Delhi High Court Seeks Centre’s Response on Amol Palekar’s PIL Against OTT Regulations

The Delhi High Court has requested the Centre’s stance on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by veteran cinema and theatre personality Amol Palekar challenging the constitutional validity of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which, inter alia, regulate over OTT platforms. Palekar argues that the rules contradict the Information Technology (IT) Act and infringe upon artistic freedom by granting excessive censorship powers to the government. Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora issued notice to the Centre and scheduled the hearing for August, alongside other petitions contesting the IT Rules.

Case: Amol Palekar Vs. Union Of India, W.P.(C) 7528/2024

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Delhi High Court Directs Meta and Backgrid to Respond to TV Today’s Plea Over Harper’s Bazaar India Instagram Suspension

The Delhi High Court has instructed Meta and Backgrid to respond to TV Today’s plea seeking the reinstatement of Harper’s Bazaar India’s Instagram page, which was suspended after three posts were flagged for copyright infringement. Harper’s Bazaar argued that the account, featuring nearly 7,000 posts, was unfairly suspended despite only three posts being flagged for copyright infringement. It was also explained that negotiations were initiated with Backgrid to retract their copyright strikes. However, these efforts were not successful as Backgrid demanded exorbitant fees for the disputed photographs.

Justice Anish Dayal emphasized the need for procedural integrity, stating that the court could not issue ad hoc directives, and due process has to be followed. Meta defended the suspension, citing compliance with IT Rules and Meta’s policies. The dispute centers on Backgrid’s issuance of three copyright strikes for unauthorized use of fifteen Halloween photographs, which led to the account suspension. The court had directed TV Today to seek redress from the Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC), which GAC reviewed and upheld Meta’s decision.

Case Title: TV Today Network Limited & Anr v Backgrid USA Inc & Ors., CS(COMM) 427/2024

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Stakeholders Urge TRAI to exclude OTT, online gaming and music from the National Broadcasting Policy

Media and entertainment industry stakeholders, including the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), have called on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to restrict its recommendations on the National Broadcasting Policy (NBP) to the broadcasting sector alone and exclude OTT platforms, online gaming, film, and music.

This appeal follows TRAI’s recent consultation paper seeking feedback on various regulatory and policy measures for these sectors. TRAI chairman Anil Kumar Lahoti announced that the NBP recommendations would be released by the end of May, emphasizing the regulator’s role in ensuring equal opportunities for all players without any discrimination. However, industry executives argue that TRAI’s inclusion of non-broadcasting matters, which were not part of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s (MIB) initial reference, oversteps its jurisdiction. The MIB had specifically requested recommendations on broadcasting-related issues, including the definition of broadcasting in the OTT age, infrastructure sharing, audience measurement, public broadcasting framework, and promotion of local content.

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EOW, Mumbai Closes Cheating Case Against Yash Raj Films filed by IPRS

After nearly five years of investigation, the Economic Office Wing of the Mumbai police has closed a cheating case against Yash Raj Films, which alleged the misappropriation of over Rs 100 crore in royalties belonging to lyricists, singers, and musicians involved in their films since 2012. The police classified the case as ‘C’ summary, indicating neither truth nor falsehood. The closure report submitted to the court by EOW’s general cheating cell stated that no evidence of misappropriation was found. The case, filed by the Indian Performing Rights Society in 2019, accused Yash Raj Films of pocketing 100 crores and prevented IPRS from royalty collection from telecom companies, radio stations, and music streaming platforms through alleged pressure on artists to sign illegal agreements.

The report further stated that the issue had arisen due to a lack of clarity in the provisions of the copyright agreement regarding the calculation of song royalty amounts. This lack of clarity or commonality in the law or the provisions of copyright in India had led to legal cases pending in the courts. As a result, it did not appear that any cognisable crime like embezzlement had been committed in the said case.

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Telcos Urge Regulatory Parity with Messaging Platforms to Combat Unsolicited Commercial Communications

Telecom service providers have called on the government and regulators to ensure that messaging platforms are subject to the same regulatory requirements as telcos in efforts to curb unsolicited commercial communications (UCC). The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), representing Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea, emphasized the need for a level playing field, highlighting their collaboration with the government and TRAI to tackle the UCC issue. Although COAI did not specify which messaging platforms it referred to. The Centre is expected to release guidelines aimed at reducing unsolicited business communications. The draft guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Unsolicited and Unwarranted Business Communication, 2024, had been ready and discussed on May 10.

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ASCI Reports Significant Violations in Digital Advertising in FY24, finding that 81 percent involved misleading claims.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) reported 3,200 campaigns violating advertising laws in FY24, with many ads banned under various regulations prominently featured on digital media. In its annual report, ASCI identified 1,131 betting ads from 282 advertisers as likely violators, emphasizing that betting ads are largely impermissible in India. These ads, often featuring prominent Indian celebrities, were reported to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). ASCI highlighted the concern over offshore betting entities registered outside India but accessible to the Indian audience, using platforms like Instagram to promote their services through tags and stickers. ASCI investigated 8,299 out of 10,093 complaints, finding that 81 percent involved misleading claims, while 34 percent promoted harmful products or situations. Digital ads, constituting 85 percent of those processed, had a compliance rate of 75 percent.

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Ilayaraja sends Legal Notice to “Manjummel Boys” Producers Over Unauthorized Song Use

Renowned music director Ilayaraja issued a legal notice to the producers of the Malayalam movie “Manjummel Boys” for unauthorized use of his song “Kanmani Anbodu Kaadhalan“, originally composed for the 1991 Kamal Haasan-starrer “Guna“. The notice targeted Soubin Shahir, a key actor in the film, along with producers Babu Shahir and Shawn Antony of Parava Films. Asserting his legal, moral, and special rights over the song, Ilayaraja indicated his intention to pursue further legal action for its unauthorized use.

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Scarlett Johansson Accuses OpenAI of Mimicking Her Voice Without Consent in its ChatGPT system

Scarlett Johansson accused OpenAI of creating a voice for its ChatGPT system that sounded “eerily similar” to hers, despite declining an offer to voice the chatbot. Johansson’s statement came after OpenAI announced it would remove the voice, named ‘Sky’. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman clarified that Sky’s voice was performed by a different actress and was not meant to resemble Johansson. He apologized for the lack of communication and paused using Sky’s voice out of respect for Johansson.

This incident underscores growing concerns in Hollywood about the use of AI to replicate actors’ voices and images. Johansson disclosed that Altman had approached her in September with an offer, which she declined. She noted the similarity of Sky’s voice to hers caused confusion among her friends and the public. Johansson accused Altman of insinuating the intentional likeness by referencing the 2013 film “Her,” where she voices an AI assistant. The fight over rights to the actors’ voices and images became a focus in Hollywood as studios consider how to use AI to create new entertainment and as the computer-produced images and sounds become difficult to distinguish from those of humans.

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DOJ and 30 States File Antitrust Lawsuit Against Live Nation and Ticketmaster

The U.S. Department of Justice, alongside 30 states, filed a significant antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation on Thursday, calling for the breakup of the concert giant and its subsidiary Ticketmaster. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the suit, which was filed in Manhattan federal court, alleging that Live Nation’s market dominance has stifled competition through exclusive ticketing contracts that bind venues to Ticketmaster.

The lawsuit accuses Live Nation of using its market power to thwart competition, with Garland citing evidence from emails between Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, Oak View Group’s Tim Leiweke, and Silver Lake Capital. Garland highlighted instances in 2021 where Live Nation allegedly threatened Silver Lake to divest from TEG, a competitor, ultimately forcing a sale. The DOJ’s action seeks to undo the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which critics argue gave the company excessive control over the live music industry. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco emphasized that this lawsuit aims to make live music more accessible for fans and artists by dismantling the alleged anticompetitive practices.

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Beyoncé Sued for Copyright Infringement Over “Break My Soul” Sample

A New Orleans group, Da Showstoppaz, has filed a lawsuit against Beyoncé, alleging copyright infringement for her use of a sample from Big Freedia in her hit song “Break My Soul.” The lawsuit, filed in Louisiana federal court, claims that Big Freedia’s 2014 track “Explode” illegally used lyrics, melody, and musical arrangement from Da Showstoppaz’s 2002 song “Release a Wiggle.” The lawsuit names Beyoncé, Big Freedia, Jay-Z and Sony Music as defendants.

It was argued that Explode used “unique and distinctive lyrics and musical composition” originally created by Da Showstoppaz, adding: “Defendants used plaintiffs’ words, melody, and musical arrangement from their copyrighted works … Any reasonable person listening to Release a Wiggle and Explode would conclude that the songs are substantially similar”.

Da Showstoppaz are calling for the group to be added to the credits of both “Explode” and “Break My Soul”, and to receive royalties from the songs’ future earnings, plus damages.

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