Music on the Block: How Music Artists can Benefit from Blockchain Technology

All of us make use of music streaming services quite frequently. But have we ever stopped to wonder how the creators or artists get paid for their music? More often than not, music artists are forced to settle with modest royalty earnings. Nevertheless, the advent of blockchain technology has ushered in a new era and this technology has the potential to ensure that music artists get adequate compensation for their efforts and talent.

All have enjoyed music throughout the ages. The music industry has evolved from EP records to Cassettes to CDs to MP3s. Currently, music is enjoyed predominantly via digital streaming platforms such as Spotify, and Apple Music, and closer home services such as Airtel Wynk, Times Music, JioSaavn, etc.

However, the growth in streaming services like Spotify has not benefited individual artists who typically receive very little royalty overall because of slowing album sales. Taylor Swift, a famous musician, went to the extent of removing her music from Spotify due to the low per-stream royalty.

The advent of blockchain technology has set the stage for the music industry to undergo another evolution. With the blockchain, artists can create a token-based economy where the value is derived from an artist’s work. When a token is created, the artists convert their intellectual property into a financial asset that all of us can purchase. All holders of this token receive a portion of the artists’ revenue. Hence the more consumers of the content, the higher the token’s value. An artist thus can raise revenue through the launch of a token.

Tokenization of the asset also assists in the removal of the middleman. Currently, recording labels take away the majority of the gains. Recording labels also act as hindrances many a time for the entry of new artists into the business. A system based on blockchain eliminates the middleman, thus putting the power back into the hands of the creators. Funds are raised by fans rather than the recording label via tokenization. The flip side of this model is the lack of users.

A few platforms exist such as Theta.tv,  the YouTube of Web 3.0, or Audius (which is said to be the equivalent of Spotify or Apple Music). Having used these platforms, it is safe to say that though there is a vast scope, their success and similar platforms will depend on the consumers or users.

Artists can also utilize Non-Fungible Tokens (“NFT”) to create a new vertical of revenue generation from their work. Purchasing music as NFTs holds much value for both the creator and the collector. For one, there is a transfer of ownership.

In a world driven by music streaming, the conundrum arises of why a purchase of the rights in music would be required. The answer, as always, lies in the monetization of the asset. The purchaser sees value in buying the rights and reselling them later for a potential profit. Such music NFTs benefit artists at both the initial sale pricing and the secondary sales. Artists can earn from secondary sales in the form of royalties, especially if the underlying smart contract attached to the music NFT is so that they can earn future royalties on such sales.

Platforms such as Async.art help artists mint NFTs of their musical works, and Catalog Works let music fans bid on digital records. Award-winning artist, Ross Golan who has worked with renowned artists like Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, and rock bands such as Maroon 5 and Linkin Park, also recently minted The World’s First NFT Musical, The Wrong Man.  

There is still much grey area regarding the synergy between blockchain and music. However, the benefits, as well as the various avenues, are something that cannot be denied. In time, we are confident of innovative music-focused NFT projects, which will hopefully allow the creators or artists to get the compensation they deserve for their craft.

Image Credits:

Photo by Matthias Groeneveld: https://www.pexels.com/photo/set-of-retro-vinyl-records-on-table-4200745/

The advent of blockchain technology has set the stage for the music industry to undergo another evolution. With the blockchain, artists can create a token-based economy where the value is derived from an artist’s work. When a token is created, the artists convert their intellectual property into a financial asset that all of us can purchase. All holders of this token receive a portion of the artists’ revenue. Hence the more consumers of the content, the higher the token’s value. An artist thus can raise revenue through the launch of a token.

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The Curious Case of the Robolawyer (No, it's not a Perry Mason Novel!)

With the advent of technology, there is a drastic increase in the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) which has significantly altered the way technology is perceived and will have a far-reaching impact in the future. Hence, it becomes necessary to try to minimize its shortcomings and make prudent use of the technology.

I do not know how many of you have heard of Joshua Browder, the 26-year-old founder of DoNotPay, a US-based venture that has developed a “robolawyer”- essentially an AI-powered bot that helps users in use cases such as appealing vehicle parking tickets, negotiating airline ticket refunds, and contesting service provider bills. Although the app was first released in 2015, to be honest, until recently, I too had not heard of him or the app!

My curiosity was piqued when I recently read the news that his company is willing to pay a million US dollars to any person or lawyer willing to repeat verbatim in front of the Supreme Court judge all that their robolawyer asks them to. It remains to be seen whether someone will take Josh up on that offer, whether the US Supreme Court will grant permission and what the outcome will be. However, it is being reported in the media that the DoNotPay app will help two defendants argue speeding tickets in US courts next month. The company has promised to pay the fines on behalf of the users if the robolawyer loses their appeals.

The app runs on the AI model known as “Generative Pre-trained Transformer” or GPT. This is the same technology that runs ChatGPT, which reportedly hit a million users in less than a week of its launch. AI technologies are constantly improving, and there is now greater emphasis on “ethics” and “explainability.” Essentially, the software must be able to explain how it arrived at a certain conclusion or output. This is important to minimize, if not altogether eliminate, the risk of biases and prejudices that creep into AI software simply because it is trained using hundreds of millions of content elements on the web (articles, images, reports, videos, etc.) that were all created by humans, and as such, carry the individual beliefs, prejudices, convictions, etc. of their original creators.

Over the coming decades, AI will shake up many fields including legal practice, healthcare, finance, etc. Not all fields will be impacted at the same pace or to the same extent but change they will. Already, AI is being used by healthcare professionals in improving the efficacy of diagnosis and confirmation of lines of treatment. Law firms too are beginning to use AI to simplify the tedium of the process of trawling through case laws and legal judgments to identify precedents and the reasoning of the benches involved. Soon, lawyers will simply be able to type in questions into ChatGPT, which will provide well-reasoned answers in a matter of minutes. Of course, the real skill will be to ask the right questions and figure out how sensible the answers are, and decide on further courses of action. Think of it as an advocate briefing a senior lawyer before the latter argues in court.

Half-baked knowledge is dangerous. For many years, patients (and/or caregivers) have used search engines to find information about symptoms, diagnostic tests, and lines of treatment and then argue with qualified medical professionals about their choices, at times forcing doctors to explain their hypotheses and reasoning. It is quite likely that in the foreseeable future, clients of lawyers and law firms too will be tempted to adopt a similar approach, which means lawyers too will end up spending time and effort on educating clients on matters of law and jurisprudence. Maybe it is worth coming up with new pricing models to dissuade frivolous “brainstorming” and “legal strategy” sessions!

Note to myself: Try out ChatGPT to explore the kind of responses it provides and start preparing for a future that will undoubtedly be more closely linked with AI tools.

References:

[1] Design Application Numbers 274917, 274918, 284680, 276736, 260403

[2] 24 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1614 (BPAI Apr. 2, 1992)

[3] Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., 926 F. Supp. 2d 1100 (N.D. Cal. 2013) (partially affirming jury damages award).

[4] US6763497B1

[5] US10915243B2

Image Credits:

Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-using-macbook-3584994/

Over the coming decades, AI will shake up many fields including legal practice, healthcare, finance, etc. Not all fields will be impacted at the same pace or to the same extent but change they will. Already, AI is being used by healthcare professionals in improving the efficacy of diagnosis and confirmation of lines of treatment. Law firms too are beginning to use AI to simplify the tedium of the process of trawling through case laws and legal judgments to identify precedents and the reasoning of the benches involved.

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Registration of GUI as Designs: Existing Provisions and Challenges

In this article, an attempt is being made to highlight how GUIs can be protected and to ascertain the challenges faced by applicants in filing design applications for the registration of GUIs.

Introduction

A Graphic User Interface (GUI) which allows users to interact with electronic devices or machines, is widely used in the present digital age. The term was coined in the 1970s to distinguish graphical interfaces from text-based ones, such as command line interfaces (CLI), etc. Apple’s GUI-based operating system – Macintosh, Microsoft’s Windows, Mobile Touch Screens, and other 3D interfaces (Eg. Augmented Reality) are all examples of GUIs.

Protection of GUI: A Look at Locarno Classification and Designs (Amendment) Rules, 2021

Just as trademarks are classified into various classes of goods and services provided for in the internationally accepted NICE classification, Designs also have a classification of articles to which a design can be applied, known as the Locarno Classification.

The Locarno Classification, developed under the Locarno Agreement (1968), is an international classification used for registering industrial designs. India became the 57th member to be a signatory to the Locarno agreement in 2019. The changes were incorporated through the Designs (Amendment) Rules, 2021, thereby bringing the classification of industrial designs at par with the rest of the world as opposed to the previous national classification.

Subsequently, on 25th January 2021, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry notified the Designs (Amendment) Rules, 2021, which substituted Rule 10 of the Design Rules 2001, and incorporated the current edition of the Locarno Classification, which specifically created Class 14 – Recording, telecommunication, or data processing equipment, with a subclass “Class 14-04 – Screen Displays and Icons”, and further provided for Class 32, allowing for two-dimensional graphic designs, graphic symbols, and logos, to be protected under the Designs Act, 2000, provided that these designs satisfy the essentials of an ‘Article’ and a ‘Design’ as defined in Sections 2(a) and 2(d) of the Act.

Lacunae in Legislation

As per the Designs Act, 2000, a design means “only the features of shape, configuration, pattern, ornament, or composition of lines or colours applied to any article, whether in two dimensional or three dimensional or in both forms, by any industrial process or means, whether manual, mechanical or chemical, separate, or combined, …”

Now, this is precisely where the problem arises. Even after the Locarno Classification was introduced and the Designs Rules were amended to deal with confusion and uncertainties in the classification of industrial designs, the lawmakers have failed to amend the definition of ‘Design’ and bring the Designs Act, 2000, along the same lines. Further, the Controllers make conflicting observations and the interpretations provided by them seem to lack uniformity.

A GUI should be protected since its intrinsic purpose is to enhance the visual appeal of the program and thus build on its commercial value. The definition of a design given under the Act is limited and does not expressly provide for graphics and/or software. Due to this lacuna, the definition is open to multiple interpretations.

Practice Followed by the Indian Design Office

Before 2009, Microsoft was granted registration for some of its designs under Class 14-99, in the ‘Miscellaneous’ category. Thereafter, in the year 2014, Amazon filed a design application under no. 240305 pertaining to a “Graphic user interface for providing supplemental information of a digital work to a display screen”, which was rejected by the Design Office, on the grounds that GUIs do not qualify as designs under Section 2(d) of the Act, they lacked “consistent eye appeal” and were not physically accessible.

Over the years, several new applications for the registration of GUIs have been filed. While a few have been granted[1], most Examiners opine that the GUIs do not fall under the definition of ‘designs’ and hence, cannot be protected. Hence, applicants are wary of filing design applications for registration of GUIs due to the absence of robust precedents.

Observations made by US Courts

In Ex Parte Tayama[2], the Court made the following observations –

  1. Programmed Computer Systems would suffice to be termed as an article of manufacture.
  2. Design (GUI) is an integral part of computer programmes.

Further, the patent battle[3] between Apple and Samsung (2011 – 2018) ended with Apple being awarded $539 million for Samsung’s infringement of its initial design. Apple was all the while contending to protect its “Total User Experience”.

Various Design Patents have been granted by USTPO, such as apparatus for displaying the path of a computer program error as a sequence of hypertext documents in a computer system having display[4], device, method, and graphical user interface for adjusting content selection[5], etc.

European Union’s Position

EU also provides wide protection to designs under EU Directive 98/71/EC on Legal Protection of Designs. GUIs in the EU are generally registered under the Community Design Regulation (Council Regulation No. 6/2002/EC) but may also exist as unregistered Community Designs. The regulation, however, excludes computer programmes.

Conclusion

The current definition of a design is inadequate and does not expressly cover the aspects of graphics/GUIs. Undoubtedly, the various developments in the IT industry have made the world realize the importance of protecting graphics. However, the introducing of international classification (Locarno Classification) and bringing amendments to existing laws are not sufficient. It is imperative to establish new guidelines and provide appropriate training to the Examiners at the Design Office so that a uniform mechanism is in place to facilitate the registration of graphic symbols/GUIs.

References:

[1] Design Application Numbers 274917, 274918, 284680, 276736, 260403

[2] 24 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1614 (BPAI Apr. 2, 1992)

[3] Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., 926 F. Supp. 2d 1100 (N.D. Cal. 2013) (partially affirming jury damages award).

[4] US6763497B1

[5] US10915243B2

Image Credits:

Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-using-macbook-3584994/

A GUI should be protected since its intrinsic purpose is to enhance the visual appeal of the program and thus build on its commercial value. The definition of a design given under the Act is limited and does not expressly provide for graphics and/or software. Due to this lacuna, the definition is open to multiple interpretations.

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Regulating Online Gaming Intermediaries - The Rules and their Implications

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has released the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules to bring online gaming intermediaries within the ambit of the IT Rules, 2021.

Background

Online gaming is one of the fastest-growing industries in India with the number of gamers expected to increase by 30 million from 2022 to 2023[1]. Following the increase in the number of users, it has become imperative that appropriate laws are introduced to regularize the online gaming industry. On January 02, 2023, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (“MeitY”) proposed an amendment to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (“IT Rules”). The IT Rules, in its current structure, provide regulation for social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries. The Draft[2] “Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules” (the “Draft”), which is open for consultation from the public, proposes to extend its ambit to ‘online gaming intermediaries’ forming a part of Part II (that relates to other intermediaries).

The Draft defines “online gaming intermediaries” and “online games” but lacks to provide a clear distinction between “games of chance” and “games of skill”, which has been a sticky issue over the years. The Draft further proposes (inter alia) the following changes –

  • All online games would be required to be registered with a ministry-approved self-regulated body by creating a self-regulatory framework, to be registered with MeitY. The self-regulatory body will be responsible for reviewing and registering the online games offered by its members, subject to certain prescribed factors. Games approved by the self-regulatory body may be offered with a visible mark signifying their registration.
  • The proposed rules also mention certain compliances that need to be made by the social media firms such as checking the registration of the online gaming intermediary and consulting the self-regulatory officer before allowing any advertisement on their platform.
  • The online gaming intermediary shall comply with the requirement of due diligence and shall additionally ensure they do not host any online game that does not conform with Indian laws and shall make additional disclosures to the users including the refund and withdrawal policy, financial risks, and other risks associated with gaming, measures that are in place to ensure the safeguarding of deposits, etc.
  • In addition to the above, a new set of due diligence requires compliance with mandatory know-your-customer(KYC) norms for user verification as per Reserve Bank of India norms.
  • Similar to the requirement for social media intermediaries, requirements of appointment of a resident ‘compliance officer’ and ‘grievance officer’ have been mandated along with ‘nodal officers’ for round-the-clock coordination with law enforcement agencies and officers.
  • The online gaming intermediaries need to have a physical address in India and the same is required to be published on their website.

Purpose of the Draft

The purpose of the Draft, if it becomes the law, is to protect the interests of different stakeholders, ensure the safety of players and encourage responsible gaming.  The Draft is also put together to bring about uniformity of laws that online gaming intermediaries may be required to follow by reducing the burden of following state-specific gaming measures making it, not just easier for online gaming intermediaries to comply with the law, but also helps the enforcement agencies since it becomes difficult for the governments of different states to ensure geographical checks are in place. According to the ministry, the final amendments to the IT rules would be notified by April 2023.

Discussions & Implications

While the Draft seems to have been aiming at shaping a burgeoning gaming industry, the concerns around the Draft seem to be supplementing the already existing questions on the existing IT Rules.

At the outset, the question of whether ‘online gaming’ should remain a subject of the ‘States’ (as betting and gambling have traditionally been) or the ‘Centre’, remains unresolved. MeitY had earlier, in affidavits before the High Courts, consistently stated that is not within its purview and power to legislate on the subject and that rests solely on the states. Therefore, the introduction of the Draft without consultation and consensus amongst states seems not quite in line.

The ambiguity further extends to a lack of clarity on whether the Draft bans ‘gambling’. While IT Minister, Rajeev Chandrasekhar stated that “online games that allow wagering on the outcome are effectively a no-go area” there is no clear prohibition on ‘gambling’. The Rules only state, as a part of due diligence, online gaming intermediaries shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that online gaming platforms do not contravene any gambling or betting laws in India, which again differs from state to state.

An online game has been defined in the Draft as a “game that is offered on the Internet and is accessible by a user through a computer resource if he makes a deposit (in cash or in-kind) with the expectation of earning winnings”- In the absence of a definition of “gambling” and “betting” in the Draft and clarity on which category of games are sought to be regulated if the online game for consideration is sought to be regulated on one hand and gambling or betting content is prohibited on the other hand, remains a question[3]. While it may be assumed that the ‘kind’ component in the definition has been introduced to cover ‘non-monetary token’ or ‘online gaming currencies’, it may lead to the consequence where games that do not require any monetary incentive may also be included within the meaning of online games here. The definition can almost broadly cover all ‘gambling games’ within the purview of ‘makes a deposit (in cash or in-kind) with the expectation of earning winnings’. Would that mean that ‘gambling’ is brought within the purview of these Rules?

The Draft classifies online gaming platforms as ‘intermediaries’. Our understanding of the term ‘intermediary’ includes one that acts on behalf of another entity. However, in the case of online gaming platforms, we notice that most of them publish the gaming content themselves and do not host games on behalf of another. In view of the above, in an earlier debate, a government task force submitted a study stating that gaming platforms should be categorized as ‘publishers’ and not as ‘intermediaries’[4]. The question that remains unanswered is why we now bring online platforms within the purview of intermediaries thereby giving them passage to ‘safe harbour protection’ under Section 79 of the IT Act.

Apart from the few above-mentioned points, the Draft may expect push-back from various industry stakeholders on the Government’s over-arching power on issues of revocation of registration of self-regulatory bodies and exercising regulatory power for KYC. It is to be observed therefore how MeitY resolves the already existing issues on the IT Rules pending before the courts and accordingly brings about an amendment to the current online gaming Draft Rules catering to the purpose it mentioned in its notes[5] accompanying the Draft Rules.

An online game has been defined in the Draft as a “game that is offered on the Internet and is accessible by a user through a computer resource if he makes a deposit (in cash or in-kind) with the expectation of earning winnings”- In the absence of a definition of “gambling” and “betting” in the Draft and clarity on which category of games are sought to be regulated if the online game for consideration is sought to be regulated on one hand and gambling or betting content is prohibited on the other hand, remains a question.

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Rooh Afza has Immense Goodwill: Delhi HC Rules in Trademark Infringement Case

The Delhi High Court gave its verdict in the trademark infringement battle between Hamdard National Foundation (India) and Sadar Laboratories Pvt. Ltd., and prohibited the latter company from using the mark “DIL AFZA” thereby protecting the trademark “ROOH AFZA”.

In a suit for trademark infringement by Hamdard National Foundation (India) against Sadar Laboratories Pvt. Ltd., the Delhi High Court held that the trademark “ROOH AFZA” possesses immense goodwill and that competitors must ensure that their marks are not similar to it. A two-judge bench, in its judgment[1] held that since the mark “ROOH AFZA” has been used for over a century, it can be considered a strong mark and, thus, restrained the Respondent from using the mark “DIL AFZA” until the suit is disposed of.

Hamdard National Foundation has filed the present appeal against the order[2] passed by a single judge bench of the Delhi High Court on 6th January 2022, rejecting an application for an interim injunction against Sadar Laboratories Pvt. Ltd. Both the marks are used with respect to sweet beverage concentrate. The Appellants claimed that the Respondents were infringing their marks “HAMDARD” and “ROOH AFZA”, and by selling these products under the mark “DIL AFZA,” they were passing off their products as those of the Appellants.

The Single Judge Bench held that the Appellants have to show that “AFZA” has a secondary meaning to claim exclusivity of their product. Therefore, the Court dismissed the application on the ground that they can claim exclusivity only for the mark “ROOH AFZA” as a whole and not just for “AFZA.”

Aggrieved by the order, the present appeal was filed by Hamdard National Foundation seeking a permanent injunction refraining the respondents from using the mark “SHARBAT DIL AFZA” or “DIL AFZA” on the ground that it is deceptively similar to the mark “ROOH AFZA.” The appellants further claimed that the use of this mark would deceive consumers and amount to passing off and also submitted that this would amount to dilution of the Appellant’s mark.

It was claimed that the marks “HAMDARD” and “ROOH AFZA” have been used for a wide range of products and constitute a well-known mark under Section 2(zg) of the Trademarks Act, 1999 owing to their widespread reputation and has therefore acquired goodwill with respect to the class of products pertaining to sweet beverage concentrates.

The Respondent submitted that by virtue of Section 29 of the Trademarks Act 1999, the allegations of infringement are not maintainable. It was submitted that the Appellants do not have an exclusive right over the word “AFZA” and that their mark has been coined by joining the terms “DIL” and “AFZA” and are not phonetically or visually similar. The Respondent submitted that there was no possibility of confusion between the two marks and every other aspect, such as the design and color scheme of “DIL AFZA” is also materially different from the Appellant’s mark. Therefore, there was no possibility of confusion between the two marks.

The Delhi High Court, after considering the arguments from both sides, stated that “AFZA” is an integral part of both “ROOH AFZA” and “DIL AFZA.” The word is neither descriptive nor normally associated with the product; hence, it is material in determining whether there is an infringement of the trademark. The Court further stated that the use of the word “AFZA” lends a certain degree of similarity, and the trade dress of both products is also similar, making the Respondent’s mark deceptively similar to that of the Appellants.

The Court reiterated that “ROOH AFZA” has been used for over a century and is entitled to protection. The mark is a source identifier with a high degree of goodwill and is susceptible to unfair competitive practices. The Court stated that prima facie, the Respondent’s mark lacks a sufficient degree of dissimilarity and hence set aside the order passed by the Delhi High court and passed an ad interim order restraining the Respondent from manufacturing and selling any product under the mark “DIL AFZA” belonging to Class 32 until the present suit is disposed of.

References:

[1] Hamdard National Foundation (India) & Anr vs Sadar Laboratories Pvt. Ltd. [Case No. FAO(OS) (COMM) 67/2022]

[2] Hamdard National Foundation (India) & Anr vs Sadar Laboratories Pvt. Limited [Case No. CS (COMM) 551/2020]

Image Credits:

Photo by Jessica Lewis: https://unsplash.com/photos/qscDBbXBGiI?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

The Delhi High Court, after considering the arguments from both sides, stated that “AFZA” is an integral part of both “ROOH AFZA” and “DIL AFZA.” The word is neither descriptive nor normally associated with the product; hence, it is material in determining whether there is an infringement of the trademark. 

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Generative AI: Generating Legal Headaches?

The year 2022 saw major breakthroughs in the field of generative Artificial Intelligence. This field is different from the more traditional “discriminatory” AI models, whose algorithms rely on the datasets they are fed during “training” to make decisions. By contrast, “generative” AI models are forced to make conclusions and draw inferences from datasets based on a limited number of parameters given to them during training. In other words, generative AI uses “unsupervised” learning algorithms to create synthetic data. The output of generative AI includes digital images and videos, audio, text or even programming code. In recent days, even poetry, stories, blog posts and art work have been created by AI tools 

Generative AI: The Socio-Economic and Legal Problems

Like every technology, generative AI too has pros and cons. While it has made it easy to create various kinds of content at scale and in much shorter timeframes, the same technology has also been used to create “deep fakes” that then go viral on social media.  

OpenAI’s image generator platform “DALL-E 2” and automatic text generator GPT-3 have already been used to create art work and other text-based content. GPT-4, which is expected to be far more powerful and advanced, is expected to be released in 2023. Until recently, Open AI did not allow commercial usage of images created using the platform. But it has now begun to grant “full usage rights”- which includes the rights to sell the images, reprint them and use them on merchandise.  

Generative AI has the potential to open a Pandora’s Box of litigation. A class action suit has already been filed against OpenAI, Microsoft and Github alleging copyright violations by Copilot, Github’s AI-based code generator that uses OpenAI’s Codex model. The argument behind the suit is this: the tool uses hundreds of millions of lines of Open-Source code written, debugged, or improved by tens of thousands of programmers from around the world. While these individuals support the Open- Source concept, code generators like Copilot draw on their code (which was fed to it during its training) to generate code that may well be used for commercial purposes. The original authors of the code remain unrecognized and do not get any compensation.  

A similar situation can easily occur with art work created using AI-based tools because all that such tools need to create a digital image is a text prompt. For example, Polish artist Greg Rutkowski, known for creating fantasy landscapes, has complained about the fact that just typing a simple text like “Wizard with sword and a glowing orb of magic fire fights a fierce dragon Greg Rutkowski” will create an image that looks quite close to his original work. The smarter text recognition and generative AI get, the simpler it will be for even lay people to use. Karla Ortiz, a San Francisco based illustrator is concerned at the potential loss of income that she and her fellow professionals might suffer due to generative AI.[1]

 Sooner than later, this challenge will be faced by playwrights, novelists, poets, photographers and pretty much all creative professionals. Indeed, AI tools could conceivably put writers out of business in the next few years! AI generators are “trained” using millions of poems, images, paintings etc that were created by persons dead or alive. Their creators or their legal heirs do not currently have the option to exclude their works from the training datasets. In fact, they do not even usually know that their works have been included.  

The creative industry itself is taking various steps to protect the rights of various categories of creative professionals. Such measures include the use of digital watermarking for authentication, banning the use of AI-generated images, and building tools that allow artists to check if their works have been used as part of any training datasets and then opt out if they so choose.  

A more pernicious problem could conceivably arise when deliberately or inadvertently, misleading content is created and posted- and consumed by innocent users. Some early examples of such misuse have already emerged, and there is a genuine concern that if these activities are not nipped in the bud and information on the internet is not somehow authenticated, serious, unexpected, and large-scale damage may be caused.  

Overhauling the Laws

In the US, AI tools may, for now, take legal cover under the fair use doctrine. But that applies only to non-commercial usage. Arguably, the current situation where researchers and companies building AI tools freely use massive datasets to “train” their tools violate the spirit of ownership and protection of IPR because these AI generators are also being used for commercial benefit. Also, as various lawsuits are already underway, changes to IPR and related laws will need to be made to explicitly enable AI. Not doing so will only impede the use of AI in various fields where such algorithms can deliver significant benefits by speeding up innovation.  

References:

[1] https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/09/16/1059598/this-artist-is-dominating-ai-generated-art-and-hes-not-happy-about-it/

Image Credits:

Photo by Tara Winstead: https://www.pexels.com/photo/robot-fingers-on-blue-background-8386369/

Like every technology, generative AI too has pros and cons. While it has made it easy to create various kinds of content at scale and in much shorter timeframes, the same technology has also been used to create “deep fakes” that then go viral on social media.  

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Child Abuse Laws in India: Fortifying the Formative Years

Child abuse is a pervasive and disturbing problem in India, with millions of children being subjected to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse every year. Between the years 2017-2020, there were 24 Lakhs Cases of child abuse that were reported, out of which 80% of the victims were girl below the age of 14.[1]  The Government of India has implemented several legal measures to protect children from abuse, and these measures are aimed at preventing, detecting, and punishing perpetrators of child abuse. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015[2] defines child abuse as any physical, sexual, emotional, or economic maltreatment of a child. This includes neglect, abandonment, exploitation, and any other form of harmful treatment.

Despite the high numbers of reported cases, many cases of child abuse go unreported, and the true extent of the problem is likely to be even greater. The effects of child abuse can be devastating, leading to long-term physical and mental health problems, as well as social and economic consequences. It is essential that the government and civil society organizations work together to prevent child abuse and support victims.

Historically, we have witnessed constructive changes in laws, policies and recognition of human rights and child rights. The Constitution of India guarantees children’s rights[1]

  • Article 21A guarantees the right to free and compulsory elementary for all children in the age group 6-14 years.
  • Article 24(a) secures the right to be protected from any hazardous employment until 14 years.
  • Children have equal rights as all other adult citizens of India, like, the Right to Equality (Article 14), Right to Personal Liberty and the process of law (Article 21), Right to being protected from being trafficked and forced into bonded labour (Article 23), etc.

Child Protection Laws in India are framed in line with constitutional provisions for safeguarding child rights. More than 250 statutes in India have been passed by the Union and State Governments. Some of the important legislations and their important provisions are as follows:

Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC)

  • Section 75 of the code provides for punishment for cruelty to a child, while Section 76 provides for punishment for abetment of suicide of a child.
  • The abandonment of a child below the age of twelve years is dealt under Section 317, Punishment for abandonment is imprisonment up to seven years or fine or both.
  • Inducing any minor girl to have sexual intercourse with another person is punishable under Section 366A. This crime shall be punishable with imprisonment up to ten years and a fine.
  • Section 372and Section 373 of the act penalises selling or buying minor girls for prostitution and illicit intercourse for any unlawful and immoral purpose, with imprisonment under, which may extend up to ten years and a fine. [2]

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (IEA)

As per Section 118 of the Indian Evidence Act, all persons, including a child or an aged except a tender year, extreme old age, disease – whether of body or mind or any other similar cause, are competent to be considered as a witness in the court of law if they are able to understand the questions put to them, or able to give rational answers to those questions.[3]

 

Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC)

Also, after the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the punishment for rape of a minor girl has been aggravated (made more serious) under section 376(2)(i) of IPC. The punishment for rape of females below 16 years of age shall be minimum rigorous imprisonment of ten years which can extend up to life imprisonment. [4]

The list of the child protection laws passed by the Union Government includes the following:

Children Pledging of Labour Act, 1933 (CPLA)

CPLA prohibits the pledging of the labour of children by the parent and any other person who employs children who have been pledged for labour. [5]

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (CLA)

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 [6] is a law for the protection of children from child labour in India. The act prohibits the employment of children in hazardous occupations and also sets the minimum age for employment in any kind of work.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1987 (ITPA)

The act makes it illegal to procure, transport, or hire a person for the purpose of sexual exploitation or prostitution. This act also makes it illegal to traffic children for any purpose, regardless of their gender. [7]

Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (POCMA):

POCMA [8] follows the basic premise

  1. to make a child go through marriage is an offence, and
  2. child or minor is a person up to 18 years of age in the case of girls and 21 years in the case of boys.

Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009

The State were mandated to provide free and compulsory education within ten years under the Right to education. It was earlier a Directive Principles of State but now, the Right to Education is acknowledged under the fundamental rights, making it a justiciable right under Article 21A. The Right to Education Act, 2009, [9] also known as RTE Act describes modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children aged between 6-14 years in India.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSOA):

The POSCOA [10] was enacted to address and/or prevent sexual harassment, exploitation, sexual assault, abuse pornography and immoral acts against children. Under the Act, sexual abuse of a child is defined as any act that involves physical contact with a child or causes the child to be in a state of sexual arousal or stimulation. This includes penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual exploitation.

 Some of its key features are:

  • It is not gender-specific and penalises abetment of child abuse.
  • The Act holds that a child is any person below the age of 18 years.
  • It defines different forms of sexual abuse and makes provisions for creating a child-friendly atmosphere through all stages of the judicial process and avoid revictimization.
  • The act also provides for strict punishment for the perpetrators of child sexual abuse. The punishment for sexual assault on a child under the age of 12 years is imprisonment for a minimum of 20 years, which may extend to life imprisonment. For sexual assault on a child between the age of 12 to 18 years, the punishment is imprisonment for a minimum of 10 years, which may extend to life imprisonment.
  • It gives vital importance to the best interest of the child which can be seen incorporated in the statute as child-friendly mechanisms for reporting, recording of evidence, investigations, speedy trials of offences and in-camera trial without revealing the child’s identity through designated special courts.
  • It mandates the use of video-conferencing for recording the statements of the child victim, thus protecting them from the trauma of appearing in court.
  • Moreover, the law also requires mandatory reporting of child abuse. Any person who has knowledge of child abuse is required to report it to the police or a designated child protection agency. Failure to report child abuse is punishable with imprisonment for up to six months, or a fine, or both.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJA):

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 [11] is a legislation in India that deals with the treatment of underage offenders. The Act, which came into force on January 15, 2016, replaces the previous Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

Under the Act, a child is defined as anyone who is below the age of 18 years. JJA classifies the term “child” into two categories:

  1. ‘child in conflict with law’ and
  2. ‘child in need of care and protection’

The Act provides for the establishment of Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees to deal with the issues of children in conflict with the law and children in need of care and protection. These bodies are responsible for ensuring that the rights of children are protected and that they are treated in a manner that is conducive to their overall development.

The Act also provides for the establishment of special homes and observation homes to provide shelter, care, and protection to children in need. One of the major changes introduced by the Act is the provision for trying certain juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18 years as adults if they are accused of committing heinous offenses. This has been a controversial provision, with some arguing that it goes against the principles of the Act and may lead to discrimination against certain juveniles.

The Act prescribes punishment for the various offences against children such as enhanced punishment for cruelty to children from six months to three years. The selling or buying of children will be a punishable offence with imprisonment of five years. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2021 was passed to amend various provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development on 31st August, 2022 in New Delhi vide notification mentioned in exercise of the Powers conferred by sub-section (2) of section 1 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2021 (23 of 2021), the Central Government appoints the 1st day of September, 2022 as the date on which the said Act shall come into force.

 

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) [12], has been incorporated under the Ministry of Woman and Child Development by the central government, to regulate all laws and programmes with a child-centric approach. The commission can also take suo moto cognisance for violation of child rights.

Child Welfare Committee (CWC)

The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) [13] has been formed under the Woman and Child Development Department to tend to the children in need of care and protection. The Committee is to be informed about any child abuse within 24 hours by the police officer, then a person is appointed to support the child and be responsible for the psycho-social well-being of the child. The CWC person will keep the child’s family updated about the case. Any reporting of child abuse can be done by dialling the toll-free number 1098.

 

Conclusion:

While the world has made significant progress in education, nutrition and child health in the past decade, India has been ranked 118 on the End of Childhood Index [14]. Despite several child protection acts, we still witness various forms of child rights being violated, including denial and inability to access the right to food, right to education, right to health and right against exploitation. There are extensive laws to protect children, and child protection is increasingly accepted as a core component of social development. The challenge is in implementing the laws due to inadequate human resource capacity on the ground and quality prevention and rehabilitation services. As a result, millions of children are prone to violence, abuse and exploitation. 

Furthermore, the lack of awareness and understanding of the issue among the general public, as well as among law enforcement and judicial officials, makes it difficult to identify and prosecute perpetrators of child abuse. This lack of awareness also makes it difficult for victims to seek help and support.

To address the issue of child abuse in India, it is essential to implement effective laws and policies that provide adequate protection for children, and to educate the public about the issue. This can include measures such as strengthening the existing laws, increasing funding for child protection services, and implementing awareness campaigns to educate the public about the signs and effects of child abuse. Another effective method of dissemination of information could be through designing workshops to be given in schools, to educators, to caretakers and to the minors about the forms of abuse, the remedies and the rights.

References:

[1]  India reported over 24L online child abuse cases in 2017-20: Interpol | Business Standard News (business-standard.com)

[2] The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

[1] The Constitution of India

[2] Indian Penal Code, 1860

[3] The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (IEA

[4] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

[5] Children Pledging of Labour Act, 1933

[6] Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

[7] The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1987 (ITPA)

[8] Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (POCMA)

[9] Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009

[10] The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

[11] Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

[12] National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

[13] Child Welfare Committee

[14] 2021-global-childhood-report.pdf (childhealthtaskforce.org)

Image Credits: 

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Despite the high numbers of reported cases, many cases of child abuse go unreported, and the true extent of the problem is likely to be even greater. The effects of child abuse can be devastating, leading to long-term physical and mental health problems, as well as social and economic consequences. It is essential that the government and civil society organizations work together to prevent child abuse and support victims.

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Financing Global Transition Through Green Bonds

Green bonds were first issued by the World Bank in 2008 to push for private sector participation in projects contributing to a better environment and mitigating the risks of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, forecasts a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.

Hence, it was essential to have an alternative mode of financing that would attract investors and global institutions’ attention towards projects, specifically catering to environment friendly projects thereby also ensuring that governments globally achieve their commitments in the reduction of emissions of CO2 and greenhouse gases.

The Indian government, in particular, has introduced measures and brought out amendments to regulations to encourage the construction of renewable energy projects. However, the evolution and growth of environment focused projects is mostly dependent on the modes of financing available in the market. In this article, we shall review primarily the laws applicable to green financing.

Types of Green Bonds

Green bonds are regular bonds with the distinction that the money raised from the investors must only be used to finance projects that are environmentally friendly. More precisely, green bonds finance projects that are aimed at renewable energy infrastructure, energy-efficient buildings, clean transportation, and waste management.

There are primarily four types of green bonds, mainly distinguished based on the collateral or security being provided in the issuance of green bonds:[1]

  • Green ‘Use of Proceeds’ Revenue Bond: These types of green bonds are secured by the projects producing income.
  • Green ‘Use of Proceeds’ Bond: These types of bonds are secured by assets.
  • Green Securitized Bond: These types of green bonds are secured by large pools of assets.
  • Green Project Bond: These types of green bonds are secured by the balance sheet and assets of the project.

 

Green Bond Principles

The voluntary best practice guidelines called the Green Bond Principles (GBP) were established in 2014 by a consortium of global investment banks.[2]

The GBP accentuates the required transparency, accuracy and integrity of information that will be disclosed and reported by issuers to stakeholders. The GBP has four core components, which include:

  1. Proceeds must be used for green projects;
  2. Process adoption for project evaluation and selection;
  3. Maintaining transparency in the management of proceeds; and
  4. Reporting of information pertaining to the use of the proceeds.

The GBP is a framework devised with the goal of accentuating the role that global debt capital markets can play with respect to environmental and social sustainability.

In India, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) notified a circular dated May 30, 2017, which provides for the Disclosure Requirements for Issuance and Listing of Green Debt Securities in India, and the definition of a green bond has been given under the circular, which is within the outline of the International Capital Market Association’s GBPs with certain deviations.

Evolution of  Green Bonds in India

India’s first green bond was issued in 2015 for renewable energy projects such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass and power by Yes Bank. In the same year, another leading banking institution, Exim Bank of India, issued a five-year, $500 million green bond, which is India’s first dollar-denominated green bond.

Subsequently, Axis Bank[3] launched India’s first internationally listed and certified green bond and raised $500 million to finance climate change projects and solutions around the globe and use the bond proceeds to promote green energy in urban and rural areas, transportation and what is called ‘green-blue infrastructure’ projects in India and abroad. KPMG provided third-party independent assurance as per the requirements of the GBP (established by the International Capital Market Association). [4]

Regulatory Framework Governing Green Bonds in India

In 2017, the SEBI (Issue and Listing of Non-Convertible Securities) Regulations, 2021 (NCS) defined a “green debt security” (GDS) as debt securities used for funding project(s) or asset(s) falling under any of the following broad categories:

Renewable Energy, Clean Transportation, Sustainable Water Management Systems, Climate Change Adaptation, Energy Efficient and Green Buildings, Sustainable Waste Management, Sustainable Land Use, including Sustainable Forestry and Agriculture, Afforestation, Biodiversity Conservation; and any other categories specified by SEBI.

Issuance of listed green debt securities in India must be in compliance with all the following regulations:

  1. Chapter IX of the SEBI operational circular covers the issue and listing of Non-Convertible Securities (SEBI Operational Circular).
  2. The SEBI (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015 (LODR Regulations).
  3. The SEBI (Issue and Listing of Non-Convertible Securities) Regulations, 2021.

However, there are no specific guidelines mentioned for unlisted green debt securities other than the general requirements for the issuance of unlisted green debt securities.

In the month of February 2022, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in her budget speech that India will issue sovereign green bonds to fund green projects. In FY23, the government will issue sovereign green bonds as part of its borrowing programme. The funds will be used to fund public-sector projects.

In addition to the above, on August 4, 2022, SEBI issued a consultation paper on Green and Blue Bonds as a mode of Sustainable Finance aiming to align with the updated GBP by ICMA and seek public comments on the proposed regulatory framework.

The Ministry of Finance rolled out the Sovereign Green Bonds framework (“Framework”) [5] that has been rated “Medium Green”, with a “Good” governance score by a Norway-based independent second opinion provider, the Center for International Climate Research (CICERO). The issuance of sovereign green bonds will help the Government of India with much needed capital and deploy funds from investors in public sector projects. The investors shall not bear any project related risks. The Government of India shall use the proceeds to finance/refinance projects falling under eligible green projects.

The Framework has provided a list of excluded projects, which include nuclear power generation, landfill projects, hydropower plants larger than 25 MW etc. Any expenditure relating to fossil fuels is excluded. The Green Finance Working Committee, constituted by the Ministry of Finance, will assist in the selection and evaluation of projects. The Framework’s publication will provide much-needed clarity and direction to the government’s initiatives aimed at transforming India into a green economy.

Benefits of Investment in Green Bonds

Green bond investments may lead to sustainable development and achieve the climate change goal, benefitting the environment in the future. Green Bonds will lead to increased funding for emerging sectors such as renewable energy since the Reserve Bank of India has included the renewable energy sector as part of its priority sectors. As a result, banks will have to dedicate a specific portion of their lending book to the priority sector. This will help the credit flow in this sector.

As far as commercial viability is concerned, green bonds typically have a lower interest rate than the loans offered by a commercial bank, which helps to reduce the cost for the issuer or promoter.

Challenges Pertaining to Green Bonds

  1. Green Bonds, especially in the Indian context, are still not very popular as there is a lack of structure and framework and uncertainty about the return on investment.
  2. There are no proper rating guidelines for green bonds or green projects to help investors make their investment decisions and to verify companies’ improvements, which directly impacts the development of the green bond market.
  3. The funds that have diversified investments in various sectors may not find investments in the green sector valuable compared to returns in other non-green projects. There have also been instances where, during the running of the Project, the issuer or promoters have faced queries from the authorities about whether the project falls under the green category or not.

Green Finance

India announced at the COP26 Climate Summit that it will increase its efforts to achieve the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2070, including doubling its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigatonnes. [6] However, there has been growth in green financing in India over the last few years in both the public and private sectors.

It appears that the banks and financial institutions in India are not ready for the green transition as the experience in factoring climate change as a risk factor is not there when undertaking credit appraisals.[7] Even the bond market in India is still evolving, which is confirmed by the fact that green bonds have constituted only 0.7% of the overall bond issuance in India since 2018. More initiatives will be needed from a regulatory perspective to make green bond issuance more attractive by bringing measures that make investments in green bonds attractive as compared to other debt securities in India and in international markets.

Furthermore, as the world’s nations, including the developed world, look to India to lead the global transition, India should take the lead in attracting investments in green finance, which will not only benefit individual investors looking for safe instruments with attractive returns, but will also benefit the country in generating investment.

Leveraging a Healthy Green Bond Market in India

To build a healthy green bond market, one of the most important criteria is to achieve international norms, rules and regulations for green bonds along with a reasonable return on investment. Green financing, as an additional source of funding, must be used by companies and investors to establish projects that reduce the risk of climate change. There is an unprecedented demand for green energy globally, and investments through green financing will become inevitable in the long run.

References:

[1] https://efinancemanagement.com/sources-of-finance/green-bonds

[2] https://www.climatebonds.net/market/best-practice-guidelines

[3] https://cdkn.org/story/feature-india-strengthens-credentials-green-bond-issue#:~:text=The%20Axis%20Bank%20bond%20issue,base%20being%20%27green%27%20investors.

[4] https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/services/advisory/risk-consulting/internal-audit-risk/sustainability-services/first-green-bond-in-india.html

[5] https://dea.gov.in/sites/default/files/Framework%20for%20Sovereign%20Green%20Bonds.pdf

[6] https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-will-achieve-net-zero-carbon-emissions-by-2070-pm-modis-bold-pledge-at-glasgow-un-climate-summit-cop26/399507

[7] https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/how-to-get-green-financing-to-take-off/2753083/

 

Image Credits: 

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Green bonds are regular bonds with the distinction that the money raised from the investors must only be used to finance projects that are environmentally friendly. More precisely, green bonds finance projects that are aimed at renewable energy infrastructure, energy-efficient buildings, clean transportation, and waste management.

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Impact of Work from Home and Rise of Coworking Spaces on the Bengal Real Estate Sector

The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the world to undergo an overnight change with respect to the way it conducted both its personal and professional lives. It brought about boom in some industries, such as e-commerce, ed-tech, etc. and stagnation in others such as travel, hospitality, etc. The real estate industry also underwent some drastic changes, which has affected various stakeholders.

Encouraging Government Interventions

In the recently convened National Conference of Labour Ministers of all States and Union Territories, the Prime Minister said that “flexible workplaces, a work-from-home ecosystem, and flexible work hours” are the needs of the future. Another development with a similar vision of flexible workplaces was the Special Economic Zones (Third Amendment) Rules, 2022 and the Special Economic Zones (Fifth Amendment) Rules, 2022.

On 14th July, 2022, notification no. G.S.R. 576(E) was published by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India promulgating the Special Economic Zones (Third Amendment) Rules, 2022, which permitted work from home for Special Economic Zone (“SEZ”) employees and solidified the legal framework of work from home and remote working. By this notification, Rule 43A was added to the SEZ Rules, 2006 which enabled employees (including contractual employees) to work from home or from any other place outside the SEZ up to a maximum of fifty percent of the total employees of the SEZ Unit. It extends to employees of the IT and ITes SEZ units, employees who are temporarily incapacitated, employees who are travelling and also employees who are working offsite. In order to avail itself of this, the SEZ Unit had to submit its proposal for working from home to the Development Commissioner through email or physical application at least 15 days in advance.

However, on 8th December 2022, the Ministry published another notification bearing no. G.S.R. 868(E), bringing about the Special Economic Zones (Fifth Amendment) Rules, 2022, which granted further relaxations to the SEZ work from home norms. By virtue of this amendment, the percentage of employees who can work from home has been increased from 50% to 100% till 31st December 2023. It is also no longer mandatory to get prior approval of the proposal for work from home, and the SEZ unit owners are only required to intimate the same to the Development Commissioner.

Due to pandemic/lockdowns, most officegoers started working from home or remotely. Although remote working existed even before the pandemic, especially among freelancers, it was because of the pandemic that most businesses were forced to adapt to this mode of working even for full-time employees. Although the world is back to normal at present, both employers and employees are refusing to go back to the traditional office setup. The December 8, 2022 notification will now further encourage IT companies and their employees to opt for work from home in the SEZs.

 

Increase in Demand for Residential Spaces & Shifting of People to Tier 2 And Tier 3 Cities

Another interesting trend that has come out of this pandemic is the increase in demand for bigger residential spaces, including luxurious and semi-luxurious apartments. As per the reports of CREDAI, Bengal, the sales of 2 BHK apartments have gone down from 48% in 2019 to 40% in 2021, while on the other hand, sales of 3 BHK apartments have gone up significantly from 44% in 2019 to 54% in 2021. The sales of 4 BHK apartments have also more than doubled during the same period, going up from 2% in 2019 to 4.7% in 2021. This increase in demand for luxurious residences has taken place since individuals who work from home prefer an apartment with a home office, and therefore, they are leaning towards larger residential spaces.

 

The demand for residential real estate is highly dependent on where people go to work, as people prefer to live near their workplaces in order to minimise travel. Now that a large group of people are not required to physically to work regularly, they are shifting to tier 2, tier 3 cities and suburban areas from the metro areas as these places offer affordable housing options and a better standard of living at a lower cost. The tier 2 cities across India have witnessed healthy investment in residential real estate in recent years, with more residential project launches by developers.

 

Rise of Co-Working Spaces

As a result of the change in mindset of employers and employees, a new form of commercial real estate has gained popularity recently, namely, “co-working spaces.” A lot of companies, especially small businesses and start-ups have opted for this model across India instead of investing in individual spaces, as it offers both cost-effectiveness and flexibility. Some of the reputed coworking spaces, such as Colliers, Awfis, Coworks have already set up spaces in different cities across India. Due to this huge demand for coworking spaces, companies such as Awfis, Workport Coworking, East India Works Eden, My Cube and Seamus Management have already set up coworking spaces in Kolkata.

 

Future Trend

Now that offices are transitioning from work-from-home models to hybrid models and some workplaces are also calling their employees back to the office, the demand for office space and coworking space transactions has started to pick up again. Although the employees of the IT/ITeS sector in SEZs still have the liberty to work from home, most employers in other sectors have mandated that employees come back to the office. It will be interesting to see if the volume of rentals and leasing in office spaces goes back to the pre pandemic conditions or is affected by the rise of “co working spaces” and the new notification dated December 8, 2022 allowing 100% work from home in SEZs until December 31, 2023.

 

Now that offices are transitioning from work-from-home models to hybrid models and some workplaces are also calling their employees back to the office, the demand for office space and coworking space transactions has started to pick up again. Although the employees of the IT/ITeS sector in SEZs still have the liberty to work from home, most employers in other sectors have mandated that employees come back to the office. 

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Revaluation of Capital Asset Made Liable to Capital Gains Tax

In the case of The Commissioner of Income Tax v. M/s Manuskh Dyeing and and Printing Mills (Partnership Firm) [Civil Appeal No. 8258 & 8259 of 2022], the Supreme Court panel comprising of Justice M.R. Shah and M.M. Sundresh ruled that Section 45(4) of the Income Tax Act applied where there was an increase in partners’ capital account on account of revaluation of asset (land & building).

The bench stated that the partners had access to the money in order to withdraw it. The assets so revalued and the credit made to the capital accounts of the individual partners were therefore a “transfer” and came under the category of “OTHERWISE.” As a result, Section 45(4)’s provision was applicable.

Background

The assessee a partnership firm constituted with four related individuals were engaged in the business of Dyeing and Printing, Processing, Manufacturing and Trading under the following profit-sharing structure.
Share of Profit
For ease of reference, herewith Partners are referred as A, B, C, D:

Phase 1

Execution of Family Settlement Deed dated 02/05/1991; the share of one of the existing partners (Mr. D) was reduced and distributed among new incoming partners (Let’s say E, F & G):
Partners and Share of Profit (Post Settlement)
 

Phase 2

Reconstitution of Partnership Firm; Partner B, C & D retired from the Firm:
Partnership structure (Post Retirement)
   

Phase 3

The Firm was again reconstituted on 01/11/1992; 4 new partners were added.
Partnership structure and contribution by new partners (Post Reconstruction)
In the reconstituted partnership deed two partners, namely, A and E decided to withdraw part of their capital.

Phase 4

The assessee revalued the asset (Land & Building) for an amount of Rs.17.34 crores against which the capital account of H, I, J & K was revised:  
Particulars H I J K
Initial Capital Contribution 4.5 Lac 2.5 Lac 2.25 Lac 2.25 Lac
Revised Capital Account 3.12 Cr 1.73 Cr 1.56 Cr 1.56 Cr

Facts of the Case

  1. The Return of Income was filed for Assessment Year “AY”1993-1994 declaring total income of Rs. 3,18,760/-. The same was accepted under Section 143(1) of the Income Tax Act, 1961(hereinafter referred to as the Act).
  2. However, thereafter, the assessment was reopened under Section 147 of the Act by issuance of the notice under Section 148 of the Act. The assessment was reassessed under Section 143(3) read with Section 147 of the Act determining the total income of Rs.2,55,19,490/
  3. Addition of Rs.17.34 Cr. was made towards short term capital gain under Section 45(4) of the Act. Similar addition was made for A.Y. 1994-1995.
  4. As per the Assessing Officer., the assessee revalued the land and building and enhanced the valuation from Rs.21,13,225/- to Rs. 17,56,00,000/- for AY 1993-1994 thereby increasing the value of the assets by Rs.17,34,86,772/- and therefore the revaluing of the assets, and subsequently crediting it to the respective partners’ capital accounts constitutes transfer, which was liable to capital gains tax under Section 45(4) of the Act.
  5. As land and building was involved, the assessee had claimed the depreciation on building, and the Assessing Officer assessed the amount of short-term capital gain under Section 50 of the Act.
  6. The CIT(A) confirmed the addition made by the Assessing Officer. However, ITAT allowed the appeal and has set aside the addition made by the A.O. towards Short Term Capital Gains by observing that revaluation of the assets and crediting to partners’ account did not involve any transfer.
  7. The High court dismissed the appeal preferred by the Revenue. Thus, the revenue approached the supreme court.

Question Before the Apex Court

Whether increase in partners’ capital account on account of revaluation of asset (land & building) would fall under section 45(4) of the Act as introduced by the Finance Act, 1987?

Ruling

  1. At the outset, the Apex Court stated that, the object and purpose of introduction of Section 45(4) of the Act was to pluck the loophole by insertion of Section 45(4) and omission of Section 2(47)(ii) of the Act. Earlier, omission of Clause (ii) of Section 2(47) and Section 47(ii) exempted the transform by way of distribution of capital assets from the ambit of the definition of “transfer”. The same helped the assessee in avoiding the levy of capital gains tax by revaluing the assets and then transferring and distributing the same at the time of dissolution. The said loophole came to be plucked by insertion of Section 45(4) and omission of Section 2(47)(ii). At this stage, it is required to be noted that the word used “OR OTHERWISE” in Section 45(4) is very important.
  2. In the present case, the assessee relied upon the decision of Bombay High Court in case of Commissioner of Income Tax, West Bengal Vs. Hind Construction Ltd., (1972) 4 SCC 460 wherein it was stated that “unless there is a dissolution of partnership firm and thereby the transfer of the amount on revaluation to the capital accounts of the respective partners, Section 45(4) of the Income Tax shall not be applicable.” However, the Apex Court stated that, in view of the amended Section 45(4) of the Income Tax Act inserted vide Finance Act, 1987, by which, “OR OTHERWISE” is specifically added, the aforesaid case has no substance.
  3. The CIT(A) relied on the decision of Bombay High Court in case of Commissioner of Income Tax Vs. A.N. Naik Associates and Ors., (2004) 265 ITR 346 (Bom.) wherein the Court had “an occasion to elaborately consider the word “OTHERWISE” used in Section 45(4). After detailed analysis of Section 45(4), it is observed and held that the word “OTHERWISE” used in Section 45(4) takes into its sweep not only the cases of dissolution but also cases of subsisting partners of a partnership, transferring the assets in favour of a retiring partner.”
  4. Under the circumstances, for the purpose of interpretation of newly inserted Section 45(4) to the Act, the decision of this Court in the case of Hind Construction Ltd. (supra) shall not be applicable and/or the same shall not be of any assistance to the assessee. As such, we are in complete agreement with the view taken by the Bombay High Court in the case of A.N. Naik Associates and Ors., (supra). We affirm the view taken by the Bombay High Court in the above decision.
  5. In the present case, the Apex Court held that the assets of the partnership firm were revalued to increase the value by an amount of Rs. 17.34 crores on 01.01.1993 (relevant to A.Y. 1993-1994) and the revalued amount was credited to the accounts of the partners in their profit-sharing ratio and the credit of the assets’ revaluation amount to the capital accounts of the partners can be said to be in effect distribution of the assets valued at Rs. 17.34 crores to the partners and that during the years, some new partners came to be inducted by introduction of small amounts of capital ranging between Rs. 2.5 to 4.5 lakhs and the said newly inducted partners had huge credits to their capital accounts immediately after joining the partnership, which amount was available to the partners for withdrawal and in fact some of the partners withdrew the amount credited in their capital accounts.
Therefore, the assets so revalued and the credit into the capital accounts of the respective partners can be said to be “transfer” and which fall in the category of “OTHERWISE” and therefore, the provision of Section 45(4) inserted by Finance Act, 1987 w.e.f. 01.04.1988 shall be applicable.  

Held

In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court and that of the ITAT were held unsustainable and were quashed and set aside with the original order being restored. Present appeals were accordingly allowed with no cost.

FM Comments

The Supreme Court decision clarifies the interpretation of the provisions of section 45(4) of the Act and holds that the revaluation of capital asset and consequent credit into the capital accounts of the respective partners would be chargeable to tax as capital gains. The Judgement will impact the Real Estate Industry and others who had taken the benefit of these provisions as a tax planning strategy.

The bench stated that the partners had access to the money in order to withdraw it. The assets so revalued and the credit made to the capital accounts of the individual partners were therefore a “transfer” and came under the category of “OTHERWISE.” As a result, Section 45(4)’s provision was applicable.

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