A law to protect intellectual rights
Aiming to safeguard intellectual property rights, the government is going to increase the punishment for violating copyrights, with more specific definitions and the inclusion of some new provisions.
The new bill of Copyright Act 2023 will replace the existing Copyright Act 2000, which has now been placed to get the nod of the president.
According to the act, copyright ownership in cases of the creator's demise, will be passed to their rightful heir -- a crucial addition absent in the previous legislation.
The bill classifies copyrights into two distinct categories: one for literature, drama, songs, and arts, which endure throughout the creator's lifetime and extend for 60 years after their passing.
The other category, encompassing film, sound recordings, photography, digital content, and more, will maintain copyright protection for 60 years from the initial date of publication.
These amendments aim to strike a balance between incentivising creativity and encouraging innovation within the intellectual property realm.
The new act imposes a maximum prison sentence of four years for most violations. However, violations pertaining to film and folk culture will carry a stiffer punishment of five years.
Notably, the inclusion of folk culture in the copyright act is a significant development that comes after much debate, sparked by a copyright dispute involving the Mymensingh Geetika song, "Sarbata Mangal Radhe," and the Sherpur-based folk band Shorolpur.
The band claimed the song was their original track after Meher Afroz Shaon and Chanchal Chowdhury covered it on a commercial platform in 2020. The band had taken the copyright of the song in 2018. However, in January 2022, the copyright office cancelled the copyright of the band.
The new act introduces an entire chapter dedicated to Securing Rights of Folk-knowledge and Folk-culture, ensuring that the government will trace the origin of such cultural activities.
"To use those commercially, one would need to take the government's permission and sign contracts with the origin communities about the usage conditions and tenure," says the new act.
A part of the income, which will be settled by the contracts, will be spent in the cultural development of these communities.
The new act has incorporated the copyrights of ICT related products, activities, database, design by digital tools.
Using film scenes or sound recordings on any digital and social media platforms without permission will also be considered as copyright violation.
In the new law, dress designing, graphics, artistic images or any design using digital platforms have been included as an art form.
The copyright office will perform specific tasks including issuing copyright registration and certifying, licensing of translation, stopping import of illegal copies of any intellectual products, conservation of folk culture, advising the government about copyrights and providing incentives to the original artists.
Besides, the government will appoint additional copyright registrars. A clause has been incorporated in the act saying that the board f the copyright office will be able to retain or cancel the orders of the registrar.
Barrister Aneek R Haque, advocate, Supreme Court, said there are a number of things that were not in the law before, which have been included.
For example, a separate chapter has been added to protect the rights of folk culture, and new clauses have been proposed to prevent piracy, he said.
However, the copyright board has been given new powers that they did not have before, he added.
Noted Bangladeshi filmmaker Gias Uddin Selim said, "If any person intentionally violates or helps to violate the copyright of a film, they can be punished now."
Farid Ahmed, proprietor of Somoy Prokashon, said if any publisher violates any condition of the agreement signed with the creator of a literary work, a fine of Tk 5 lakh will be imposed.
However, in the case of publication, the penalty amount has become much higher, he added.