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Cyber Laws

What is Cyber - Crime ?

The word " Cyber " relates to machines.

Crime is an act or omission, which is prohibited by the law particularly criminal. Cyber-Crime is the last and perhaps the most specialized and dynamic field in cyber-laws. 

Types of Cyber - Crimes ?

Commission of Cyber - Crime may be broadly divided against three basic groups -

1. Individual

  • person &
  • property of an individual

 2. Organization 

  • Government
  • Firm, Company, Group of Individuals.

 3. Society at large 

The following are the crimes, which can be committed against the following groups

Against Individuals:- 

  • Harassment via e-mails.
  • Cyber - stalking.
  • Dissemination of obscene material.
  • Defamation.
  • Hacking/cracking.
  • Indecent exposure.

Individual Property:-

  • Computer vandalism.
  • Transmitting virus.
  • Netrespass.
  • Unauthorized control over computer system.
  • Hacking/Cracking.

Against Organization:- 

  • Hacking & Cracking.
  • Possession of unauthorized information.
  • Cyber terrorism against the government organization.
  • Distribution of pirated software etc.

Against Society at large:- 

  • Pornography (basically child pornography)
  • Polluting the youth through indecent exposure.
  • Trafficking.
  •  

Cyber-Crimes

1.Sharing and distributing MP3s 

Extracting songs from an audio CD to an MP3 or any other media format is a crime. The moment you distribute the MP3s or allow other users access to those files, you are committing a crime unknowingly. In an office environment, your actions of ripping audio CDs and sharing MP3s can even get your employer into legal trouble.

2.Ripping Movies 

You can rent a VCD and watch it on your office computer, but don't think about ripping the VCD and creating a DivX movie out of it. DivX, per se, is not illegal, but creating DivX movies is.

3. Illegal downloading 

Napster, Audio galaxy and many other similar sites provide the service to search for MP3s or movies on the Net. But, you cannot download them unless you have legally paid for the songs or movies to be downloaded in that specified format or unless the songs/movies are free for download. This is one of the major crimes most of us are unknowingly guilty of.

When you copy digitized pictures, music or sound or text files to your system. You should remember that the original owner or producer of this material still owns the content and you should be careful about how you use this material. 

Take, for example, a typical company's Web home page. This page may contain digital pictures, music, audio, or video accompaniment where the Web page author did not get authorization to use the copyrighted material before going on-line. In this case, your Web page infringes on the existing copyright laws for the material. If you allow the material to be downloaded from your site, you are compounding the problem.

4. Pirating software

When we buy an assembled PC, we get a lot of software bundles from the vendor. But unless you have specifically paid for the software and have specifically paid for it, you are committing piracy. Using a licensed copy of software on more computers than what the license permits is also a crime. You are also not allowed to distribute games or software.

5. Using a software crack

Taking the software demos or time-limited versions available on the Internet or from CDs and using cracks or passwords to make the software fully functional is not the right thing to do. It is a crime

6. Copying & Tampering source code

Using code from a web site for your own program is fine as along as you give proper credits. Again, in an office environment if you destroy or conceal source code, especially when it is required to be maintained under law, the lawmakers will throw the books at you. Section 65 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 states this crime as under:

" whoever knowingly or intentionally conceals, destroys or alters or intentionally or knowingly causes another to conceal, destroy or alter any computer source code used for a computer, computer programme, computer system or computer network, when the computer source code is required to be kept or maintained by law for the time being in force, shall be punishable with imprisonment up to three years, or with fine which may extend up to two lakh rupees, or with both ".

7. Disregarding copyright

It's very easy to cut and paste from Web sites, but browse down in the page and you will see a copyright notice. Unless it's specifically mentioned that the content on the site is free, you cannot copy content, images or presentations from Web sites.

People & companies copyright material because it represents intellectual property with the potential for financial return. There is a popular misconception that the Internet is a brave new world where no one need worry about "outdated views " of copyright and where no one owns anything in cyberspace. This view is dead wrong and you could be liable if you violate or infringe someone else's copyright.

Copyright law as it exists today is fairly specific on who owns the intellectual property rights of a specific creation. To give perspective to this concept, current Indian law states that each person or business owns the copyright to information or a product as soon as it is created, regardless of whether or not " Copyright 2004 Virendra K. Pamecha ," for example, is written on the information or product, or whether the material was ever formally registered. Naturally, it is best to register your creation at the copyright office, as well as to write the copyright statement on the material, as these precautions will help you if you are ever faced with a court challenge.

So who owns what on the Internet ? On the basis of existing copyright law, the creator of the material retains the right to the owner. Also, material generated by employees is often considered to be copyrighted by the employer.

To give you an idea of how the laws work, a few examples are provided below:

  • Users operating on a service provider's computer system and generating e-mail own the content of the e-mail.
  • Users contributing to discussion groups own the content of their contribution to that discussion group.
  • Users generating information on behalf of their company do not own the material - their employer does, unless the employee did not sign over his or her copyright ownership to the employer.

What about freeware and shareware software?

Just because there is free software readily available does not mean that the original owners have given up rights to the material. Free ware owners retain the copyright to their material even if they don't also require any long-term user to pay for the use of this software. As well, public domain software generally falls under the same category as freeware in that the original creators own the copyright to the software. If you plan to incorporate any of the free software into your product, service, or business, you should pay attention to issues related to copyright infringement.

8. Hacking & Cracking 

Proud of your hacking/cracking skills? Change a user's password and restrict his access to a network (or Internet) or a PC, use credit card numbers for purchases without the knowledge of the owner, distribute viruses ? then you're surely on the wrong side of the law.

Where there are attacks against a particular installation when hackers trespass, where there is theft of data, or where users on the system exceed their privileges and enter unauthorized parts of the system.

If you are operating a service on the network or running a cyber café and you have customers who are conducting illegal activity on your system, law enforcement agencies may shut down your system as a by-product of their investigation and legal action against one of your users. Even though you have not done anything wrong, your business may be disrupted or ruined in the process.

Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 takes care of this crime as under:

(1) Whoever with the intent to cause or knowing that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person destroys or deletes or alters any information residing in a computer resource or diminishes its value or utility or affects it injuriously by any means, commits hack.

(2) Whoever commits hacking shall be punished with imprisonment up to three years, or with fine which may extend up to two lakh rupees, or with both .

9. Publishing/sharing porn

Even though you can watch porn over the Net, the moment you distribute and share it over a network, you are entering the dark world of crime. The law on this may make for amusing reading ("whoever published...." any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest..."), but the law-upholders take this matter quite seriously.

Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 takes care of this crime as under: 

" Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees ".

10. Spamming

Spam refers to unsolicited commercial mail received by a user. It is usually sent to an unsuspecting user by a commercial enterprise in the hope of promoting the company or its products/services.

Domain name disputes

Once a Company decides to move on to do electronic business, it needs to register a domain name, which translates the numeric IP address into a more friendly form of text. Instead of typing xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx most people prefer to type www followed by the entity URL (for example, www.indiatimes.com), which is much easier to remember and less error-prone.

Internet domain names are composed of two distinct elements, the top-level domain(TLD) and the second level domain (SLD). The TLD contains information on the origin of the website, such as '.it' for Italy or '.au' for Australia, '.jp' for Japan, etc. The SLD completes the domain name by adding a company name, trademark, acronym, abbreviation, noun or any other word to the TLD. The problem with domain names is that they are not trademarks. Anyone can register a domain name for a established trademark. Indeed many people have registered domain names with trademarks without having any relationship with the trademark owners. Trademark actions are one of the hottest areas of Internet law these days, primarily due to the choice of domain names. For example, a domain name like http://www.ibm.com represents a trademark of International Business Machine (IBM) Corporation. Many companies try to choose a name that will bring lots of traffic to their Web site. The courts have indicated that if the name chosen is close enough to a trademarked name and there is customer confusion resulting from this, then a trademark violation has occurred. You should choose your domain name so that you don't conflict with any well known name, and be prepared for a trademark action against your company if another company decides they want your domain name.

Registering a domain name is not difficult, but getting the one that it appropriate to your business, logotype or trademark can be difficult. On the Internet every domain name needs to be unique to avoid communication errors. But these are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis, meaning that anybody can register the domain name that you would like to use for your company or product. Domain names are very valuable resources because they are so intimately associated with your business online.

To prevent domain name issues, the following steps are worth considering:

Check for existing trademarks :

Conduct a trademark search prior to applying for a domain name to determine whether the proposed domain would infringe on an existing trademark used in connection with goods or services similar to those that you propose to offer.

Check for famous marks:

A name or trademark, which is very famous, cannot be used in any other product or service. Offering ' Coca-Cola translations ', for example, would be a violation of this law.

Register your trademark:

In order to make sure that your domain name is secure, register the domain name as a trademark and start using the domain name at the same time.

Check foreign countries:

Register the trademark and the domain name in all countries that are relevant to your business now and could be in the future.

Contractual Agreements:

Most of us are very familiar with electronic contractual agreements. Before we commit to purchasing a product or service through a website, we are usually taken through a registration process, part of which involves being asked to scroll through a set of contract terms. We may proceed to make a purchase only if we click on our agreement to the terms and conditions.

The validity of such a contract has been tested in courts in the United States and has been upheld. However, it is by no means certain that this standard will be acceptable on a global basis; consumer protection laws are very different in each country. It is important to offer the contract terms in the local language, or languages, of each country in which your products or services are being sold. Failure to do so could invalidate the legal status of the sale.

Content Liability: 

The liability for content will vary in different countries. If your website contains only information about your company it is necessary to create a process for automatic verification of the content. Your company is liable for the contents displayed on your website. If you are an ISP, things become more complicated as you are hosting services, information and products of other companies. In order to prevent your company from damage, it is necessary to create a disclaimer and rules, which explicitly forbid certain material on your servers. Although most countries consider Internet providers to be in a similar position as telephone companies, in some cases they are considered to be responsible for the content on their servers.

Computer Software is protected by Copyright :

In India, the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of computer software are covered under the Copyright Law. Accordingly, the copyright of Computer Software is protected under the provisions of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. Major changes to Indian Copyright Law were introduced in June, 1994. This has made the Indian Copyright law, one of the toughest in the world. The amendments to the Copyright Act in June 1994 included the definition of Compute Program. The Copyright Amendment) Act, 1994, clearly explains the rights of copyright holder, position on rentals of software, the rights of the user to make backup copies and the heavy punishment and fines on infringement of copyright of software.

According to Section 14 of the Copyright Act, it is illegal to make or distribute copies of copyrighted software without proper or specific authorization. The only exception is provided by Section 52 of the Act which allows a back up copy purely as a temporary protection against loss, distribution or damage to the original copy.

The 1994 amendment to the Copyright Act also prohibits the sale or to give on hire, or offer for sale or hire, any copy of the computer program without specific authorization of the Copyright holder. Software creates unique problems, because it is so easy to duplicate and the copy is usually as good as the original (although many a times plagued with computer virus). This fact, that the copy is as good as original however, does not legitimate piracy. The Copyright law makes no distinction between duplicating software for sales or for free distribution. Indian law prohibits unauthorized duplication of software, making multiple copies for use by different users within an organization, and giving an unauthorized copy of another individual. If caught with pirated software, the copyright infringer may be tried under both civil and criminal law.

A civil and criminal action may be instituted for injunction, actual damaged (including infringer's profits), or statutory damages per infringement etc. Moreover, with the amendments to Indian Copyright Act in 1994, even the criminal penalties have substantially increased. According to Section 63 B, now there is a minimum jail term of 7 days for copyright infringement. The Act further provides for fines upto Rs.2,00,000 and jail term up to three years or both. 

Relevant Provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 

Sec.66. Hacking with computer system.

(1) Whoever with the intent to cause or knowing that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damages to the public or any person destroys or deletes or alters any information residing in a computer resource or diminishes its value or utility or affects it injuriously by any means, commits hack.

(2) Whoever commits hacking shall be punished with imprisonment up to three years, or with fine which may extend upto two lakh rupees, or with both.

Sec.67. Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form.

Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodies in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees. 

Sec.68. Power of Controller to give directions.

(1) The Controller may, by order, direct a Certifying Authority or any employee of such Authority to take such measures or cease carrying on such activities as specified in the order if those are necessary to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Act, rules or any regulations made thereunder.

(2) Any person who fails to comply with any order under sub-section (1) shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to a Fine not exceeding two lakh rupees or both. 

Sec.73 Penalty for publishing Digital Signature Certificate false in certain particulars.

(1) No person shall publish a Digital Signature Certificate or otherwise make it available to any other person with the knowledge that - 

  • The Certifying Authority listed in the certificate has not issued it; or 
  • The subscriber listed in the certificate has not accepted it; or
  • The certificate has been revoked or suspended,

Unless such publication is for the purpose of verifying a digital signature created prior to such suspension or revocation.

(2) Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both. 

Sec.74. Publication for fraudulent purpose.

Whoever knowingly creates, publishes or otherwise makes available a Digital Signature Certificate for any fraudulent or unlawful purpose shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.

Sec.75. Act to apply for offense or contravention committed outside India. 

(1) Subject to the provisions of sub-section (2), the provisions of this Act shall apply also to any offense or contravention committed outside India by any person irrespective of his nationality.

(2) For the purposes of sub-section (1), this Act shall apply to an offense or contravention committed outside India by any person if the act or conduct constituting the offense or contravention involves a computer, computer system or computer network located in India. 

Sec.76. Confiscation.

Any computer, computer system, floppies, compact disks, tape drives or any other accessories related thereto, in respect of which any provision of this Act. Rules, orders or regulations made thereunder has been or is being contravened, shall be liable to confiscation: 

Sec.77. Penalties and confiscation not to interfere with other punishments.

No penalty imposed or confiscation made under this Act shall prevent the imposition of any other punishment to which the person affected thereby is liable under any other law for the time being in force. 

Sec.78. Power to investigate offenses.

Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, a police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police shall investigate any offense under this Act.