Legal-ese

The past week has been filled with legalese.

It comes from various ends but it has been there – legal documents, laws, little sub-laws, loopholes etc. It was definitely interesting to figure out all this, when I realised that the Indian part of the law was heavily one-sided. You just had to figure a way out to get to the side it was leaning towards. So here’s some of those fascinating issues which made me wanna tear my hair out.

The Copyrights

I read an article on Caravan about how a little photocopy shop in South Delhi is being sued by a popular publisher and a few other people. His crime? He used to photocopy, among other things, a few pages or more than half the book, for college students. He did not copy these and sell them, as some do. He ran a shop and he photocopied whatever people asked him to. But apparently, he is now a party in violating the copyright law in India.

India is a country where we routinely flout copyright laws. Starting from the menu you that is in front of you as you browse this blog on your smartphone, the little unbranded shoe shop outside the coffee shop, the printer, the website designer, the salon you like so much… it goes on.

That’s probably a cultural thing… we download everything and we want it free.

So I cannot expect special treatment for written words or images. But what do you do when a photograph you shot is being used in a menu in an obscure restaurant on the highway? You cannot sue them. They’ve never even heard of such things and will probably blame the guy who printed the menu, and hence dug out the images also. You would not dare take him to court. You cannot even talk to him about Creative Commons Licensing because, being a common man, he has no fricking clue about it.

I tried to discuss this very matter with the people who host my site. They are US-based, where the copyright laws and the judicial process accompanying it is much better and faster. They advised me to use CC Licensing.

I could not argue. How do I explain that there are people yet in the world who are not even aware of CC? That I would not be averse to people using the photographs I’ve shot if they give me credit for it and it is not violating my clients’ copyrights. But nobody even thinks of giving you the credit for the photo they are using. Definitely not the guy who has ripped off the photograph from Google because he didn’t want to contact a legit organization or the site from which he ripped it off.

This was an educational experience. I was taught how one can always rip off an image, no matter how many scripts you put on the page. The very people who claim to protect your privacy – the browsers – give you tools to read script, edit and copy.

Of course, control on the net is an illusion. But perhaps having the first line of defence gives us the impression that we are trying.

People are annoyed that the new copyright laws give the photographers more control over their images. They call it bad. They say it is draconian. Why? Because it means you might face worse action for using my image without my permission? Would that be draconian?

Draconian Internet Laws

India is on a spree of cleaning up and ‘updating’ its laws. All its eyes are on the internet, which they believe is the big bad wolf.

Internet is bad. It tells you things. It tells you wrong things. It incites people to riots. They cite examples of some recent incidents, though in all the cases the internet had a small role to play. The message in question was spread through SMS and other forms of media as well. Sure, things went viral, but why blame the net alone?

Does the government’s phobia of the internet stem from the fact that it forces them to be more answerable and makes it difficult to contain the group that asks the tough questions?

People protest widely when a cop makes a stupid statement. People stand up and say they are against corruption. Freedom marches and meets, which were probably attended only by a devout handful, now see middle-class, sedan-owning people turning up in their swanky cars.

The government’s answer, like they reply to all things they do not like, is to shut it down. They want to shut down websites, shut down cartoonists who make fun of them shutting down sites, shut down people mentioning politicians names irreverently…

Does this work?

We have ridiculous laws in every single aspect of life. The government’s feeble justifications are beginning to piss most people off. There has been a deluge of scams… so many that I don’t give a damn who is involved anymore. Let’s can them all.

Flashy New FDI

The scam behind this will probably come out in a decade. Sooner, if the good people have their way.

The government claims this will bring more jobs. As much as I love my brands, I’m not really sure why we need a Walmart in our country. We have the Reliance(s), Lifestyles, Centrals, Shopper Stops, More, Total, Smart… there have been enough worries about them putting the small guy out of business.

Hell.. it is happening right now. I’m forced to step into a More or a Spar or a Food World if I want something as basic as toothpaste. And I’m forced to settle for the brand they carry because they don’t interact with the ‘small time players’.

How exactly will this create jobs?

Right now, India seems to be in a twisted ping pong game… with too many balls and a splintered bat, which is being tossed to people who have no idea about the game.

Tinting the Law

The Indian Supreme Court passed a new order recently. It seems quite innocuous really. It says that you cannot have any kind of tinted film on your car glass. The order is quite specific – you cannot have tinted film on your glass but the car glasses can be tinted naturally, and have to follow the visibility ratio as directed, which is 50 percent of the side glasses and 70 percent for the front and rear glasses.

I’ve been a great fan of the Supreme Court all my life. I believed that they are the sole organization in India that are protecting our rights and take decisions leading us towards progress.

Which is why this directive left me quite confused. The order was passed to adhere to one of the rules in the Motor Act (or some such thing). The Act has been there for a while and now the Court is merely asking the cops to enforce it, following the rise in crimes like rape in moving vehicles.

This move is supposed to help reduce crime.

How?

That is my question too.

Cops in India are fairly notorious for their laziness. Even on a normal day of checking for drunk driving, bribes are given and accepted quite freely. Yes, we all know that.

And this is a step in helping them get better at their jobs?

But does the Court realise how many women drive back home at night, alone? And we feel confident to drive back home alone at late hours because of that dark shield surrounding us. It would take considerable effort to peek into the car and the chances of someone else realising it is a woman driving are low.

Cops can always stop and question us, if they find anything suspicious about the manner in which we are driving. Yes, please do.

But stripping us of such cover is just exposing us to more drama.

Most people believe we are overreacting. Perhaps we are.

But the fact remains that our cars are a little cocoon. I feel safer in my car with its autolocks and a powerful engine.

My car has broken down fairly early in the night and all I got was gawkers and not a single person to help. I have had people follow us and do the annoying bit of overtaking and then lagging behind in broad daylight.

A vacant stare at a tree while fueling your car can be interpreted by a jobless moron as an invitation to follow your car for 8 kms. And this is yet day time.

Sure, nobody might try to pull you out of your car and do any physical damage.

But the very fact that someone will follow you, heckle and make comments can be quite distressing. Because you do not know where they will stop. And if they will come to your doorstep.

A lot of these women driving around alone also live alone. Will you post cops on our doorstep to protect us?

Who wants to bet that in a few months there will be some cop who will blame the woman for driving alone at night for any mishap that befalls her? It was her fault that she worked late, or partied late. It was her fault that she chose to drive home alone in a country that is supposed to be free.

Other than the fact that the cops can sort of see who is in the car, how does this rule help? Can they make out the features of the person in the car, so in case it is someone notorious and wanted, they can capture him? Can they see the weapons being carried in the car? The drugs? Can they tell by seeing the sort-of blurred features in a fast car that this person is up to no good?

How on earth does this law HELP?