IPRMENTLAW WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS (December 6-12)

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Allahabad High Court quashes FIR against Mirzapur makers, directors, writers

The Allahabad High Court has quashed the FIR registered against Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, producers along with the writers and directors of the web series Mirzapur, in a case registered against them for allegedly hurting religious, social and regional sentiments through their portrayal of the town of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh in the web series.

The court highlighted the fact that there are no allegations in the F.I.R. to make out a case that the petitioners have intentionally insulted and thereby given provocation to any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace, or to commit any other offence.

The counsel for the petitioners submitted that Section 295-A of IPC does not stipulate everything or anything which offends the religious, regional and social sentiments of the informant to be an offence. Further it was argued that Section 295-A penalises only those acts of insult or those varieties of attempt to insult the regional or religious belief of a class of citizens which are perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of that class of citizens. Import of Section 295-A I.P.C. is to curb speech made with malicious intent and not each and every offensive speech, submitted the counsel for Petitioners.

On the other side counsel for the informant, submitted that the FIR prima facie discloses commission of cognizable offence which needs to be fairly investigated without any intervention by this Court. They further argued that there is no censorship for the material to be displayed on OTT platform and kids have access to all kinds of media and so it needs to be regulated from breaching the boundaries or else, it, like in the present case, amounts to commission of crime against the society at large.

The Petitioners had approached the High Court after an FIR was registered for offences under Sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

In challenging the FIR, the petitioners had pointed out that the series was purely a work of fiction, which was also clarified by way of a disclaimer at the start of each episode. It was pointed out that the said disclaimer also stated that the makers of the show respect all faiths and religions and that all places and events in the said series are completely fictional.

Read order here.

Copyright Act: ‘Business Of Issuing Licenses Can Be Routed Only Through Copyright Societies U/S 33’; Madras HC Dismisses Suits Filed For Violation Of Licensing Rights

The Madras High Court in the case of Novex Communications Pvt. Ltd vs DXC Technology Pvt. Ltd & Anr has held that the business of issuing licenses in any work in which copyright subsists can only be done by a registered copyright society if the work is incorporated in a cinematograph film or a sound recording.

It held that though an owner need not necessarily join a copyright society, the first proviso to Section 33 makes it clear that the right of an owner to issue licenses, in his individual capacity, remains unimpacted, subject to the rider that such a right must be consistent with his obligations as a member of any copyright society. However, once the grant of license moves from the owner in his individual capacity, and transcends into the realm of a business, Section 33(1) and/or the second proviso applies. The legislative intent is manifestly clear that the business of licensing must be routed only through a copyright society.

Disagreeing with the judgment in Novex Communications Private Limited v. Lemon Tree Hotels Limited (2019), the court clarified that the decision of Delhi High Court was not in consonance with the legislative history behind the Amendment Act of 2012. The Delhi High Court had held that copyright societies would have exclusive right to grant licenses only when an exclusive authorisation to that effect is obtained from the owners under Section 34 (1) (a). The Madras High Court, on that aspect, reiterated that the first proviso to Section 33 operates only-qua an issuance of a license by an owner, in his individual capacity. If the entity involved is in the business of issuing licenses, like the plaintiff in these cases, it would fall within the net of the second proviso if the work is incorporated into a cinematograph film or a sound recording.

Read Order here.

Read our Article analysing the judgement here.

Atrocious’: Kerala High Court Admits Plea Against ‘Churuli’ Movie For Excessive Use Of Abusive Language

The Kerala High Court recently admitted a writ petition filed against the Malayalam movie ‘Churuli’ which was recently released on an OTT platform for excessive use of abusive and obscene language.

After a portion of the said movie was played in the courtroom, Justice N. Nagaresh issued notice to all the respondents and orally remarked that the dialogues used in the movie were ‘atrocious in nature’.

“Even though the movie Churuli is capable of invoking a sense of curiosity and mystery in the minds of the audience, there is an overdose of foul language. It contains obscene and filthy languages which are opposed to public morality and tranquillity”, the plea had said.

The primary concern of the petitioner is that films as a form of art influence common people of the society. It is common among people to imitate dialogues from movies and if this is the case with the impugned movie, it will affect the public.

The mystery-horror film Churuli was released on Sony LIV, a public OTT platform, on November 19th 2021.The petitioner pointed out that since the outbreak of the pandemic and the resultant shutdown of theatres, most families now have subscribed to OTT platforms. This implies that children and teenagers also have access to the content therein.

Interestingly, Censor Board had earlier taken the stance that the version released on the OTT platform was not the copy certified by the Board.

Kangana Ranaut Moves Bombay High Court To Quash Mumbai Police FIR Over Khalistani Remarks On Farmer’s Protest

Actor Kangana Ranaut has approached the Bombay High Court to quash Mumbai police’s FIR over her derogatory Instagram posts about the Sikh community and Khalistani movement after the Prime Minister’s announcement to repeal farm laws:

On November 23, the Khar Police booked Kangana under section 295A IPC relating to outraging of religious feelings based on a complaint by members of the Sikh community.

The complainants alleged that in her Instagram post, Ranaut drew parallels between protesting farmers, and Khalistanis. She claimed that Khalistani’s were “arm-twisting the government and pointed out that the former prime minister Indira Gandhi had crushed them like mosquitoes”.

The complaint said that Ranaut has labelled all farmers as Khalistani terrorists, and by bringing in 1984 riots she has hurt the religious sentiments of the community. Hence the FIR.

Ranaut’s petition under section 482 of the CrPC states that the FIR is registered to “maliciously prosecute” her for exercising her “fundamental right” of freedom of speech.

IT Rules 2021: Madras High Court Restrains Coercive Action Against Digital Media Platforms Under IBDF

The Madras High Court has directed the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) not to take coercive action against Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) and its members for non-implementation of Part III of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 and Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021.

The division bench granted four weeks’ time to the Union of India to file counters to the petitions filed by IBDF, Sun TV Network and SJ Clement.

The Impugned Provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021, are also being challenged on account of being ultra vires the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 (CTN Act). Regarding IT Rules 2021, the petition states that the rules will have direct and inevitable consequence of controlling freedom of speech and expression which is clearly violative of the IBDF members’ rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.

The petition states that the IBDF has also set up an independent self-regulatory body namely, the Digital Media Content Regulatory Council (DMCRC), for addressing grievances for any content made available on the digital OTT platforms of its members.

The petitioners drew the court’s attention to the interim stay granted by Bombay High Court on sub-rules (1) and (3) of Rule 9 of IT Rules and a recent Kerala High Court decision directing no coercive action.

However, the Division Bench expressed its reservations about the Bombay High Court order. It observed that rules cannot be nullified without examining the constitutional validity since there is a presumption of constitutionality when the vires of a legislation is challenged.

The matter will now be taken up on 25th January, 2022.

Read Order here.

Plea Before Madras High Court Seeks Ban On Cryptocurrency Trade Advertisements

A petition before Madras High Court seeks a ban on advertisements about cryptocurrency trading in all media platforms until the Government makes proper rules and regulations for Crypto trading

The Finance Secretary, Cabinet Secretary and the MIB have been arraigned as the Respondents to stop advertisements on crypto trade within a fixed time as stipulated by the High Court. The PIL is filed on the ground that illegal trading in cryptocurrencies has aggravated money laundering terrorist financing and extortion activities

The petitioner submits that cryptocurrencies cannot adequately fulfil the functions of money and opens new avenues for tax evasion and other criminal activities. Since crypto trading is not regulated by any centralized agency or authority, and solely issued and controlled by its developers, they are prone to losses arising out of hacking, loss of password, compromise of access credentials etc. according to the petitioner.

Placing reliance on the RBI Press Release cautioning investors and traders in cryptocurrency dated 2013, the petitioner states that the creation, trading, or use of virtual currencies is replete with financial, operational and personal data security risks.

Citing that the cryptocurrencies are highly volatile in nature and the legal status of exchange platforms for cryptocurrencies set up in various jurisdictions is unclear, the petitioner calls for a ban on advertisements promoting the same.

TRAI seeks public views on simplifying process for telecom, broadcast players

Telecom and broadcast sector regulator Trai has invited public comments to simplify various processes that the companies need in these verticals for doing their business. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in its consultation paper on ‘Ease of Doing Business in Telecom and Broadcasting Sector’ has sought views on making all the permissions online and setting up a single-window clearance system that will coordinate with other ministries. concerned that are involved in granting permission to a telecom or broadcast player.

“This consultation paper emphasises the need for a single-entry window, wherein an investor/entrepreneur should be able to apply for all the licences/ approvals without any further need to submit physical copies of the application and visit any department physically,” the paper said.

Trai has proposed that the approval should be streamlined to make it completely integrated and accessible online in trackable response mode in the case of approvals where the process involves the movement of the application across various ministries and departments.

Madras High Court dismisses police officer’s plea to quash MS Dhoni’s defamation suit

The Madras High Court on Thursday dismissed IPS officer G Sampath Kumar’s plea seeking quashing of the defamation proceedings initiated against him by cricketer MS Dhoni.

Justice N Seshasayee observed that any order at this stage would certainly affect the progress of the main case pending since 2014 and dismissed Kumar’s plea.

Basically, Dhoni had filed a defamation suit from a TV media firm and others for allegedly circulating malicious news that he was involved in betting, spot and match-fixing. IPL match in 2014.

He sought restraining of the defendants, including Kumar, who had initially probed the IPL betting scam, to issue and publish the statements.

The court had granted an interim injunction earlier to restrain the defendants from doing so. Aggrieved, the petitioner challenged the defamation suit in 2014. In his additional counter-affidavit filed recently, he argued that the suit was to silence him. This was the reason behind filing the suit here in the Madras High Court, while none of the other three defendants to the trial were in Tamil Nadu.

No OTT Release For GV Prakash Kumar’s Jail Without Arbitral Tribunal’s Order: Madras HC

Actor GV Prakash Kumar-starrer Jail hit the theatres on Thursday, December 9. The same day, the Madras High Court gave its ruling on a case filed by Chennai-based film production and distribution company, Studio Green, against the makers of the film. During the hearing on Thursday, the court gave its verdict on the theatrical and digital release of the film.

The court allowed the theatrical release of the film keeping cinema owners’ concerns in mind. However, it has asked the makers to seek the permission of the arbitral tribunal before releasing the film on any OTT platform.

Vasanthabalan directorial has been produced by Sridharan Mariadhasan under the production banner of Krikes Cine Creations. Producer Gnanavel Raja’s Studio Green Productions had filed a petition in Madras High Court alleging that it was given the publishing rights of another film instead of the film Jail.

Through the petition, Studio Green had sought a ban on the theatrical and digital release of the film. They told the court that the makers of the film Jail had entered into an agreement with the company but awarded the rights of the film to another company.

The Respondent had resubmitted in the court that Studio Green had not been granted any patent by the makers of the film. They also informed the court the film was all set to release in theatres on December 9 and cinema owners have made the schedules accordingly.

After hearing arguments from both sides, The court asked the makers of Jail to not make any decision regarding the OTT release of the film without the permission of an arbitral tribunal.The court also transferred the case to an arbitral tribunal – a panel of one or more adjudicators that is convened and sits to resolve a dispute by way of arbitration.

YouTuber Moves to HC Challenging FIR Filed For Tweet on the Death of CDS Bipin Rawat

A YouTuber Maridhas has petitioned the Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench for the quashing of an FIR lodged against him by the Madurai police. The Petitioner stated that on December 9, he tweeted a message about the death of Chief of the Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat.

He stated that he asked the government to act against “those who smile on the death of the Chief of Defence Staff.” Instead, the administration had taken action against him, according to Mr. Maridhas.

As a social activist, he claimed to have spoken out against separatism and terrorism and stated that the Madurai police had filed a FIR against him under several sections of the IPC. He said there was no evidence to use the clauses against him.

The Petitioner was apprehended by the Madurai police for questioning about a social media post in which he questioned whether Tamil Nadu was becoming another Kashmir.

Millions of YouTube videos get hit with incorrect copyright claims: Report

More than 2.2 million YouTube videos were hit with copyright claims that were later overturned between January and June of this year, says a new report.

The Copyright Transparency Report is the first of its kind published by YouTube, which said it will update biannually going forward, The Verge reported on Monday.

The 2.2 million incorrect claims represent less than 1 per cent of the more than 729 million total copyright claims issued in the first half of this year, 99 per cent of which originated from Content ID, YouTube’s automated enforcement tool.

When users disputed these claims, the case was resolved in favour of the uploader of the video 60 per cent of the time, according to the report.

Though mistaken copyright claims have dropped, YouTube creators have long complained about how the platform handles claims, saying overly aggressive or unjustified enforcement can lead to lost income. Copyright claims can result in videos being blocked, audio being muted, or ad revenue going back to the rights owner.

This new report gives shape to a problem that YouTube itself has acknowledged needs updating, the report said.

The report notes that “no system is perfect” and that errors happen even with established guardrails in place to prevent abuse of enforcement mechanisms. When disputes take place, the process provided by YouTube provides real recourse, and over 60 per cent of these disputes were resolved in favor of the uploader, the report said.

Complaint filed against the makers of 83 by a UAE financier

A complaint has been filed against Deepika Padukone, Kabir Khan, Sajid Nadiadwala and others accusing them of cheating. As per the report, a UAE-based financier has approached Andheri Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Mumbai seeking action against the producers of the film.

In the complaint, the UAE-based financier has alleged that they conspired and cheated him in the process of producing the much-anticipated film.

According to the complainant Future Resources FZE and their representatives met people from Hyderabad-based company Vibri Media as the UAE-based company wanted to invest. Vibri promised them about good returns in investment and approximately Rs 16 crores was invested by the UAE based company. Reportedly, the money that was used to produce 83 didn’t have any written consent from the businessman.

FZE has filed a criminal complaint against all the producers of ‘83 on the grounds of cheating and criminal conspiracy.

No proposal to harmonise regulatory powers of TRAI with IP laws including Copyright Act

I&B Minister Anurag Thakur said the TRAI Act and IP laws define provisions & powers of the respective competent authorities in relevant statutes prescribed for the purpose specified to them.

The central government doesn’t have any proposal to harmonise the regulatory powers of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) with the existing intellectual property laws including the Copyright Act, as per the I&B Minister.

Thakur also said that the government has not yet formed a view on revising Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. He also said that the ministry has duly noted the suggestions it has received from stakeholders.

In January 2020, the MIB had come out with Cable Television Networks Regulation Amendment Bill 2020 and had invited suggestions from the public/stakeholders. One of the key amendments being brought by the ministry is to disallow state governments or their entities as well as religious and political parties from entering the TV distribution space. In clause 4(1), the ministry has inserted a negative list for registration as a cable operator.

The I&B Minister further suggested that the government has no plans to review guidelines for OTT platforms under the IT Rules 2021. Asked about details of complaint against OTT content and the action taken on those complaints, Thakur said that the complaints received in the ministry against content on OTT platforms are forwarded to the respective publishers, who are level- 1 of the grievance redressal mechanism, for redressal under the Rules.

He also said that the content on OTT platforms is governed under the provisions of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which interalia provides for a Code of Ethics to be followed by the OTT platforms and a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism to investigate complaints / grievances of violation of the code of ethics by such platforms.

Bombay HC asks producers of ‘999 Bigg Boss Jammu’ to immediately stop its auditions

The Bombay High Court on Friday restrained a Jammu-based production house from conducting any auditions for its upcoming show 999 Bigg Boss Jammu as its fromat is quite similar to the Bigg Boss Hindi reality show. The HC has said that the production house cannot mislead the public at large for its own benefit.

The court was hearing a plea, urgently moved by Endemol Shine Nederland Producties BV, the original producers of Bigg Brother show, which was first launched in 1999. The global company has been producing Bigg Boss in Hindi since 2006 and also produces the reality show in local languages like Telugu, Kanada, Bengali and Marathi.

The petitioners argued that the Jammu-based Angel Singh aka Lucky Trading as 999 Productions has been using a similar trademark and logo for their proposed show. He emphasised on the fact that the production house is also conducting auditions for the purported show.

The court passed an ex-parte order and noted that the similarity between the rival marks/ name/device of eye cannot be a matter of co-incidence. Prima facie, it is clear that the defendant production house has adopted the impugned marks dishonestly with a view to ride upon the goodwill and reputation of the Bigg Boss marks.

The matter would be next heard on December 22, when the production house is likely to respond.

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