Why India’s copyright law is the best

New Delhi: Things are going from bad to worse as far as the Indian media is concerned.

Yes, for the first time ever in the history of Indian journalism  — something that did not happen even when the Britishers were ruling the country — a newspaper company has been compelled to do the unthinkable: It has been forced to put up for sale its IPL team.

Now, the editors and journalists of that paper have to write without the moral force that came with the fact that their company owned an IPL team.

Anyway, some of you may ask why should a newspaper run a cricket team. Well, if the government can own a watch company, why can’t a newspaper back a cricket team?

Also, it was no cricket team actually. It was an IPL team.

(IPL, it should be pointed out here, has been very important both to Indian media and the Indian public. So much so, back in 2009, when the dates of the IPL and the Indian general elections clashed, and consequently when it was decided that the IPL would be moved to South Africa that year, there were many, including many journalists, who felt it actually made better sense to instead move the Indian polls to South Africa.).

And it’s just not the IPL, there are many other issues buffeting the Indian media. To discuss them and bring some clarity in the face of rapidly changing events, we caught up with a senior journalist who agreed to speak his mind despite the fact that we will not be mentioning his name and also the name of the newspaper with which he is employed, because, as a rule, news publications never openly identify rival publications —- that is, unless otherwise the rivals are in trouble or caught in a major scandal.

What do you think about the current state of Indian media?

Quite frankly, it is difficult to be sanguine based on what is happening in the Indian media scene. Just consider these facts: Sedition charges have been pressed against a cartoonist for his work on his blog. Parody sites and spoof Twitter accounts are blocked. Facebook pages of individuals are under scanner. There was even a brief ban on the number of individual SMSes that could be sent.

What sinister pattern do you see here? YES, you are right: The government is just ignoring the mainstream media. Even a couple of journos, who have been under focus, have been targeted for their work away from newspapers and TV channels.

The point is that when a feckless government like the one we have at the Centre right now is not going to take the mainstream media seriously, who will.

The Supreme Court has recently refused to frame guidelines for the electronic media, saying that the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ has to come from within. Your views on that

I am happy that the Supreme Court has given the much-needed boost to Freedom of Expression in the country, but wait I can’t talk about the case, it’s sub-judice, I think.

There have been some cases of plagiarism in the Indian media. What is your take on that?

I must point out here that there is a difference between repeating a piece of information and reproducing an idea or opinion. The first is generally acceptable while the latter is frowned upon.

Let me explain with an example: “Inflation for the year has gone up by nearly 5 per cent”.

This is a specialist technical computation. Yet, this is the kind of information that is allowed to be used by any one in any report because of the intellectual reason that nobody, including the government, anyway takes it seriously.

But ideas are sacrosanct. They represent cerebral effort.

Just consider the line that we often get to hear from a Padma Shri award- winning woman TV journo: “But Manmohan Singh’s integrity cannot be questioned”.

This is an opinion and you cannot copy. If you do, people will mock you. Because such is the ridiculousness of the opinion.

What do you think of the Copyright Law in India, do you think that who suffer due to plagiarism get recourse through it? 

The Copyright Act of 1957, with a couple of recent amendments, is one of the most comprehensive laws and is well equipped to handle copyright violations because — wait for this —- it itself is essentially a copy of the British Copyright Act, 1911.

But isn’t the Indian Constitution too a takeoff on the British Constitution?

There is one intrinsic difference between the two Constitutions: You can’t make jokes on Indian Constitution.

The thing to note is the British don’t have a written Constitution. I think the Queen has committed the entire Constitution to her memory and is helping to run the affairs of the government. Because nothing else explains the ridiculousness of an elected government paying specific amount every year and keeping alive a monarchy.

Finally, the Prime Minister has warned the media against needless sensationalism. What are your views on that?

Well, it is a much-needed advice that the media should heed forthwith, which I think they will, by ‘desensationalising’ the same news by pushing it to an obscure corner in the newspaper where possibly no eye-gaze falls. Like near the Editorials.

(Disclaimer: We don’t want to run afoul of the Copyright Laws. We will do the honourable thing of confessing that this entire news report was ‘lifted’ from here)