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DMCA & protection of intellectual property online


Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology and for Law and Justice was locked out of his Twitter account allegedly over a notice received for violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).


GS-II: International Relations (Important International Institutions, Groupings & Agreements Affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is WIPO?
  2. What is the DMCA?
  3. Why were WIPO’s treaties needed?
  4. Raising Issue and Resolution of issues through DMCA

What is WIPO?

  • The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the 15 specialized agencies of the United Nations (UN) created to promote and protect intellectual property (IP) across the world by cooperating with countries as well as international organizations.
  • WIPO currently has 193 member states and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, WIPO has “external offices” around the world. The only non-members are the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and South Sudan.
  • WIPO’s activities include:
    • Hosting forums to discuss and shape international IP rules and policies,
    • Providing global services that register and protect IP in different countries,
    • Resolving transboundary IP disputes,
    • Helping connect IP systems through uniform standards and infrastructure, and
    • Serving as a general reference database on all IP matters.
  • WIPO also works with governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and individuals to utilize IP for socioeconomic development.
  • WIPO administers 26 international treaties that concern a wide variety of IP issues, ranging from the protection of broadcasts to establishing international patent classification.

What is the DMCA?

  • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, is a 1998 law passed in the US and is among the world’s first laws recognising intellectual property on the internet.
  • Signed into law by the then US President Bill Clinton, the law oversees the implementation of the two treaties signed and agreed upon by member nations of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in 1996.

2 treaties of WIPO

  • WIPO members had in December 1996 agreed upon two treaties, namely the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
  • Both the treaties require member nations and signatories to provide in their respective jurisdictions, protection to intellectual property that may have been created by citizens of different nations who are also co-signatories to the treaty.
  • The said protection, accorded by each member state, must not be any less in any way than the one being given to a domestic copyright holder.
  • Further, it also obligates that signatories to the treaty ensure ways to prevent circumvention of the technical measures used to protect copyrighted work.
  • It also provides the necessary international legal protection to digital content.

Why were WIPO’s treaties needed?

  • With the rapid commercialisation of internet in late 1990s which started with static advertisement panels being displayed on the internet, it became important for website owners to get the user to spend more time on their webpage.
  • For this, fresh content was generated by creators and shared over the Internet. The problem started when the content would be copied by unscrupulous websites or users, who did not generate content on their own.
  • Further, as the Internet expanded worldwide, websites from countries other than the one where the content originated, also started to copy the unique content generated by the websites.

Raising Issue and Resolution of issues through DMCA

  • Any content creator of any form, who believes that their original content has been copied by user or a website without authorisation can file an application citing their intellectual property has been stolen or violated.
  • Users can either approach the website on which the content has been hosted, or third party service providers like, which utilise a team of experts to help take down the stolen content for a small fee.
  • In the case of social media intermediaries like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, content creators can directly approach the platform with a proof of them being original creators.
  • Since these companies operate in nations which are signatories to the WIPO treaty, they are obligated to remove the said content if they receive a valid and legal DMCA takedown notice.
  • Platforms, however, also give the other users against whom allegations of content cheating have been made, a chance to reply to the DMCA notice by filing a counter notice. The platform shall then decide which party is telling the truth, and shall accordingly, either restore the content or keep it hidden.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023