The recent announcement on the transfer of the Indian Copyright Office from the Ministry of Human Resources to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has garnered mixed reaction from the relevant stakeholders.
One argument is that by consolidating all IP offices under one Government department would lead to better coordination and avoidance of clash of jurisdictions. The other side of the argument goes to the history of the Indian copyright law, indicating a close relationship between copyright law and India’s education policy.
Not delving into the merits of the arguments (though I’m personally in favour of consolidation considering copyright ‘s diverse industry base ranging from broadcasting to the software industry ), I want to highlight a plausible reason for this shift.(Since there has been no Government notification explaining the reasons for the transfer).
The U.S. – India Business Council (USIBC), a prominent U.S. business advocacy organization for cementing India – U.S. trade relations, had recommended for such a consolidation in its testimony to the USTR for the 2016 Special 301 held on March 31st, 2016. It stated –
We recommend that responsibility for the enforcement of the Copyright Act of 1947 and related international convention be consolidated and shifted to one department, like the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.
Hence, to me this decision by the Government seems like a bye – product of the ensuing negotiations going on between India and U.S. on former’s IPR Policy. It could also be India’s last ditch attempt for upgrading its status or an undertoning ahead of the 2016 Special 301 Report which is due for release somewhere around April 30th, 2016.
What deal was struck between the Government of India and the USIBC is for posterity to reveal. All I can say is that given the perfect timing, the USIBC’s recommendation and the Government of India’s decision cannot be mere coincidence.