Bombay High Court delivers a split verdict on several petitions challenging the amended IT Rules

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday delivered a split verdict on the validity of the Information Technology (IT) Rules related to the setting up of Fact Check Units (FCU) by the government.

Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale pronounced the verdict on the four petitions filed by satirist Mr. Kamra, the Editors Guild of India, the Association of Indian Magazines and News Broadcast and Digital Association.

Justice Neela Gokhale, in her judgement, defended the rules, stating that they do not infringe upon fundamental rights and are not excessively arbitrary. Justice Gokhale said the rules promote discussion and dissemination of information on facts bereft of fakeness. She held in her judgment as follows, “No content is restrained by the impugned Rule, unless the content is patently false, untrue and is communicated with actual malice that is with knowledge of its falsehood and with reckless disregard for the truth and is deceptively passed off as a statement of truth.”

However, Justice Gautam Patel accepted the petitioners’ arguments, who included stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra and various media organisations. They argued that the amended IT rules are arbitrary and unconstitutional and lead to unnecessary censorship and a damaging effect on free speech.

According to the new IT rules, 2023, the government can ask social media platforms such as Facebook, X, Instagram, Youtube to remove any content related to the ‘business of the Central government’ that was identified as ‘fake, false, or misleading’ with the help of FCU. An organisation appointed by the government will be the arbiter of such information, and if intermediaries do not abide with the organisation’s decision, they will lose their ‘safe harbour status’ under Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000.

Delhi HC refuses to direct Centre to restrain Facebook from ‘promoting’ hate speech against Rohingyas

Members of the Rohingya community in India have claimed that Indian social media users on Facebook have called them “terrorists,” “jihadists,” and “illegal immigrants,” among other derogatory terms, and have called for their expulsion from the nation. Two Rohingya refugees in India have filed a public interest litigation case with the Delhi High Court seeking its intervention in curbing anti-Rohingya hate content on Facebook.

Last week, the petition went public, requesting that Facebook be monitored by Indian regulators and that “hate speech and harmful content that originates in India and is directed toward the Rohingya community be removed from its platform.”

The petitioners cited repeated evidence from publicly available external reports and Facebook internal records to indicate that hate speech, fake news, disinformation, and politically contentious content on the network are directed against the community.

However, the Delhi High Court refused to pass an order directing the Union Government to restrain Facebook India from promoting hateful and harmful content against the Rohingya community on the social media platform. The Court held that the reliefs sought against Facebook are not maintainable as there is no allegation in the writ that Facebook has failed to follow its statutory obligations under the IT Rules 2021.

CEO Ramesh Menon announces that HT Media Group’s Fever FM will shut down

Fever FM announced on Tuesday that it is shutting down operations owing to the evolving trends in the media industry. The Fever network was established in New Delhi in 2006 and claimed to have a audience of over 31 million users. In a social media post, Ramesh Menon said, “We have made this difficult decision to shut down our station. This decision comes after careful consideration and is due to the evolving trends in the media industry. The management would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to RJs, advertisers, partners, employees and the listeners who built and supported this station in its journey. Your loyalty and contribution have played a significant role in sustaining the station for as long as it operated.”

AR Rahman took permission to recreate the voices of late singers Bamba Bakya and Shahul Hameed for his new song in the film Lal Salaam

AR Rahman’s latest song titled Thimiri Yezhuda from the film ‘Lal Salaam’ starring Rajnikanth was processed with the use of artificial intelligence. It has renditions of late singers like Bamba Bakya and Shahul Hameed. Not all reactions were positive, as many X users also called the gesture disrespectful while also diminishing opportunities for upcoming talents. Singer Bamba Bakya has collaborated with Rahman on many songs. The singer died in 2022 due to a cardiac arrest. Meanwhile, Shahul Hameed died in a car crash in 1997, near Chennai.

Kerala High Court questions whether the Central Government has powers to change the name of a film if found to create law and order issues

The Kerala High Court in Biju VR vs CBFC and others has asked the Central government whether the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has powers to change the name of a film if it is held to be stigmatic or likely to create law and order issues. The bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran was hearing a petition surrounding a Malayalam film, ‘Thankamani’ which is apparently based on a real-life incident that occurred in Thankamany village in Idukki district, in October 1986.

The plea filed by a resident of the village through Advocate Jomy K Jose asserts that the film incorrectly portrays the incident and contains fictitious rape scenes and thus, naming of the film after the village is bad in taste.

Netflix states Generative AI is a threat in its annual report

The streaming company giant, Netflix has expressed concerns over generative AI and warns that the use of generative AI by competitors may give them an advantage in intellectual property claims. The copyright protection for AI-generated content is uncertain with no legal measures. It was observed that Generative AI has already been used in the production of the film ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’.

A recent article which was published in the Wall Street Journal noted that the widely available AI tools could suggest and create storylines, dialogues and character arcs. ChatGPT can write a basic script when given a few prompts.

In a case of trademark infringement, Delhi High Court imposes a fine of Rs 50,000 on Raashee Fragrances India

On February 1, the Delhi High Court passed a restraining order pertaining to the use of trademark or any other mark which passed off similarities to the trademark ‘Rajshree’.

Kamal Kant and Company LLP, who are the plaintiff, sought an injunction against the defendant Raashee Fragrances India.

Kamal Kant and Company LLP claimed that they earned royalties by licensing their multiple brands which included Rajshree, Rajshree Supreme and Kamla Pasand. On the other hand, the defendants argued that they sold their products in the Hindi belt of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.

In conclusion, The High Court imposed Rs 50,000 on the defendant.

Mumbai police arrests student over ‘communal’ social media post

The Mumbai police arrested a student of International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) for allegedly uploading a communal social media status message. The police received a complaint from a student of IIPS on January 22 who said that one of the students at the institute shared a status message on WhatsApp insulting their religion. He said that another student at the institute had forwarded the message to him. After going through the message, he decided to approach the police. Based on his statement that the status message had hurt his religious feelings, the local police registered an FIR under sections 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) and 295(A) (deliberate and malicious acts, that are intended to outrage religious feelings of any) of the Indian Penal Code.

Disney reaches deal to sell 60% of its Indian media business at lower valuation to Viacom18 studios

Disney has reportedly reached a preliminary agreement to sell 60% of its Indian media business to Viacom18, a deal will value the overseas operation at $3.9 Bn, less than what it was worth when Disney bought it in 2019. The deal between Viacom18 and Disney is emerging after Reliance and Walt Disney signed a non-binding term sheet to merge their Indian media operations in December last year. The deal included Reliance agreeing to buy Walt Disney Co.’s India operations in a cash and stock deal. If the Reliance-Disney deal materialises, it would create a media giant with approximately INR 25,000 Cr in combined revenues.

New legislation to regulate online content in Sri Lanka has renewed concern over freedom of expression

The Sri Lankan Parliament approved the Online Safety Act in late January, with 108 lawmakers voting in favor versus 62 against. Under the law, false statements that pose a threat to national security, public health and order or hurt religious sentiments or promote hostility between different classes can be subject to prison terms.