Copyrights case against ShareChat an act of overreach: IAMAI

Copyrights case against ShareChat an act of overreach: IAMAI
Photo Credit: 123RF.com
16 Mar, 2020

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) is “deeply concerned” about the legal nature of a recent copyrights violation case lodged against vernacular social media platform ShareChat, the digital media lobby group said in a statement on Friday.

The first information report (FIR) filed against Bengaluru-based ShareChat’s parent operator Mohalla Tech and its directors by music production company Lahari Recording for an alleged copyright violation, is prima facie of an act overreach of the current provisions of law, the statement said.

Last week, the Bengaluru police booked the FIR against the startup under specific provisions of the Indian Copyrights Act, 1957, and Indian Trademarks Act, 1999, based on a copyright violation complaint by Lahari Recording. Bengaluru headquartered Lahari Recording said in the FIR that Mohalla Tech allowed its users to download Lahari’s copyrighted musical content without its consent, leading to monetary loss. TechCircle has seen a copy of the FIR. 

Apart from ShareChat, members of the IAMAI include multiple media houses, Facebook India, Rediff India as well as emerging business and consumer internet companies in India such as OYO, Flipkart, MakeMyTrip and BillDesk.

ShareChat did not respond to TechCircle’s request for comment on the matter.

“The usual process in such cases of alleged copyright violation is (the) ‘notice and takedown’ mechanism as stipulated under the IT Act (Amended) 2008,” the statement added.

Section 79 of the Act enlists certain exemptions from liability for digital intermediaries like ShareChat in some cases. The intermediary, a social media platform, is limited to providing access to a communication, as long as it does not initiate the transmission, select the receiver of the transmission, and select or modify the information contained in the transmission.

However, some of these provisions don’t apply to the intermediary if it fails to remove or disable access to unlawful material on its platform, even after being informed by authorities about it, according to the Act.

“... digital intermediaries must first be given proper notice about any violative content and are expected to act only after receiving such notice,” IAMAI said. 

Taking these factors into account, ShareChat is not liable either in a civil or in a criminal case for alleged copyright violations of content hosted on their platform by third-party users of the platform, the lobby group added.

Nirupam Lodha, a partner at L&L Partners (formerly Luthra & Luthra Law Offices) told TechCircle that the liability will depend on whether ShareChat falls under the definition of an intermediary or not. 

“If yes, then ShareChat will need to show that it is otherwise in compliance with Section 79,  including in the terms that it has published the required policy (and) it is not selecting or editing the platform’s content -- a lack of which may push it outside the protection of Section 79... But nothing stops a party from initiating an action, civil or criminal. Section 79 is more of a positive defence under which an intermediary can seek protection if an action is initiated against the intermediary,” Lodha said.

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