As the Internet grows in importance, Internet service providers need to tread carefully to avoid acting as intermediaries for others that may be breaking the law. Munish Mehra and Nishchal Anand explain the situation in India.
As the Internet grows in importance, Internet service providers need to tread carefully to avoid acting as intermediaries for others that may be breaking the law. Munish Mehra and Nishchal Anand explain the situation in India.It’s a small world, they say, but as it is getting smaller, the ‘cyberworld’ is getting larger and larger. The Internet has become integral to every sphere of our lives, to the degree that the virtual life can seem more comfortable, quick and convenient. Unfortunately though, the same applies to pirates, counterfeiters, unscrupulous traders and manufacturers, and even a few intermediaries, including Internet service providers (ISPs), that are out to make a quick buck.
As the centre for innovation in technology has moved eastwards, so have illegal counterfeiting activities over the Internet. Though the problem is still nascent in India, trademark and copyright owners are generally ignorant of the scale of infringement over the Internet. However, as counterfeiters get smarter and rights holders get wiser, it will not be long before Internet service providers start to find themselves caught in the middle of disputes between the actual infringers and aggrieved parties. It seems that situations similar to those seen in the West (e.g. with Napster, eBay and Pirate Bay) are likely to arise in India in the coming years.
Though there is no reported Indian judgment or case law to throw light on the subject of ISP liability, it has lately become a hotly debated topic among private practitioners as well as the Indian legislature. The law has evolved very rapidly over the past couple of years, owing to acertain ambiguity in past provision dealing with this subject and also a few instances of online infringement where the role and liability of ISPs became difficult to ascertain. With this in mind, the legislature has very recently amended the section on ISP liability in the Information Technology Act, 2000, making the law clearer.
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