The Delhi High Court passed a brief interim order restraining Youtube and Google from reproducing, adapting, distributing, communicating, transmitting, disseminating or displaying on their websites or otherwise infringing … any audio-visual works in which the plaintiff [SCIL] owns exclusive, valid and subsisting copyright.
SCIL alleged that YouTube and Google have made available web-content of copyrighted material owned by it, in the form of music videos, song clip, etc., without license or permission, BS reports.
SCIL claims that the business model of YouTube allows, encourages and profits from use of copyrighted work uploaded on the website without obtaining any license or permission from the rightful copyright owners and without paying them any royalty, according to this report.
According to reports from http://www.contentsutra.com, a news site covering Indian digital content market (where this news item was first sighted), T-series – a market leader among Indian music labels – is very actively protecting its copyrighted material, particularly against websites that have allegedly been streaming such content.
There is a complaint pending against Rediff.com, for example, in the Delhi High Court, where the SCIL has alleged copyright violation in re web-video clips of songs from two Hindi films. (Rediff provides this information in an application filed before the US Securities and Exchange Commission here; see the report here.
SCIL has also obtained an interim injunction against Santabanta.com from streaming content from movies in which T-Series has copyright.
Google does not seem to have made any official comments on this order as yet, according to this report.
The same report draws attention to something related, though:
Google recently expressed concerns about India’s IT Act, and proposed amendments to section 79 that deals with the liability of internet intermediaries (neutral hosts of information such as internet service providers, search engines, etc).
Under the existing section, an intermediary is liable for any offensive material/data published on its site, unless they can prove that (a) the offence was committed without its knowledge or (b) that it had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such an offence.
Google and YouTube could have probably taken refuge in this provision as defence in the case filed by SCIL. However, as Shamnad points out, and rightly so, liability under the IT act as it stands now does not extend to copyright infringement (it extends only to offences under the IT Act).
But just to ponder beyond this particular lawsuit for a bit, and see what Google thinks about India’s IT policy generally…
The IT (Amendment) Bill 2006, proposes that an intermediary will no longer be liable for third party information, data or communication link made available by it. Naturally, Google supports this proposal wholeheartedly.
(NB: The Indian legislature’s insistence on referring to the internet intermediary in the masculine is an amusing but annoying habit, which I have liberally replaced with what I believe to be the more appropriate neuter.)
However, the Indian Parliament’s Standing Committee on IT disapproves of this proposal equally strongly. In its September 2007 report, not up as yet on their site, but available in scanned form elsewhere states that:
[W]hen [a] platform is abused for transmission of allegedly obscene and objectionable contents, the intermediaries/service providers should not be absolved of responsibility. The Committee, therefore, recommend[s] that a definite obligation should be cast upon the intermediaries/service providers in view of the immense/irreparable damages caused to the victims through reckless activities that are under taken in the cyberspace by using the service providers’ platform. Casting such an obligation seems imperative…
Google, in its public policy blog, has taken a pointed jab at the Committee for these observations. Rishi Jaitly, a Policy Analyst at Google, says (in the same post linked earlier):
For intermediary websites to be held liable for the “reckless activities” of others is fundamentally unjust, ignores the origin of the content, misunderstands the size and scale of the Internet, and fails to appreciate the great benefits yielded to the vast majority of Indian users by these information platforms.
…It would be technologically infeasible for ISPs and web companies to pre-screen each and every bit of content being uploaded onto our platforms… More importantly, imposing such a burdensome standard would crush innovation, throttle Indian competitiveness, and prevent entrepreneurs from deploying new services in the first place, a truly unfortunate outcome for the growth of the Internet in India.
Strong words, those. But this is part of a larger debate about what is the best way to deal with liability over online content. A Stanford Public Law Working Paper by Mark Lemley recommends a middle path based on the trademark model.
But all of this becomes entirely redundant if one begins thinking about where the future of the Internet lies: how does one deal with anonymous networks, for example, where, potentially, any form of liability might vanish completely? Or am I being too fanciful? But I shall leave that for another post…