The Disability Exception and the Triumph of New Rights Advocacy
Rahul Cherian Jacob, Sam Taraporevala & Shamnad Basheer*
Volume 5 Issue 4 (2012)
In a momentous development, the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, was amended to introduce one of the most progressive provisions ever in the history of global copyright law. These amendments seek to foster access to copyrighted works for the disabled by providing for the conversion and distribution of copyrighted works without the risk of copyright infringement. It is important to appreciate that these amendments did not emerge overnight. Rather, they were the culmination of more than a decade of advocacy, by a group of dedicated campaigners drawn from a diverse set of stakeholders, including leaders of the disability community, civil society activists and the academia. This paper provides a ringside view of the evolution and progress of the campaign, with its final culmination in the amendment. It tracks the advocacy effort through the lens of ‘new social movements’, and focuses on the need to bring together different stakeholders with complementary skills to achieve shared goals of public interest. Additionally, this paper reflects upon the scope of the amendment, the current international efforts to secure a global treaty on this count and India’s role in shaping it.
The authors of this paper were an integral part of the advocacy campaign and worked extensively with several others to secure the introduction of this critical amendment. Unfortunately upon completion of this paper, we lost the most committed campaigner of all, Rahul Cherian. This paper is dedicated to his memory and the boundless passion and enthusiasm with which he brought so many of us together in his quest for creating a better world for the disabled. Over the last few years, Rahul worked tirelessly to champion the cause of the disabled in India and achieved commendable progress on several fronts. However, the copyright amendment will rate as his crowning glory, given the rather difficult political terrain that had to be traversed. Rahul is to be credited for providing a fresh fillip to the advocacy campaign and mediating differences between a diverse set of people with different skill sets, ideologies and expectations and ensuring that they worked together as ‘one’ team with a common goal.