India one of few prior censorship countries where scenes deleted before film release: Delhi High Court rejects PIL against Aankh Micholi

The Delhi High Court has refused to entertain a public interest litigation claiming that the film “Aankh Micholi”, which released in November last year, is derogatory to people with disabilities.

A division bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora said that Courts generally do not interfere once the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) gives certificate to a film.

The bench observed that creative freedom should be cherished and that there is no need to curtail it.

The PIL was moved by Nipun Malhotra, a disability rights activist suffering from a locomotor disability, claiming that the film was disparaging and violative of the rights of several classes of PwDs, including those with speech, vision and hearing disabilities.

It was alleged that the film contained disturbing and deeply troubling portrayal of PwDs, which runs afoul of not only established societal norms but also legal provisions that safeguard their rights and dignity.

The plea sought a direction upon the producer of the movie to make a short awareness movie about hardship faced by PwDs and create awareness about the subject. It also sought a direction upon the producer to ensure an equal opportunity policy is formulated in conformity with the Rights of Persons With Disability (RPWD) Act and encourage employment of people with disabilities.

Observing that a lot of latitude is given in cinematic work, the court remarked:

“We do not want too much censorship. We are one of the few countries where there is prior censorship. We have gone the extra mile. Normally, in the rest of the world, it is only grading which takes place and there is no prior censorship. We are a country where scenes are deleted before the movie is released.”

The bench observed that creative freedom should be cherished and that there is no need to curtail it.

Read judgement here.

Cine1 Studios moves Delhi High Court seeking stay on OTT release of Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Animal

Cine1 Studios, co-producer of Ranbir Kapoor’s hit movie Animal, has moved the Delhi High Court to block the film’s release on streaming platform Netflix, citing non-payment and breach of contract.

Cine1 Studios Pvt Ltd claimed a breach of agreement which included a 35% profit share and intellectual property rights in Animal. The defendant and another co-producer Super Cassettes Industries Pvt Ltd ( T Series) contended ₹ 2.6 crore was paid to the plaintiff which it did not disclose to the court. In response, the court has asked Cine1’s counsel to clarify the document’s nature.

Super Cassettes, submitted the plaintiff invested no money in the film and all expenses were borne by his client. Apprising the judge of a document signed between the parties, he contended the plaintiff concealed from the court that on 2 August 2022 it had given up all its intellectual property rights in the film.

The matter is next listed on January 22, 2024.

MoS IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar flays Sachin Tendulkar’s deepfake video

Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar has condemned a deepfake video of veteran cricketer Sachin Tendulkar who is seen promoting an online game through AI-generated fake video and audio.

“#DeepFakes and misinformation powered by #AI are a threat to Safety&Trust of Indian users and represents harm & legal violation that platforms have to prevent and take down,” the minister said in a post on X quoting Tendulkar who also confirmed that the video is fake.

The clip that surfaced on social media on 15th January, 2024 showcasing Tendulkar advertising about an online game called “Skyward Aviator Quest” where users can earn upto Rs 1,80,000 per day by playing.

“Recent Advisory by @GoI_MeitY requires platforms to comply wth this 100%. We will be shortly notifying tighter rules under IT Act to ensure compliance by platforms,” Chandrasekhar posted.

Disturbed by the event, the former cricketer also cautioned the public about the misuse of technology for spreading misinformation.

The government has warned social media and internet intermediaries that failure to act on deep fake, synthetically altered content and 11 other user harms mentioned under the Information Technology (IT) Rules of 2021 could attract action under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) apart from the IT Rules

A new amendment to the IT Rules to ensure social media and other platforms’ compliance on deep fakes and other issues to ensure the trust and safety of citizens is under considerations.

“English cinema has done it before”: Kerala High Court on petition against ‘Antony’ movie for hiding gun in Bible

The Kerala High Court on 17th January, 2024 agreed to view an allegedly objectionable part from the Malayalam Movie ‘Antony’. The plea was moved since a scene in the movie depicts a gun hidden inside a Bible, which allegedly hurt religious sentiments of the Christian community.

However, the Court orally remarked that people should not be so intolerant. It pointed that such scenes were depicted as early as in 1960’s and 1970’s in the English movies. “Should we be so intolerant that even for a passing reference to a book you should take up objection?” said the bench.

The Court enquired as to how the book can be said to be the Bible since it was only a fleeting shot. It remarked that the movie was censored by experts before it was released on various platforms.

Breaking | Bombay High Court Defers Verdict On Validity Of IT Rules Amendment; Govt To Not Notify ‘Fact Check Unit’ Till Then

The Bombay High Court has deferred its verdict on challenge to Rules 3(i)(II)(A) & (C) of the IT Amendment Rules, 2023 that mandate social media intermediaries like ‘X’ to make “reasonable efforts” to prevent users publishing information on the government’s business- identified by Fact Check Unit as fake, false or misleading.

The petitioners claimed the two Rules are ultra vires Sections 79 and 87(2)(z) & (zg) of the IT Act 2000 and violate fundamental rights under Article 14, 19(1)(a) & 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.

The Petitioners claimed that people who rely on social media platforms to share their content and the Rules could lead to their content being arbitrarily blocked, taken down, or his social media accounts being suspended or deactivated.

The bench had earlier observed that the new amendment to IT Rules 2023 prima facie lacks the necessary safeguards to protect satire.

However, the Ministry of Information and Technology has claimed that it would be in public interest for “authentic information” to be ascertained and disseminated after fact checking by a government agency (FCU) “so that the potential harm to the public at large can be contained”.

The judgement is to be likely pronounced on 31, January, 2024.

Delhi High Court restrains rapper Bohemia from working with any music label except Saga Music

The Delhi High Court on 16th January, 2024 restrained Pakistani-American rapper and singer Bohemia from engaging with third parties for making any sound recordings or musical works, without prior written approval of a Delhi based music company, Saga Music Private Limited.

Justice Anish Dayal also restrained Bohemia and his agents from posting any defamatory posts or content on social media platforms against the music company which claims that the singer violated terms and conditions of a performance agreement entered between them in 2019.

The court passed the ex parte ad interim injunction order in favour of the music company in its suit alleging that it has rights on the literary and musical works and sound recordings created by Bohemia exclusively or in collaboration with third parties for 45 months, as per the agreement.

The music company sought to restrain Bohemia and other third party music producers from infringing its copyright that accrue in its favour by virtue of the agreement with the singer.

It was the music company’s case that Bohemia and other music producers violated the terms and conditions of the agreement entered between it and the singer as the songs were produced with third parties which was not permitted.

The suit stated that the terms of the agreement stated that Bohemia will engage exclusively with Saga Music for 45 months and will not, during the that time, perform for other music producers throughout the world. It was also stated that if the singer wished to engage with third parties, it would first contact Saga Music and the revenue would be equally distributed between them.

Saga Music submitted that Bohemia failed to abide by the terms and conditions of the agreement and also failed to make any performance for the music company, despite advance payment.

It was also submitted that there were various incidents of breach of agreement including not updating Saga Music about the musical shows and uploading of audio songs on YouTube channels. It was also submitted that Saga Music lost the ability to monezite the performances of Bohemia who breached the terms of the agreement repeatedly by making songs for other producers. It was also submitted that the music company was subjected to disparagement and adverse comments which caused it irreparable harm in the music industry.

Justice Dayal said that a prima facie case was made out in favour of Saga Music for grant of ex parte ad interim relief and balance of convenience was also in its favour.

The court issued notice on the application seeking interim injunction in the suit and listed the matter for further hearing on February 23.

Read order here.

Delhi High Court restrains Gujarat-based company ‘AAJ TAK WATCH NEWS’ from using ‘Aaj Tak’ trademark

The Delhi High Court restrained a Gujarat based news platform that was running under the name ‘AAJ TAK WATCH NEWS’ from using the ‘Aaj Tak’ trademark or any other deceptively similar mark after the popular Hindi news channel Aaj Tak filed a suit for trademark infringement [Living Media India Private Limited & Anr v Jay Jayeshbhai Tank & Ors].

Justice Anish Dayal also restrained the defendants (the Gujarat-based platform) from using ‘Aaj Tak’ as part of their domain names or e-mail addresses and ordered them to delete any social media handles that contain the allegedly infringing marks .Living Media India Limited (owners of Aaj Tak) had approached the Court stating that its trademark Aaj Tak is being used by a Gujarat based company owned by Jay Jayeshbhai Tank who is broadcasting on a YouTube channel and publishing a newspaper in the name of “AAJTAK WATCH”.

The Court was told that the channel is hosting several news programmes and that an email ID “aajtakwatch07@gmail.com” was discovered on their YouTube page, which mentioned an associated website, www.aajtakwatchnews.com. Meanwhile, the counsel appearing for the defendant stated that they have been publishing the newspaper AAJ TAK WATCH since 2015 from Surat and are registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) as well. The counsel added that they have been broadcasting news on digital media since 2022.

After considering the case, the Court held that a prima facie case was made out in favour of Aaj Tak and, therefore, passed the interim order.

The Court made it clear that if the defendant fails to comply with the order in two weeks, the domain name registrar shall suspend/block the websites owned by the defendant and the social media platforms shall deactivate the allegedly infringing accounts/channels.

The interim order will remain in force till the Court hears the case next on May 16.

Madras High Court dismisses appeal filed by tech companies against new Google billing policy

The Madras High Court on 19th January, 2024 dismissed the appeals preferred by 13 Indian companies challenging Google’s new billing policy. The bench of Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice PD Audikesavalu, however, allowed an earlier interim protection against delisting to continue for 3 weeks, following which the protection would exhaust.

In August last year, a single judge had dismissed 14 petitions by Indian startups challenging the new user choice billing system by Google. The single judge had observed that the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Competition Commission of India and that the remedy available under the Competition Act is much more comprehensive than that available before a civil court. The court added that the pleas are barred by Section 61 of the Competition Act which expressly forbids civil courts from hearing any lawsuit or action that the Commission is authorized to decide.

During the hearing of the appeal, the companies argued that the only remedy available before the Competition Commission was for a peer review and if dissatisfied, to approach the RBI. He had further submitted that the provision only provided for a fine of five lakh rupees which was a small amount for Google.

The Appellants had also argued that the Civil Courts jurisdiction was ousted only when an efficacious remedy was available but in the present case, the CCI could not provide an effective remedy and thus, the Civil courts jurisdiction was not ousted. The Appellants had also submitted that the companies were put to great difficulty since their refusal to comply with the new billing policy would result in them getting delisted and thus making them effectively dead in the e-market.

The startups argued that in 2020, Google made the use of the Google Play Billing System “GPBS” mandatory and exclusive for processing payments for downloading paid apps and In-App Purchases.

It was further submitted that the CCI by its order dated October 25, 2022, had directed Google not to restrict the app developers from using any third-party billing/payment processing services. It was submitted that after the CCI order, Google in an attempt to circumvent the order, permitted the app developers to use “Alternative Billing System/User Choice Billing” alongside and in addition to the GPBS.

The companies added that Google has been trying to take advantage of its monopoly in the Android platform and compelling app developers to agree to their payment policy by charging service fees at the rate of 11% and 26% in respect of payments made through the Alternate Billing System.

A detailed order copy is awaited.

Bombay High Court passes John Doe order to take down unauthorised websites providing PAN card services

The Bombay High Court has passed a John Doe order restraining anonymous unauthorized websites providing PAN-related services.

A single bench of the high court, was hearing a plea moved by UTI Infrastructure Technology and Services Limited (UTIITSL), which sought the takedown of 13 different websites that were using its mark.

UTIITSL sought a restraining order against the 13 websites for infringing its copyright and trademark. UTIITSL contended that it was the exclusive authorized entity to issue and provide PAN-related services, including the issuance of Aadhar, Voter ID, etc.

It submitted that the Income Tax Department had authorized them to provide the services in 2003, which were valid until March 2024. Therefore, UTIITSL argued that the 13 websites were causing monetary as well as reputation loss by falsely representing that they were authorized to provide PAN-related services.

The high court agreed with the contentions of UTIITSL and ordered the takedown of the unauthorized websites providing PAN-related services. The bench also directed the police official to assist UTIITSL with the takedown of the unauthorized websites. The high court, in its order, recorded that if the websites were not ordered to be taken down, it would cause irreparable loss to UTIITSL and also pose a threat at the national level.

Read order here.