting various components from various sites.

In this way, the multiplication, if at all any, happens toward the finish of the user who visits the linked page by means of the link. Likewise, the maker of the inline link isn’t giving duplicates of the work nor imparting or conveying the work to people in general.

C. Framing

An author has the capacity to divide a web page into “frames”. A frame is a window that is controllable and present on the website through which another website’s pages can be viewed. Since it is possible to import content from a different location, hackers often “frame” content from another web page beneath their own navigation. Through this, they can utilize creative content made by someone else as their own.

The individual who is indulging in framing content from someone else’s webpage is not directly reproducing the copyrighted content. This happens as the framer never directly copies the pirated content; instead, just helps in providing a new browser the authorization to receive the content, when then makes the overall page. Thus, the person actually copying the content is the final user who is unaware of his browser gathering content from various other browsers.

Section 14(a)(vi) awards the privilege of variation just to the owner of copyrighted work. The framing site could take a few components from the outlined site’s multimedia settings and make it its own, and in the process, affecting the privilege of making a subordinate work of the framed site since taking a few components from the multimedia setting and consolidating them with some other could very much find a way into the meaning of transformation. Along these lines, derivation and adaptation rights do come into the picture.

III. Protection of Content

The main issue related to the website and its content is the possible threat of the content being copied and re-used by someone other than the owner himself. Hence, the majority of the website content is protected by intellectual property (IP) rights, for eg. Copyright, patents, etc. These rights empower and enable the owner to use and publish his content freely without the fear of it being stolen or misused by anyone else.[8] There are some techniques other than the IP rights through which an owner can safely keep his data.

  1. One can try to save the images present on their webpage by either watermarking the images or disabling the right-click option. Usually, in the search of an image, a person just google searches the term and copies whatever image he finds relevant to the desired search. But by disabling the right click on an image, a viewer will only be able to access the image but not copy it for his own use. Similarly, if an image is watermarked, it means that there are slight tints of the owner’s identity on the image that will only be visible once a user wishes to download that image. Hence, images can be saved from theft.
  2. Plagiarism Checkers- An owner can use various plagiarism checkers available online for checking whether the content is not being copied for someone else’s use. If the data has been copied, these checkers are instrumental and highlighting the data taken on both the owner’s server as well as the user’s server.
  3. Including Copyright Notices- It doesn’t do much rather than just scaring users to not use one’s artwork. It follows up by showing a notice saying that stealing content can lead to the commission of a serious offense.

IV. International Treaties

There are various treaties that concern themselves with cyberspace and copyright law and they are listed as follows[9]:

  1. Berne Convention- The Berne Convention, 1886, deals with protecting the content and the rights of the authors. It mainly focused on how their work was used, by whom, and the terms of usage. It enlists numerous provisions stating the minimum protection to be granted to an author.[10] It is principally based on three basic principles;
    (1.1) Principle of National Treatment-Works with the origin in one of the Contracting States should be given similar insurance in every one of the Contracting States as the assurance the latter awards to the works of its own nationals. “Work originating” signifies works of the creator who is of that nationality of that specific State.
    (1.2) Standard of Automatic Protection-Protection should not be contingent upon consistency with the conventions.
    (1.3) Pule of Independence of Protection-Protection is autonomous of the presence of security in the nation of the cause of the work.
  1. Rome Convention– The Rome Convention of 1961 provides protection with regard to performers (actors, dancers, singers, musicians, etc.) in phonograms of producers and for broadcasting companies.[11]
  2. WIPO Copyright Treaty- This treaty emphasizes that the ambit of copyright protection is only limited to expressions and not underlying ideas or mathematical concepts. It gives that the pertinent arrangements of the Berne Convention identified with propagation and the special cases apply in the advanced climate and the utilization of works in computerized structure. Article 4 of the treaty ensures the assurance of computer programs as scholarly works on the whole modes and types of articulation. Article 5 of the treaty perceives that all types of accumulations of information or other material, by reason of the choice or game plan of their substance, establish intellectual manifestations and along these lines are ensured.[12]
  3. UDRP- The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy sets out the legitimate framework for the goal of debates between a space name registrant and an outsider over the damaging enrolment and utilization of an Internet area name in the conventional high-level areas (gTLDs) (e.g., business, com, information, net, organization), and nation code high-level areas(ccTLDs) that have embraced the UDRP Policy intentionally.

V. Conclusion

Cyberspace is becoming conducive for the infringement of various intellectual property rights. Various malpractices by users have violated various rights and entitlements of the owners. Hence, it is the need of the hour to spread awareness of the illegal usage of someone else’s content. With the headway of Cyberspace, copyright and brand names are not restricted to the customary intellectual property yet has stretched out to intellectual property over the web.

There are different rules given by worldwide shows and settlements to secure IPRs online which are helping internet businesses and e-organizations to extend with no mischief to them.


[1] The Term Internet is defined as a set of computer networks –possibly dissimilar joined together by means of gateways that handle data transfer and the conversion of messages from sending network to the protocols used by receiving networks. See. Microsoft computer press dictionary 200. (2nd 1994)

[2] Deepak Printings v. Forward Stationary mart (1981) PTC 186 at P 189

[3] Mac Milan v. Cooper (1923) 93 LJPC 113 and 117

[4] Linking, Framing, Meta Tags, and Caching; Date of Access: 24.10.2019 Available Here

[5] 1997 F.S.R. (Ct. Sess. O.H.), 24 October 1996

[6] Linking, Framing, and Inlining by Richard Stim; Nolo; Date of Access: 24.10.2019 Available Here

[7] India: Legality Of Metag-ing, Linking & Framing by Himanshu Sharma and Martand Nemana; Singh & Associates; Dated: 08.09.2016; Date of Access: 24.10.2019 Available Here

[8] Sally M. Abel: Trademark Issues in Cyberspace: The Brave New Frontier; 5 Mich. Telecomm. & Tech. L. Rev. 91 (1999)

[9] R. Muruga Perumal: Copyright Infringements in Cyberspace: The Need to Nurture International Legal Principles; Faculty of Law; University of Macau

[10] Summary of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886); WIPO; Date of Access: 24.10.2019 Available Here

[11] Summary of the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations (1961); WIPO; Date of Access: 24.10.2019 Available Here

[12] WIPO Guide to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP); WIPO; Date of Access: 24.10.2019 Available Here


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