Intellectual Property in the Digital Age

     I.         Introduction


In today’s digital age, Intellectual Property (IP) has become more important than ever. With the proliferation of online platforms and the ease of sharing online, safeguarding one’s I[1] P has become more challenging than ever. From movies to music, NFTs to software,[2]  protecting IP is crucial for ensuring that creators are fairly compensated for their work. The notion of IP is at the core of technological innovation, economic growth, and industrial policies. Understanding IP becomes paramount as it facilitates the free flow of information, allows the inventor to prohibit others from making financial benefits, it drives economic growth and competitiveness and emboldens Innovation.


●     What is Intellectual Property?[3] 


It is the type of property that includes the products of original human thought. Some examples of IP are the contents of a book, designs of an invention, computer software, company logos, and music.


IP differs from other forms of property as it is non–tangible, that is, it cannot be defined or identified by its physical parameters. It can be of numerous forms,including inventions, artistic works, brand identities and trade secrets.


There are several forms of intellectual property and they are: -


Patent– It grants inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, importing, or selling the invention. In India, the law governing the same is the Patents Act, of 1970. It is available for a limited period that is 20 years. Also, not all innovations are “inventions” for which the government can issue patents, The term has been defined under Section 2 (1) (j) of the act as “a new product or a process involving an inventive step and capable of industrial application”


Tech Startup Developing a New App: Imagine you're a tech entrepreneur developing a revolutionary app that helps users manage their finances more effectively. In this case, you would likely want to consider filing for a patent to protect the unique features and functionalities of your app. A patent can provide you with the exclusive rights to prevent others from making, using, or selling your invention for a certain period, giving you a competitive edge in the market.

Biotech Startup Developing a New Drug: If you're a biotech entrepreneur developing a new drug or medical treatment, obtaining patents for your inventions is crucial. Patents can protect the novel compounds, formulations, or methods of treatment that make your drug unique. In addition to patents, you may also consider trade secrets to protect confidential information, such as proprietary manufacturing processes or research data, from competitors.


Trademark– With the help of trademarks any enterprise can distinguish themselves from other enterprises in the same segment. They play a very crucial role, as they act as the source of identity for any entity.

In India, A trademark is defined under Section 2 (1) (zb), of the Trademark Act, 1999. It is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual which is applied to the articles of commerce to identify the products of one from another.


Fashion Designer Launching a New Clothing Line: As a fashion designer launching a new clothing line, your creations are your intellectual property. By registering your designs with the appropriate authorities, such as trademarks or design patents, you can protect your brand identity and prevent others from copying your unique designs. Trademarks can protect your brand name, logo, or slogan, while design patents can safeguard the ornamental aspects of your clothing designs.


Copyright– It acts as a protection of original literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work, cinematograph films, and sound recordings.  In India, the laws governing the same are The Copyright Act, 1957 (“Act”) and Copyright Rules,1958 (“Rules”).


Independent Filmmaker Producing a Feature Film: For an independent filmmaker producing a feature film, copyright protection is essential. Copyright automatically applies to original works of authorship, including films, music, and literature, giving you the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and display your film. Registering your copyright with the relevant copyright office provides additional benefits, such as the ability to enforce your rights in court and seek damages for infringement.


Designs– Industrial designs in India are protected under the Designs Act, of 2000. It includes the minimum standards for the protection of Industrial designs, which are in accordance with the TRIPS agreement. “Design” as per the act means only the features of shape, pattern, ornament or composition of lines or colours applied to any “article.” It can be either two-dimensional or three-dimensional or both.


●     Digital Age

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology plays a crucial role in protecting the integrity and ownership of digital content in the digital age. It encompasses a set of technologies and protocols aimed at controlling the use, distribution, and access to digital content such as games, music, software, and movies. With the rise of blockchain technology, particularly Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), DRM has evolved to offer new opportunities for content creators and consumers alike.


NFTs, which are unique digital tokens authenticated on a blockchain, have introduced a novel approach to digital ownership and rights management. By minting digital assets as NFTs, content creators can establish verifiable ownership and enforce scarcity in the digital realm. This innovation opens up possibilities for incorporating NFTs into DRM solutions, enhancing the protection and monetization of digital content.


For example, imagine a musician releasing a new album as a series of NFTs on a blockchain platform. Each NFT represents a unique copy of the album, authenticated and encrypted on the blockchain. Through smart contracts, the artist can specify the terms of use and distribution for each NFT, including royalties for secondary sales. Consumers who purchase these NFTs not only gain access to the digital content but also acquire a stake in its ownership, with the ability to resell or trade their NFTs in a decentralized marketplace.


In the gaming industry, NFTs can be integrated into DRM systems to enable ownership of in-game assets and collectibles. Players can acquire rare items or characters as NFTs, securely stored and transferable across different gaming platforms. By leveraging blockchain technology and smart contracts, game developers can ensure that players have legitimate ownership of their digital assets, while also facilitating secondary markets for trading and monetization.


Moreover, NFT-based DRM solutions offer benefits beyond content protection, including transparency, interoperability, and traceability. The immutable nature of blockchain ensures transparent ownership records and audit trails, reducing disputes and fraud in digital transactions. Interoperability between different platforms and ecosystems enables seamless transferability of NFTs, fostering a vibrant digital economy.


However, it's important to note that while NFTs hold promise for enhancing DRM, they also pose challenges and considerations, such as environmental concerns associated with blockchain energy consumption and the need for robust security measures to prevent hacking and piracy. Nonetheless, the integration of NFTs into DRM represents an innovative approach to digital rights management, empowering content creators, and consumers in the decentralized digital landscape.




  II.         Intellectual Property in the Age of Streaming



Streaming services have completely changed the way we consume media in the digital age. The ease of use and availability of streaming media have made it possible for us to enjoy everything from TV shows and movies to podcasts and music in our daily lives. But this technical progress also brings with it a complicated web of IP problems.


Challenges and Issues


The emergence of streaming services has presented several difficulties and problems with IP rights. Copyright violations and Piracy are two of the main issues. Unauthorized copies can spread swiftly thanks to the ease of access to and distribution of digital content, robbing authors and copyright holders of their due compensation. This threatens the viability of the streaming market as a whole in addition to harming content producers' bottomlines. Enforcing IP rights in the digital sphere is another difficulty. Because of the enormous amount of content that is posted and shared, online platforms frequently find it difficult to identify and take action against copyright infringers. Because of this, it is challenging for owners of copyrights to successfully defend their IP and pursue legal action against violators. Moreover, jurisdictional issues arise from the worldwide reach of streaming services. The international nature of copyright infringement makes the enforcement of IP rights difficult. When streaming sites operate in numerous countries, each with its own copyright laws and enforcement processes, this issue becomes especially pertinent.


Copyright Infringement and Technology


Streaming has changed the landscape of IP significantly. Now, content producers have an additional way to present their work and connect with a worldwide audience. This implies, that their works are open to unlawful use and distribution. The ease with which content may be shared and replicated on streaming services has made copyright violations and piracy more commonplace. The legal limits on distributing and streaming copyrighted content are often unknown to users. Because of this, there are now many illicit streaming websites that make money by distributing copyrighted videos without authorization.

Combating copyright piracy presents issues for streaming platforms as well. They must carefully balance preserving the rights of content creators with offering users a pleasurable experience. This frequently entails putting in place reliable methods for content identification and takedown to quickly address copyright infringement.

In the streaming business, technology is essential to the protection of IP rights. Copyright holders can regulate and control how their content is used with the help of digital rights management (DRM) systems, for instance. DRM solutions can encrypt data, limit access according to license conditions, and put safeguards in place to stop illegal copying and dissemination. The management of IP rights could be made more transparent and accountable with the help of blockchain technology. Copyright holders and producers can trace the consumption of their property and create irreversible records of ownership by utilizing the decentralized nature of blockchain technology. Furthermore, copyright infringement is being detected and prevented by utilizing advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence. These technologies enable copyright holders to take quick action against infringers by analyzing large volumes of data, identifying content protected by copyright, and flagging possible infringement.


III.         Digital Piracy and Enforcement


In India, the illicit online distribution of copyrighted content by people and groups has resulted in a widespread problem known as digital piracy. Increased access to smart phones and the general availability of high-speed internet has brought attention to the issues of digital piracy and copyright enforcement. The Indian entertainment sector continues to lose a lot of money as a result of wide-spread piracy, even with efforts to stop it. The ease of access to pirated versions of anything from software to music, movies, books, and books threatens the income streams of content creators. As a result, calls have been made for stricter enforcement actions to safeguard IP and stop piracy.


Impact and Challenges In India

Indian entertainment has been severely impacted by digital piracy. In addition to causing monetary losses, the availability of pirated content has hampered the industry's expansion and advancement. Content providers find it challenging to invest in new initiatives and talent due to the much-reduced money received from the sales of authorized content. Moreover, content creators who have dedicated time, energy, and resources to creating high-quality content face an unfair playing field as a result of digital piracy. Because pirated versions are sometimes of worse quality, the original producers' credibility and trust are damaged. This damages their reputation in addition to decreasing their earnings. There are several obstacles to overcome in India while enforcing laws against digital piracy. The lack of awareness and cultural acceptance of piracy is one of the major obstacles. Many people are ignorant of the repercussions of participating in piracy and how it affects the entertainment sector. This ignorance generates a demand for pirated content and makes it challenging to dissuade potential pirates.


Laws that are now in place present another difficulty. Digital piracy prosecutions can involve a drawn-out and complicated legal procedure. This gives pirates the opportunity to carry on with their operations until the legal system catches up. Effective efforts to combat piracy are further hampered by the enforcement agency’s lack of resources and experience.




In order to counter this technological danger, the government of India (GOI) and its various departments have implemented several structural and policy-level measures. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) are now more effectively managed, enforced, and administered as a result of broad, long-overdue legislative and administrative changes as well as ongoing, unceasing improvements.


National Intellectual Property Rights Policy, 2016

By creating an environment that supports IP awareness, invention, commercialization, and enforcement, the Policy lays out India's path forward in its efforts to foster innovation and boost creativity. The Objectives of the policy are as follows: -

●     Create awareness of the economic, social, and cultural benefits of IPR’s

●     Inclusion of IPR studies in the school curriculum

●     Amendments to be made in The Cinematographs Act,1952



The Cell for IPR Promotion and Management

The above policy has also led to the creation of the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. A campaign against piracy has been initiated by CIPAM, in collaboration with Viacom18 and the Film and Television Producers Guild of India. The campaign consists of a series of anti-piracy cartoon videos. To increase the impact on the viewer, some well-known celebrities have shared anti-piracy remarks in these videos. The videos are screened before the film screenings at multiple theatres throughout the nation, including PVR theatres, the biggest theatre chain in India. Thanks to CIPAM's partnership with the Maharashtra Cyber Digital Crime Unit (MCDCU) and the National Internet Exchange of India, approximately 300 infringing websites with over 186 million monthly hits have been suspended. The government of India, working with state authorities, has been proactive in carrying out raids and timely checks to defend against this menace with every incoming release, to prevent piracy and the selling of counterfeit movies on CD and DVD. The following are some further significant adjustments and projects. Measures Against Piracy in the Draft E-Commerce Policy: The Draft E-Commerce Policy was created and made available to the public in 2019. All stakeholders, including investors, manufacturers, MSMEs, traders, retailers, start-ups, and consumers, have their interests taken into consideration by the Draft Policy. The anti-piracy methods listed below have been implemented.

●     It has been requested that intermediaries implement safeguards against the online spread of illegal content. Additionally, they will list "trusted entities" whose complaints will be given priority treatment.

●     A website or e-commerce platform that receives notification from the copyright owner that someone is offering, selling, or disseminating any copyrighted property without the owner's prior consent ought to promptly take down or disable access to the content in question.

●     To identify "rogue websites," a body of industry stakeholders will be established. Websites that primarily host pirated content are considered rogue. These fraudulent websites will be added to the "Infringing Websites List" (IWL), which offers the following, upon verification: Internet service providers (ISPs) are required to take down or disable access to websites listed in the IWL within specified timeframes. Payment gateways are also required to prevent payments from going to or from these rogue websites. Search engines are also required to take the necessary actions to remove websites listed in the IWL from their search results. Lastly, advertisers or advertising agencies are not allowed to host any advertisements on websites listed in the IWL.



IP continues to be essential forsafeguarding innovation and creativity in the rapidly changing digital landscape. The emergence of streaming services has revolutionized mediaconsumption, posing both opportunities and difficulties for IP protection. Although content can be accessed and enjoyed conveniently through streaming platforms,there are concerns about copyright infringement, piracy, and jurisdictional difficulties associated with them. In the digital age, a diversified strategy is required to protect IP rights successfully. In order to prevent copyright infringement and guarantee that content creators receive just compensation, technology is essential. In the streaming era, blockchain technology, machine learning and artificial intelligence advancements, and digital rights management (DRM) systems present intriguing alternatives for intellectual property protection.


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Aniruddha Roy
Keshav Agarwal