Delhi HC directs WhatsApp to block circulation of DB Group’s e-paper by users

The court issued the order on a plea filed by the publication claiming violation of Copyright Act, 1957 and Trade Marks Act, 1999

e4m by Shantanu David
Published: Dec 28, 2021 1:16 PM  | 3 min read
Bhaskar

While WhatsApp forwards may have become one of the best examples of today's zeitgeist in terms of access, information and validity, newspapers in India have been suffering from the unauthorised circulation of their content on the platform.

Taking a stand against it, DB Corp Ltd has approached the Delhi High Court seeking directions to WhatsApp to block/takedown certain groups operating on its instant messaging platform wherein the group’s e-papers were being shared and circulated illegally and without authorisation.

According to the Copyright Act, 1957 and Trade Marks Act, 1999, individuals cannot circulate e-papers, or indeed any page facsimile of a privately owned publication. As per the law, “The unlawful and unauthorized circulation/distribution of newspaper and the contents thereof constitutes infringement of Copyright under Section 51(b)(ii) of the Copyright Act, 1957 and the same is liable to be injuncted under Section 55 of the Copyright Act.”

And yes, that means even if you have bought a subscription to a particular publication, you still don't have the right to share it with all and sundry.

As per a statement issued by DB Corp, "DB Corp Ltd (Dainik Bhaskar) approached the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi seeking directions to WhatsApp LLC to block/ takedown certain groups operating on its instant messaging platform wherein the group’s e-newspapers were being shared and circulated illegally and without authorisation. The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi on 24th Dec. 2021, while noting that DB Corp Ltd (Dainik Bhaskar) had made out a prima facie case in its favour, passed an ad-interim ex- parte order directing WhatsApp LLC to block/ takedown the offending groups identified in its suit.”

“Other than WhatsApp LLC, the DoT, GoI and unknown administrators of the offending groups (identified by their mobile numbers) are also parties to the suit and notice has been issued to all defendants. DB Corp Ltd (Dainik Bhaskar) had earlier approached WhatsApp LLC through a Legal Notice with a request to block/ takedown the offending groups as they were infringing the copyright and registered trademark(s) of the Dainik Bhaskar Group. WhatsApp LLC, however, in its response had declined the request seeking production of a court order,” the statement read.

“D B Corp Ltd (Dainik Bhaskar) provides access to its e-newspapers on a subscription model through its official website and mobile application. Users are neither permitted to download the e-Newspapers, nor are they permitted to share and circulate the same. Illegal and unauthorised sharing of e-newspapers, across publications, has become rampant and is prejudicial to the interests of the publishers. Being aggrieved by such illegal and unauthorised sharing and circulation of its e-newspapers, DB Corp Ltd (Dainik Bhaskar) considered it necessary to initiate legal action to protect its proprietary interests and, as aforesaid, has been granted an ad-interim ex-parte injunction in its favour."

While DB Corp is the first to explicitly state their concern, which has since been addressed, other publications are taking cognizance of the ruling and are similarly applying for blocking forwards of their product, with BCCL having already filed a similar injunction.



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