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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 246
November 26, 2011

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Copyright Act: Time to rethink some issues

Fayazuddin Ahmad


In Bangladesh copyright is a right given by the law to creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings etc. There is no copyright in “ideas” as of yet. Copyright subsists only in the material form in which the ideas are expressed. The prime objective of copyright law is to encourage authors, composers, artists and designers to create original works by rewarding them with the exclusive right for a limited period to exploit the work for monetary gain. It protects the writer or creator of the original work from the unauthorized reproduction or exploitation of his materials.

The Copyright Ordinance, 1962 is replaced again in 2000 by a new copyright Act, which, later was amended in 2005. Copyright as guaranteed by the Copyright Act of Bangladesh is valid only within the territory of Bangladesh.

The owner of copyright in a book has the right to stop others from making copies of the book, (or any substantial part of the book), whether the copying is by way of a commercial printer, a photocopy machine, or by way of a computer image/text scanner. Looking at the relevant Acts of India, Singapore, Australia and the UK it can be noticed that they yet not have included e-Book- separate from the 'book' as referred in all these Acts. Though impliedly (it can be interpreted) they are mentioning- 'sec 2 (1) digital sign/ symbols' or 'sec 2 (20) digitally created manuscript'.

Indian government recently have introduced exemptions of copyright in practice, namely- a. Books that are not sold in the country (ensuring availability) b. Books in public libraries (not to be borrowed) (ensuring affordability) and c. Books for person with disabilities (ensuring accessibility) . The highlight of the above exemption is that the Government is trying to ensure improved access to learning materials for its citizens- which I think is also applicable for us. The other important concern is naturally- what will happen of 'Commercial' publications. All the above countries except us have introduced e-Payment option with international credit cards. We have the option utilizing m-Payment concept too. This falls within the area of Banking Regulations. We may cite the Indian example of exemptions considering e-Book as a 'Public Good'.

In Chile for the Persons with Disabilities- under Article 71 C- it is permissible, without paying or obtaining authorization from copyright owner, all reproduction, adaptation, distribution or public communication of a legally published work, for the benefit of people with visual, hearing, or other disabilities that prevent normal access to the work, provided that such use is directly related to the disability in question, is carried out through a proper process or means to overcome the disability, and without commercial purpose.

In India for the education purpose- under section 52 the following acts shall not constitute an infringement of copyright, namely the reproduction of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction; or as part of the questions to be answered in an examination; or in answers to such questions. In the Indian law we also have (for education)- the publication in a collection, mainly composed of non-copyright matter, bona fide intended for the use of educational institutions, and so described in the title and in any advertisement issued by or on behalf of the publisher, of short passages from published literary or dramatic works, not themselves published for the use of educational institutions, in which copyright subsists: Provided that not more than two such passages from works by the same author are published by the same publisher during any period of five years.

The Indian model clause and the Australian clauses are better in this regard. Without limiting the meaning of the expression educational purposes in the law, a copy of the whole or a part of a work or other subject-matter shall be taken, for the purposes of the

provision in which the expression appears, to have been made, used or retained, as the case may be, for the educational purposes of an educational institution if: (a) it is made or retained for use, or is used, in connection with a particular course of instruction provided by the institution; or (b) it is made or retained for inclusion, or is included, in the collection of a library of the institution.

For Bangladesh we may think of the following options.
1. Reproduction for Educational Activities: For the purpose of educational activities copies may be made of works, recordings of works, broadcast in radio and television provided the copying is done by a person giving or receiving instruction and does not exceed the extent justified by the purpose.

2. Archives, Libraries, Museums and Galleries: Archives, public libraries, other libraries, museums and galleries that are publicly funded in whole or in part, may use and distribute copies of works as part of their activities provided this is not done for commercial purposes. Such institutions may make copies of works in their collection for the purpose of back-up and preservation. If a work or a copy of such work, in such an institution's collection, is incomplete, such an institution may make or procure a copy of the missing parts from another institution, unless the work can reasonably be acquired through general trade or from the publisher. Such institutions may make copies of works that are or should be available in their collections in their chosen format, if they cannot reasonably be acquired in such format through general trade or from the publisher.

3. Inter-Library Document Supply: Libraries may supply to each other whether by post, fax or secure electronic transmission, provided that the electronic file is deleted immediately after printing a paper copy of an electronic copy of a work. A paper copy may be supplied by the receiving library to a user of such library.

The author is an Advocate and Socio-legal Analyst.


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