A DISCUSSION ON GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS AND THEIR INTERFACE WITH TRADEMARK

Introduction

Intellectual Property Rights (hereinafter referred to as IP rights) are vested in various intellectual properties, which are broadly understood as the creation of the human intellect or the mind. These rights were first recognized at a global level at the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, 1883.[1] There was a growing two-fold need to acknowledge the protection of IP rights by way of legislation, these can be summarized as follows:

•To give statutory expression to the rights of creators and innovators in their creations and innovations, balanced against the public interest in accessing creations and innovations.

•To promote creativity and innovation, so contributing to economic and social development.

The various intellectual properties are usually categorized under two broad headers; Copyright and related rights and Industrial Property. While Copyright relates to literary and artistic creations and the rights emanating out of these authors’ rights, Industrial Property extends from patents and industrial designs to layout of integrated circuits to trademarks and geographical indications. The rationale behind these rights is to protect the products and services rendered by various producers and manufacturers. These rights help the producers convey information about their products to the end consumers to identify the original products. These rights also prohibit the other market players from using such signs which may mislead the consumers.

Article 1(3) of the Paris Convention defines Industrial Property as-

Industrial property shall be understood in the broadest sense and shall apply not only to industry and commerce proper, but likewise to agricultural and extractive industries and to all manufactured or natural products, for example, wines, grain, tobacco leaf, fruit, cattle, minerals, mineral waters, beer, flowers, and flour.[2]

Geographical Indications and Trademarks belong to the genus of Industrial Property and are vested in individual products or even classes of products, which enjoy a goodwill in the market owing to the inherent quality it possesses due to its place of origin or manufacturer. These rights drive the sale of the products in the market and make them appealing to the customers.

The demand of the products is directly proportional to the quality it has, and by the virtue of Geographical Indications and Trademarks, the same can be ascertained easily by the end consumers.

In the instant essay, the researcher will discuss in brief the existence and application of Trademarks and Geographical Indications and the interface of the two.

Geographical Indications

Geographical Indications have been defined under Article 22 of the TRIPs Agreement as follows[3]

“Geographical indications are, for the purpose of this agreement, indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin”.

Following the TRIPs agreement, the Indian Legislature came up with The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. Geographical Indications have been defined under the said Act as follows:

“geographical indication”, in relation to goods, means an indication which identifies such goods as agricultural goods, natural goods or manufactured goods as originating, or manufactured in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin and in case where such goods are manufactured goods one of the activities of either the production or of processing or preparation of the goods concerned takes place in such territory, region or locality, as the case may be. [4]

Geographical Indications are Industrial Property marks or symbols which are allowed for goods and products manufactured in a certain geographical location, which are characterized by a certain quality, reputation or a feature essentially inherent to the said geographical location.

A geographical indication is available to all of the manufacturers of the said geographical location subject to any existing standard of production etc.

It serves an important socio-economic role, by appreciating the value of the GI product. The users of the GI are rewarded for building and protecting the goodwill in a certain product or class of products, and benefits the entire producer community of a certain territory, helping the financial upliftment, by recognizing their collective right and prohibiting others from infringing upon the same.

In India, an application for geographical can be made by any association of persons or producers or any organisation or authority established by or under any law for the time being in force representing the interest of the producers of the concerned goods, who are desirous of registering a geographical indication in relation to such goods in writing to the Registrar.[5]

A GI can exist forever, as though it is initially granted for 10 years, it may be renewed from time to time[6] according to the provisions of the governing statute.

Trademarks

Trademarks are visible marks on products, meant to distinguish them from alike products and to help the consumers identify the makers of the product, which would help establish the goodwill of the manufacturer in the market. A trademark is a sign, or a combination of signs, that distinguishes the goods or services of one company from those of another.[7] While Trademarks were first discussed in the Paris Convention, the first formal definition of Trademarks is found in the TRIPs Agreement.

The Article 15.1[8] of the TRIPs agreement provides that-

“Any sign, or any combination of signs, capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings, shall be capable of constituting a trademark”.

The definition ventures into the business aspect of trademarks and establishes that, a trademark should be capable of distinguishing the product from other similar products. The World Intellectual Property Organization, the administrative body under the Paris and the Bern convention, while deliberating on the distinctiveness of trademarks noted that it may either be inherent or acquired through use.[9]

However, the need of distinctiveness is a significant factor when the grant of a trademark is concerned, in absence of which registration may be refused. The Trademarks Act, 1999 provides for three absolute grounds in addition to other ancillary grounds for the refusal of trademarks, these are defined under section 9-[10]

S. 9 (1) The trademarks—–

(a) which are devoid of any distinctive character, that is to say, not capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of another person;

(b) which consist exclusively of marks or indications which may serve in trade to designate the kind, quality, quantity, intended purpose, values, geographical origin or the time of production of the goods or rendering of the service or other characteristics of the goods or services;

(c) which consist exclusively of marks or indications which have become customary in the current language or in the bona fide and established practices of the trade.

It is pertinent here to mention that the absolute grounds of refusal are derived from the TRIPs agreement, and have been time and again deliberated upon by the INTA (International Trademark Association).

Another characteristic feature of Trademark is that it can be renewed from time to time according to provisions of the governing statute. In India, a trademark is originally granted for 10 years and can be renewed as per the provisions of the Trademarks Act, 1999.[11] This implies that a trademark can technically exist in perpetuity.

Interface of Geographical Indications with Trademarks

The Geographical Indications are very similar in its characteristics to Trademarks, which has often sparked a discussion on its interface with Trademarks, there are overlapping features and characteristics which have to be examined to cull out the various similarities and differences between GIs and Trademarks.

The similarities between GI and Trademarks can be summarized as follows:

  1. GI and Trademarks both belong to the genus of Industrial Property.
  2. The rights are available in rem (against the world at large), making it a negative right.
  3. The rights are available for perpetuity.
  4. These rights are essentially economic, and are intended at boosting the sale.
  5. These rights are based on the distinctiveness and quality of the product, and emanates from goodwill.

The differences between GI and Trademarks are summarized as follows:

S.No. Geographical Indications Trademarks
1.   Is characterized by a certain geographical place of origin. Is characterized by one particular
producing company/proprietor.
2.   Is a collective right available to every producer in the
territory.
Is an individual right available to
the producer.
3.   Can only be denoted by Geo-political names and symbols related to it. The trademark may be a letter, word, number or its combination, even odor or 3-D shape.
4.   Does not employ human creativity in its
nomenclature.
Essentially a work of human
creativity.
5.   Can only extend to goods. Can be extended to both goods and services.

Conclusion

The chances of conflicts are very high in cases of such similar rights, however, universally it has been dealt with in a rational manner, in the US, e.g. Trademark application for metal ‘magnolia’ was an obscure geographical name, so the court determined that if the primary significance of the marks to the relevant public was not geographic, it could be registered.[12]

In case of Marlboro cigarettes as well, the court observed-

By heavy advertising over time, when consumers hear or read Marlboro they think of the product (Cigarette) and not the place.  Thus, descriptive names acquire secondary meaning and become distinctive.

It has also been observed that certain geographical locations may not bar the applicants from seeking trademarks if they are totally distinct and the significance is arbitrary, e.g. Amazon.com can not be assumed to be run from Amazon rainforest.

A human application of judicial mind is expected in these situations which more often than not do not follow a set template and is successful in resolving conflicts.


[1] Understanding Industrial Property, https//:www.wipo.int, 8th August, 2018.

[2] Art. 1(3), Paris Convention on Industrial Property, 1883.

[3] Art. 22.1,TRIPs Agreement, 1994.

[4] S.2 (1)(e), The Geographical Indications Of Goods (Registration And Protection) Act, 1999.

[5] S.11(1) The Geographical Indication Of Goods (Registration And Protection) Act, 1999.

[6] S.18(1) The Geographical Indication Of Goods (Registration And Protection) Act, 1999.

[7] Supra at note 1

[8] Article 15, TRIPs Agreement, 1994.

[9] WIPO National Seminar on the Protection of Trademarks and Geographical Indications, Beirut, March 17 to 19, 2003, International Bureau of WIPO, p.4.

[10] S.9, The Trademarks Act, 1999.

[11] S.25, The Trademarks Act,1999.

[12] In Re Magnolia Metal Company’s Trade Marks (1897) 2ch 37 1 (CA).

This article has been authored by Anurag Shankar Prasad.


Contextualizing Children’s Right to Privacy in the Digital Cosmos

Technological changes have been transforming our lives. The digital universe has opened up a Pandora’s Box of myriad issues ranging from the beneficial to the detrimental ones. In fact it is believed that if the world’s growing digital matter is printed and collated into a book it would form a heap that would stretch from planet Earth to Pluto ten times.[1] However, concomitant to the technical ingenuity the intensity of risk to cyber security has increased considerably and there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of cyber crimes, affecting both the adults and the children.

Many crimes that were conventionally committed offline such as stalking, defamation, pornography, criminal intimidation, intimidation, theft, cheating by personation, and even terrorism are now committed using the digital medium in cyberspace. Given these growing virtual occurrences, it is paramount to make the discourses concerning cyber security, data protection and privacy the mainstay of our executive, legislative and judicial frameworks.

While the right to privacy is now well-established in international law,[2] the notions of privacy have continued to vary noticeably across cultures, societies, traditions and time. Technological ingenuity has led to an expansive interpretation of the concept of privacy to include a right to the protection of personal information or data. In the post-privacy world[3], the children have been using the computers, mobile phones, tablets and TVs for scores of purposes. The usage is spread across diverse functions like, for entertainment (by downloading or watching the content online or even playing games online), or for school or academic work. Along with this, even parents have been digitally documenting their children’s lives by sharing the “personal information about their children or their data” and discussing their lives on various social media portals.

As more and more children around the world have been spending more time on the internet, there has been an alteration in the notions of children’s rights to privacy, the protection of their personal information and reputation by the digital technology and the Internet. The relationship between privacy, technology and its effect on children is increasingly becoming complex. In this milieu, the time is opportune to raise questions about-

  • The Nexus of technology and its misuse in causing harm to children;
  • “Sharenting”[4], when parents over share information online about their child’s life; and
  •  Digital Privacy of the information/ data concerning children.

An appraisal of these issues is essential for understanding the meaning of children’s rights in the virtual world. Pertinently, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (for short “the CRC”) recognizes that children have a specific right to privacy. Art 16 of the CRC is the relevant provision that reaffirms the mandate of the treaty law as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948[5]and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1976[6].

With India also en route a digital economy with the adoption of Aadhaar[7] and an escalating reliance on information, the apprehensions over cyber security, data protection and privacy are warranted. In fact, in the wake of the victimization of children by cyber crimes, some specific legislations like the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) have come to occupy the field.

Notably, last year in August 2017, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India held in the matter of Justice K. S. Puttuswamy v. Union of India[8] that the right to privacy is a fundamental right (includes “right to be let alone”). Through this judgment, the right of an individual to exercise control over his/her personal data was also recognized. The Court opined that-

“…481. The right of an individual to exercise control over his personal data and to be able to control his/her own life would also encompass his right to control his existence on the internet.”

The Court went a step ahead and made an observation pertaining to the “privacy of the children” in the following words:

“…485. Children around the world create perpetual digital footprints on social network websites on a 24/7 basis as they learn their ‘ABCs’: Apple, Bluetooth, and Chat followed by Download, E-Mail, Facebook, Google, Hotmail, and Instagram.383 They should not be subjected to the consequences of their childish mistakes and naivety, their entire life. Privacy of children will require special protection not just in the context of the virtual world, but also the real world.” [Emphasis added]

In another significant ruling, in Weller & Ors v. Associated Newspapers Ltd[9], the respondents were held liable for misuse of private information [and breach of the Data Protection Act (for brevity ‘DPA’)] when they published seven unpixilated photographs of musician Paul Weller and his three young children, captured in a street in California when relaxing in a Cafeteria. The case emphasized on the need for coherence on firstly, the clicking and publishing of the photographs – concerning the celebrities and their children, and to children in general; secondly, to the existence of “reasonable expectation of privacy” for children; and thirdly, the approach followed by the parents towards a child’s privacy, specifically, when the child is too young to have an understanding of privacy.

In the instances of sharenting, for facilitating online identity and / or reputation protection, the General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) “right to be forgotten” provision applies in the European Union (EU). Individuals (even infants and children), as digital rights-holders, have a right to request the deletion or redaction of their personal information from the search engine results. However, “an appreciable benefit for the child”could justify an invasion of the child’s privacy.[10] Overall,it is a difficult balancing act.

Children should be motivated to responsibly and diligently use the digital medium, and should be able to access material that helps them to make informed political, religious, societal and sexual choices.


This article has been authored by Surbhi Kapur from Team LawSkillsTo learn more about data protection, you can visit our course on Information Technology and Data Protection Law in India.

For knowing more about crimes against children, especially cyber-sexual crimes like online grooming, you can visit out course on Sexual Violence Against Children: Inform, Prevent, Protect. 

To know more, visit –


[1]Richard Wray, Internet Data Heads for 500bn Gigabytes, GUARDIAN (May 18, 2009), available at https://bit.ly/2QLpy6w (Last visited December 11, 2018 at 10:57 PM IST) cited in McKay Cunningham, Complying with International Data Protection Law, 84 U. CIN. L. REV. 421, 450 (2016)

[2] Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren, The Right to Privacy, 4 HARV.L. REV., pp. 193–220 (1890)

[3] Michael Kosinski, Living in a Post- Privacy World, STANFORD ENGINEERING ( May 09, 2018), available at https://stanford.io/2Gezhya (Last visited December 11, 2018at 11:24 PM IST)

[4] Stacey B. Steinberg, Sharenting: Children’s Privacy in the Age of Social Media, 66 EMORY L.J. 839 (2017)

[5] Article 12 of the UDHR

[6] Article 14 of the ICCPR

[7] Enrolment of infants in the biometric- based identification system under the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016- See https://bit.ly/2PBaVxM (Last visited December 12, 2018 10:36 PM, IST)

[8] MANU/SC/1044/2017

[9] [2015] EWCA Civ. 1176

[10] Marion Oswald, Helen James & Emma Nottingham,  The Not-so-secret Life of Five-year-olds: Legal and Ethical Issues relating to Disclosure of Information and the Depiction of Children on Broadcast and Social Media, J. OFMED. L., 8:2, 198-228 (2016) 

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Become a Stellar Employee: 2 Minute Guide

Technical skills and knowledge might land you your dream job. However, some qualities set you apart from other employees,making you a Stellar Employee. These qualities that are person specific and are either passed on to us through the values and morals or acquired over time during our journey in life. These qualities are preferred by employers all over regardless of the organisation’s location or industry. 

  1. Integrity is the most sought after quality by employers that makes you a reliable employee. People who possess this trait do not consider it a quality. Rather, it is a way of living for them, for integrity reflects the honesty of a person not only in professional life but his personal life too. This is the first and foremost quality for long term success across any profession.
  2. Self-motivation – The people who have desire to succeed in anything and everything they do are the ones that are self driven.They don’t need any external motivation to achieve their goals. Rather, such people act as a motivating force for their peers and, in a way, help the whole team.
  3. Courage can be described from two perspectives. Courage to take risks, go that extra mile, just do the best and not fear failures. And courage to put forward thoughts/ ideas/creativity/ suggestions to improve and make the system more efficient.
  4. Adaptability – No matter how much prior experience you have, all organizations expect you to be flexible and come with an open mind that is ready to adapt with respect to their work ethics and culture.
  5. Good Listening Skills : No matter what your designation is, you are a people’s person if you are able to listen and understand what anyone is trying to convey rather than listening just to respond. A good listener also boasts his patience and perseverance skills wordlessly.

Inculcating these traits in your daily life will help you in becoming invaluable to the organisation that you are a part of. 

This article has been authored by Ruchi Malhari from Team LawSkils. 

For more such professional tips and tricks as well as to continue your education to add that extra zing to your career, visithttp://www.lawskills.in

Supreme Court’s Ban on Firecrackers – 10 Things You Need to Know

While hearing a plea requesting complete ban on the bursting of firecrackers, the Supreme Court, on 23rd October, 2018, revisited and refined its previous orders on this matter. Although the apex court ruled against imposing a blanket ban, it did order certain restrictions to be imposed on the sale and use of firecrackers, not just for Diwali but for other religious and general celebrations as well. Here’s what the Court had to say –

  • Only green crackers and improved crackers with reduced omissions will be allowed to be manufactured and sold.
  • No sale of crackers is to take place via e-commerce sites. In case of any such sale taking place, the e-commerce site will be held liable for contempt by the Court. Monetary penalty can also be imposed on them.
  • Crackers can only be sold through licensed traders.
  • On Diwali and all other religious festivals, bursting of crackers is allowed only between the time of 8 pm – 10 pm.
  • On Christmas and New Year’s, this time window shall be between 11:55 pm -12:30 am to allow for midnight celebrations during these days.
  • This prescribed time limit is to be applicable throughout India.
  • Within Delhi, crackers can only be burnt in designated areas which shall be notified by the Court next week.
  • Only those crackers with decibel sounds within previously permitted limit shall be allowed to be manufactured and sold.
  • Barium salts in the making of firecrackers has been banned. Moreover, the PESO shall review the chemical composition of these firecrackers and submit its report to the Court.
  • PESO will ensure fireworks with permitted chemicals only to be purchased/possessed/sold/used during Diwali and all other religious festivals, of any religion whatsoever, and other occasions like marriages, etc. It shall test and check for the presence of banned chemicals like Lithium/Arsenic/ Antimony/Lead/Mercury.

Troubled by the deteriorating air quality index of the country, particularly the NCR, the Supreme Court has sought to check any further and possibly irreparable harm to the air we breathe in through its judgment in the absence of a legislation to this effect. It has also called for various public awareness campaigns to be held in schools and by the Government to apprise citizens about the ill-effects of burning firecrackers.

This article has been authored by Varnika Jain from Team LawSkills. To continue your legal education and/or to give your career a professional leg-up, check out our self-paced e-learning courses on soft and professional skills as well as the law on lawskills.in.

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All You Need to Know About Sexual Harassment at Workplace

India’s #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have begun, and how! Certain  industries have been identified as virtual cesspools of harassing and abusive conduct. Even people in the know have been known to turn a blind eye towards this rampant evil. However, another problem which has come into the limelight is that most people are not even aware about the kind of conduct that is wrong and abusive, especially at the workplace. This could be because India did not have well-defined laws to prevent sexual harassment at places of employment before the 2013 legislation based on the Vishakha Guidelines. Even after coming into force of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, most workplaces still lack a structure, procedure and mindset to deal with such situations. More often than not, this lack of streamlining ends up worsening the situation for victims and survivors of harassment.  Thus, today we have for you a simple FAQ to apprise you of the various facets of sexual harassment so that you can protect yourself from potential harassment and simultaneously ensure that your actions or those of people around you are not unwittingly causing harassment of your colleagues –

Q. What do you mean by a ‘workplace’?

A. As per the Act, a workplace comprises both organised and unorganised sectors including corporations, NGOs, Government organisations, residential houses (with respect to hired domestic help), educational and health institutions, service providers, cooperative societies, etc.

Workplace includes all such places where women either work or visit during the course of their employment. Thus, a hotel in which a female employee is attending a conference on behalf of her employer would also constitute a workplace.

Q. What conduct constitutes sexual harassment?

A. Briefly stated, sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual gesture or behaviour. It can be direct or indirect. It can include, but is not limited to, the following –

  • Sexually coloured remarks,
  • Physical contact and advances,
  • Showing pornography or obscene or sexist material,
  • Demanding sexual favours in return for a promised promotion or better work profile (called Quid Pro Quo harassment), or
  • Berating, demoting or giving poor performance reviews when someone rejects your advances (called Retaliatory harassment),
  • Serious or repeated offensive remarks, such as teasing related to a person’s body or appearance;
  • Offensive comments or jokes;
  • Inappropriate questions, suggestions or remarks about a person’s sex life.
  • Unwelcome social invitations, with sexual overtones commonly understood as flirting or Intimidation, threats and blackmail.

While this list may not be exhaustive, it provides a fair yardstick to assess workplace conduct against.

The above illustrations also portray how such harassment is usually perpetrated by an employer, senior, supervisor, etc., against a female employee. This skewed balance of power makes sexual harassment even more dangerous. Thus, any action of a senior which makes a subordinate employee feel uncomfortable or violated needs to be reviewed carefully.  A clear distinction needs to be drawn between welcome and unwelcome conduct. Moreover, every person’s private space needs to be respected.

Q. What system is required to be put in place by employers to address instances of sexual harassment?

A. Firstly, every employer/organisation should ensure that they have a strictly implemented HR policy against harassment. This would prevent people from thinking they can get away with it without facing any consequences.

Secondly, the HR department should conduct annual anti-sexual harassment awareness and training programs which should be mandatory for all employees. This will enable employees to identify signs of harassment around them even if the victims are too scared to speak out.

Thirdly, every organisation having ten or more employees should constitute an Internal Complaints Committee to address instances of sexual harassment at the workplace in a timely manner.

Where an organisation has less than ten members, complaint against sexual harassment can be filed with the Local Complaints Committee (“LCC”) which is a government instituted body.

Q. What is an Internal Complaints Committee?

A. An Internal Complaints Committee (“ICC”) is supposed to be made up of at least four members in the following manner:

  • A Presiding Officer who is a woman employed at a senior level at the workplace;
  • At least two members from amongst other employees who should have experience in women’s issues or have some legal knowledge;
  • At least one external member who can either be from an NGO or another organisation that works for women’s issues, or who has expertise in sexual harassment matters (like a lawyer).

It is important to ensure that at least half of this committee is made up of women.

Q. What is the complaint mechanism and process?

A. A female employee who has faced sexual harassment at her workplace can file a written complaint with the ICC within three months of its occurrence. If there are more than one instances, then she can file complaint within three months from the date of the last incident.  In case she is unable to submit the complaint on her own, then the ICC can allow another person, conversant with the incident, to file the complaint on her behalf and with her prior permission.

The ICC is then obligated to conduct and complete its inquiry into the matter within 90 days of receipt of the complaint. After completion of inquiry, the Committee gets a further 10 days period to submit its report to the employer/organisation containing its conclusions, recommendations and proposed action to be taken.

The accused and the victim can appeal against such report within 30 days if they do not agree with or aggrieved with any part of it.

The employer/organisation needs to implement such recommended action within two months of receiving the ICC’s report.

Q. What measures/punishment can be taken against the offender?

A. Depending upon the nature of the harassment, various punishments can be meted out to the offender, such as, termination from service, undergoing a counseling session or carrying out community service. Deduction of compensation payable to the aggrieved woman from the wages of the respondent may also be inflicted as punishment.  This compensation shall be based on the mental trauma, pain, suffering and emotional distress caused to the aggrieved employee; the loss of career opportunity due to the incident of sexual harassment; medical expenses incurred by the victim for physical/ psychiatric treatment.

Note: The Indian law against workplace sexual harassment only accounts for women as victims and men have been excluded from its ambit. Further, in order to take other legal measures against an offender, a separate criminal case would have to be filed against him.

For more information on workplace sexual harassment, visit http://www.lawskills.in or avail the benefits of a unique e-learning course by clicking here!

This article has been authored by Varnika Jain from Team LawSkills.

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Blockchain Technology – An Amateur’s Guide

You (Person A) want to electronically send a monetary amount to Person B. You access your wallet via an electronic key. You initiate the transaction. This transaction is broadcast to a particular network. The entities on this network will verify that you have enough value in your wallet in order to transfer the desired amount to Person B. Once verified, they will confirm the transaction. The money can then be moved from your wallet to Person B. This monetary transfer will be recorded in a long chain of other transactions, making it permanent and immutable.

How is the above e-transaction unique from other non-cash transactions?

  • There is no bank/third-party authority sitting between Person A and Person B who is handling the transaction.
  • A permanent, unchangeable record of this transaction is created.
  • The transaction is made over an underlying technology called blockchain, in which other entities on the same network confirmed the transaction and created a record of the transaction.
  • The value transferred is in the form of digital currency/crypto-currency.

Blockchain. Bitcoin. Cryptocurrencywhat does all this mean?

These ‘buzz-words’ have seeped into our daily conversation; however, they are widely misunderstood and often confused to be similar concepts. Let us understand them and know more about their uses and application –

  • What is Blockchain?

Simply put, blockchain is a form of ‘distributed ledger’ – a record (i.e. ledger) which is distributed (i.e. it is decentralized and is not regulated by a single entity). On a distributed ledger, any transaction or data entered is confirmed by other entities on that network, and is, thus, recorded.

Blockchain is unique in the fact that the data exchanged over it is stored in blocks which are linked to each other. This linked chain is continuously growing as it does not delete old data – it simply adds another block containing new, verified data. These blocks are connected with cryptography. Data over a blockchain cannot be tampered with or changed.

To sum up, blockchain is an underlying technology with many applications (such as digital currency transaction illustrated above), much like the internet with its many uses and applications (such as email, social networking, etc.).

  • Why Blockchain?

In the illustration shown above, Person A could transfer value to Person B over blockchain without needing a bank or any other intermediary; instead, the role of the intermediary (verifying and recording the transaction) was ‘distributed’ amongst other entities on that network, making the transaction transparent and efficient.

Since there is no intermediary/authority – transparency and efficiency created due to the underlying blockchain technology has made blockchain attractive and malleable to almost any scenario where multiple participants who may not know/trust each other are required to share data in order to perform a certain function.

  • Then, what is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, is just one of the many applications of the blockchain technology. Why, then, is the term Bitcoin commonly used alongside the term blockchain and is, more often than not, conceptually confused?

The answer to this allows us to briefly delve into the history of blockchain.

Cryptocurrency was officially introduced in 2008 by an anonymous entity/entities calling himself/herself/themselves Satoshi Nakamoto in a paper titled ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ which spoke about electronic (non-physical) cash transactions without resorting to a financial institution. The paper explained an underlying technology for making cryptocurrency transactions, which is now known as blockchain.

With Bitcoin being the first use-case of blockchain technology and the reason blockchain technology was discovered – the two terms are frequently used together, and therefore, are often confused.

  • To what else can blockchain technology be applied?

The chart below shows some useful applications of blockchain, with real-life examples of companies that have implemented them.

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Indian view towards blockchain and cryptocurrency – conservative yet evolving

After several public notices warning users about the risks of cryptocurrency/virtual currency (such as hacking, malware attacks, volatility in the value of cryptocurrencies etc.), the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), by a notification dated April 6, 2018, prohibited all regulated entities under it from dealing in virtual currencies or dealing with entities that deal in virtual currencies.

Simultaneously, the RBI is also investing in research and exploring the potential of blockchain technology as a part of the Indian financial framework. In January 2017, RBI’s research arm – the Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT) – published a white paper titled ‘Applications of Blockchain Technology to Banking and Financial Sector in India’. Later that year in September, IDRBT announced that they were working on a model blockchain platform on which various applications can be built. Similarly, NITI Aayog, the Indian government’s think tank, is also working on a national strategy for blockchain applications which can be implemented in India.

Blockchain & Cryptocurrency – An interesting segment to follow in the coming years

To conclude, blockchain technology has a variety of applications, many of which are being explored by Indian authorities as well as governments of several countries such as South Korea and Dubai. India’s dubious outlook towards virtual currencies is shared by many; however, there are several countries and organisations that are embracing it.

Though cryptocurrency and blockchain technology have been around for many years, their innovative applications and ever-growing uses are still being explored, tested, exploited and implemented throughout the world.

This article has been contributed by Anvitaa Pattani. To read our earlier article on the legal aspects of Blockchain Technology, click here.  

To enroll for a free certification course on Blockchain Technology and become an industry expert, click here.

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Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market – the EU Controversy Explained

Till a month ago, the world waited with bated breath as members of the European Parliament contemplated a proposed directive to herald a new Copyright Law within the European Union. This Directive aims to create a digital single market and has been named as such. However, the proposal has been a hotbed for controversy right since its very inception in 2016. While many advocate both for and against its enforcement, not all understand why so many open letters were written to the Parliament, especially by internet giants like Wikipedia and why Facebook and Google staunchly opposed it as well. On the other hand, stalwarts of the entertainment industry, especially sound and music, were vehemently in favour of the law. 

The Parliament, in its esteemed wisdom, did not bite the bullet and sent the proposal back for revision. It will now be tabled again in September which is but a momentary respite from all the brouhaha. 

For all those wondering why the internet generation cried rivers together, here’s a breakdown of why this Directive was touted as being the next step in surveillance and would have ‘broken’ the internet.  

The primary issue revolved around Articles 11 and 13 of the Directive, popularly known as the ‘link tax’ and ‘meme ban’ respectively. 

  • Link Text – In short, Article 11 would have made it impossible for websites like Wikipedia, news aggregators, like Google, and media monitoring companies to upload even snippets of news articles from sources like the BBC without first paying a license fee to the original publishers. Hence, the link tax nomenclature. You would be taxed for linking to another’s original content. 
  • Meme Ban – On the other hand, the meme ban would have required all content sought to be uploaded on the internet to first be filtered for plagiarism so as to prevent infringement of copyright. All internet companies and websites would have to automatically filter the content and no exceptions were provided for honest/genuine parodies, memes, vines, etc. It needs no mention that the cost of developing and installing such auto-filtering software would have been humongous for the companies, especially considering the huge amount of data that is sought to be uploaded every second of every day. 

Thus, with linking and re-sharing of content losing its easy operability, everyone, right from huge corporations to the young, internet generation which thrives on sharing whatever they like (so much so that memes have actually become a ‘culture’), will have to monitor their actions. Simple things that we do every day might turn out to be potentially illegal. Imagine having to pause and think before sharing any link or image that you found on the web! Scary, right? Now you know why the internet, as we know it,  could have broken. 

Oprah meme ban

Additionally, such filtering would also have enabled the authorities to monitor or ‘surveil’ internet usage of the people. Someone seeking to upload copyrighted material, in any form irrespective of the intention, would have raised red flags. Opponents of the directive had gone as far as to say that this would have made even made NSA’s surveillance look like child’s play. 

privacy

As of yet, it is not clear which Articles of the proposed Directive will be revised before re-tabling. However, it is hoped that all genuine points raised by stakeholders in the industry will be given due consideration. Or else, the internet as we know it will change forever. 

This article has been authored by Varnika Jain from Team LawSkills.

 

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https://www.saa-authors.eu/en/news/529-joint-press-release-the-european-parliament-s-report-on-the-copyright-directive-in-the-digital-single-market-a-first-good-step-for-audiovisual-authors