Critical analysis of the liability of internet service providers for copyright infringement

By Naveen Dahiya, Partner

“The changing facet of technology gives birth to various complicated issues in copyright law regarding online copyright infringement. The major issue is to strike a balance between the rights of the copyright holders and the liability of Internet Service Providers. The tension that exists between copyright holders and Internet Service Providers concerning the issue of online copyright infringement liability has been a subject of extensive debates worldwide. The major problem is the lack of clarity of law regarding the secondary liability of Internet Service Providers for online copyright infringement in various jurisdictions across the world. The object of the present paper is to comprehensively analyse the existing position on secondary liability in US and India.”


Internet is a large network of linked computers whose operators co-operate to allow passing information among them.19Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are basically intermediaries which facilitate access to internet or worldwide web and related facilitates in accessing various services available on the internet. Internet is one of the major innovations of the 20thcentury. Internet provides easy worldwide access through its facilities like e-mail, file transfer, file sharing, chatting, downloading etc. These capabilities of internet have made it very easy for everyone to receive or disseminate text, images, sound, software or data from any corner of the world, with accuracy and without any substantial loss in the quality of work and allows to make multiple copies of a work available on the internet. 

The internet has revolutionized the dissemination of information by digitalizing the form of information. However, the same in some situations results in violation of copyrights. Copyright laws relate to electronic communications, that ‘there will be a copyright infringement when an individual copies a work held in electronic format without the authority of the copyright holder’.20Then the issue comes whether a service provider can be held liable for merely providing a platform to the primary infringer to infringe the copyright. As it is difficult to enforce the copyrights against individual internet users, now a days the copyright owners start filing suits against the Internet Service Providers on the basis of doctrine of secondary liability.21There are various issues involved in ascertaining the liability of ISPs for the activities done by its users.



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