Monday, January 11, 2010

Wordpress Must Change Its Policy Regarding Copyright Violations

A recent copyright violation of an article on E-Courts in India by a person named Tabrez Ahmad has resulted in the analysis of copyright protection policy of Wordpress. Similar copyright violation was also notified to Google that duly removed the infringed material from respective Blogs of the infringer. However, Wordpress/ Automattic have failed to do the needful as per the Indian laws like Indian Copyright Act, 1957 and Information Technology Act 2000. This may raise serious legal issues in the near future vis-à-vis copyright violation issues in the cyberspace in India.

Wordpress is a fantastic blogging community. It has, however, a serious problem when it comes to preventing copyright violation of other users. The main problem lies with its “Policy” to deal with such copyright violation notices. Wordpress deals with copyright violation notices through its Digital Millennium Copyright Act Notice (DMCA Notice) page. It requires sending an emailed notice (“Infringement Notice”) providing the information described at the DMCA Notice page.

If Automattic takes action in response to an Infringement Notice, it will make a good faith attempt to contact the party that made such content available by means of the most recent email address, if any, provided by such party to Automattic. The Infringement Notice may also be forwarded to the party that made the content available or to third parties such as

All Infringement Notices need to be sent to prescribed e-mail as plain text emails without attachments (email attachments are discarded) and include the following or they will be deemed invalid:

(a) An electronic signature of the copyright owner or a person authorised to act on their behalf,

(b) An identification of the copyright claimed to have been infringed,

(c) A description of the nature and exact location of the infringing content,

(d) The name, address, telephone number and email address of the complainer,

(e) A statement by the complainer that he believe in good faith that the use of the content that he claims to infringe his copyright is not authorised by law or by the copyright owner or such owner’s agent and under penalty of perjury, that all of the information contained in his Infringement Notice is accurate, and that the complainer is either the copyright owner or a person authorised to act on his behalf.

If a DMCA notice is valid, Wordpress/ Automattic is required by law to respond to it by disabling access to the allegedly infringing content. What is frustrating is to know that Wordpress would not do anything even if it is a clear and obvious case of copyright violation. Wordpress must not force the entire population of the World to comply with the conditions of DMCA even if these provisions may not be applicable in a totally different jurisdiction. As per the amended Cyber law of India (through Information Technology Act 2008), an intermediary like Wordpress is liable for due diligence and other cyber crimes/copyright violations if it has actual knowledge. A simple notice is the only requirement under the Indian laws to invoke the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

Since the copyright violator is residing in Indian jurisdiction, Indian courts have jurisdiction to try issues arising out of violation of copyright as well as cyber law of India. There is no need for the Wordpress/ Automattic to insist upon fulfilling DMCA requirements in a very clear and apparent case of copyright violation. It would be interesting to observe how things would develop from this stage.