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Electronic commerce: the threat of counterfeiting and piracy | Opinion – analysis


Electronic commerce in India has experienced phenomenal growth over the years: from $ 39 billion in 2017, it is expected to increase to $ 200 billion by 2026. This is due to the ever deeper penetration of Internet and mobile phones. There has been a constant expansion of online offers: electronics, clothing, travel, movies, medicine, hotel reservations, books, marriage services, cosmetics, footwear, fashion accessories and groceries. The liberal Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy, where 100% transactions between companies are allowed, is also driving the growth of this market.

This growth, however, comes with challenges. Counterfeiting and piracy of goods continue to distort the virtual market. E-commerce sites are regularly used as common platforms for the sale of counterfeit products. Whether online or offline, the dangers are the legitimate loss of the market and the occupation of the economic space by unauthorized operators and the gray market, which causes the loss of income for the government, the loss of jobs, the threat to consumer safety and the growth of organized crime.

While technology offers several solutions to authenticate the original product, the same technological tools, particularly artificial intelligence, help create clones. This makes it more difficult to distinguish between the original and the false. In addition, when e-commerce players and brand owners are involved in disputes, it is counterfeiters who reap the benefits. What is needed is a constant update and innovation to stay ahead of counterfeiters. Therefore, it is important that we have regulations for electronic commerce.

The government has taken a big step in presenting the draft of the e-commerce policy, which has indicated clear guidelines on the expectations of brand owners and e-commerce players. It is the first time that a government document lists concrete steps to combat counterfeiting. It categorically states that the details of the sellers must be available on a market website for all products, and that the sellers must commit to the platforms about the authenticity of their products. In addition, trademark owners must have the option of registering on an e-commerce platform so that, whenever a trademark product is uploaded for sale on the platform, the owner of the respective brand is notified. If the brand owner wishes, the e-commerce platform can only list or offer for sale any of the owner’s products only with prior permission. In case of a complaint, the matter must be brought to the notice of the owner of the registered trademark, the product removed and the site blocked. In addition, in the event that a customer files a forgery claim after the sale, compensation will be paid and financial disincentives will be imposed on the seller to find counterfeit products.

Unlike the problem of physical piracy and counterfeiting, content piracy is easy and harmful. It is easy because the content of the original product is retransmitted and, therefore, there is no new creation, infrastructure is not required, money is not invested in content creation, and the same content of the same quality is available to all of free form .

Most copyright infringements are made through the illegal reproduction of newspapers, magazines and books, video piracy, cable piracy and imitation and distribution of computer programs without the permission of the original holders of the copyright rights. Author.

The main industries in the online space have taken measures such as 24 * 7 content monitoring, eliminations and criminal cases. But this is not enough. For example, the film and television industry contributed a total of 33.3 billion rupees to the economy and supported more than 2.36 million jobs in 2017. However, piracy remains a growing threat to this industry. Online copyright theft is a criminal company that also affects consumers and is susceptible to malware, identity theft and ransomware.

A 2016 study, which analyzed 1,143 popular piracy sites in India, found that large and medium-sized pirate sites earned revenue of approximately Rs 4 million and Rs 2 million respectively, and 361 advertisers on those sites were found to be in the high risk category. Recently, it was discovered that a Wi-Fi enabled box is available in the market for around Rs 1,000-5,000 that uses the keys of a distribution platform to transmit all the television channels of Indian stations. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism in India where one can track and block the last mile subscriber whose box is being used for piracy.

One of the greatest difficulties in addressing content theft and piracy is the jurisdictional challenge. While the laws have national limits, piracy is a global beast. One can sit in a non-compliant jurisdiction, upload content and make it available worldwide. Indian laws will not be applicable in this case. Therefore, nothing can be done against the pirate. Nor is there a mechanism in India that prepares a list of websites that infringe the content or physical assets.

Although the guidelines list the steps for counterfeiting and the fight against online piracy, it is clear that there is a need for greater collaboration among stakeholders, as well as better regulation by the government. The Intellectual Property Rights policy of India (DPI), which was launched in 2016, emphasized strengthening, enforcement and adjudication to combat piracy and counterfeiting. He further stated that best practices should be followed, technological tools and training of law enforcement agencies should be carried out, the judiciary should be strengthened and more commercial courts opened to address the complexities of IPRs and determine the extent of counterfeiting and piracy.

Narendra Sabharwal is a former deputy director General, World Intellectual Property Organization, member of the expert group, FICCI CASCADE, and President, FICCI – IP Committee

The opinions expressed are personal.

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