Indian digital liberties organization Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) on Monday made a representation to Google India asserting that recent content takedowns and blocking of YouTube channels belonging to independent news outlets, citizen journalists and satirists result from incorrectly applied copyright rules.
In an open letter to Google India’s public policy head, IFF noted that such copyright strikes—most notably, the freeze on Newslaundry’s channel since September 29—are based on complaints from large media houses and constitute “weaponization” of the law. The letter refers to section 52(1)(a)(iii) of India’s Copyright Act, 1957, which protects “a fair dealing with any work for . . . the reporting of current events” from copyright infringement charges.
Fair use is also protected by the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Transformative work, where the original is given “new expression, meaning, or message,” and critiques of reportage by mainstream media accompanied by properly attributed clips are covered by these laws and YouTube’s policies.
Considering that YouTube is the primary platform used by individual reporters and independent channels, IFF said that such measures infringe the fundamental right to free speech and expression and to carry on their profession under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. These measures also allegedly infringe upon their audience’s right to access information. Further, IFF noted, the measures are in derogation of rule 4(8) of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, under which YouTube is required to provide due notice and hearing to a user before disabling access to their account, and the Santa Clara Principles.
The letter requests YouTube to devise a thorough due diligence mechanism to deal with takedown requests, in light of its unique role in furthering democracy, press freedoms, and human rights.