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TV Today’s feud with Newslaundry comes to a head with lawsuit for copyright infringement

The copyright dispute between TV Today and Newslaundry which hinges on fair usage has made its way to court.

Damages worth two crore rupees have been sought by the TV Today Network in its lawsuit against Newslaundry alleging defamation and copyright infringement, according to a copy of the suit reviewed by MediaNama. 

The network, which runs India Today and Aaj Tak among many channels, has demanded that the Delhi High Court must direct Newslaundry to remove 34 articles published on its website and 65 videos from its YouTube channel. The network also wants Newslaundry to get rid of social media content related to these articles and videos posted on Newslaundry’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, it added.

The defendants in the suit are Newslaundry, co-founder and CEO Abhinandan Sekhri, Director Prashant Sareen and Roopak Kapoor, Executive Editor Manisha Pande, Correspondent Ayush Tiwari, Columnist Hridayesh Tiwari, executive editors Atul Chaurasia, and Raman Kirpal, Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

The lawsuit reignites the debate on the fair use clause in the Copyright Act, 1957, and how the Act is used to throttle critiques by legacy media houses. It raises pertinent questions about protections offered for dissent under Indian law.

Contentions of the suit 

On copyright infringement 

The lawsuit levelled allegations of infringement on TV Today Network’s copyrights in these videos.

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TV Today Network wrote that the “use of such material by the defendants is an infringement of the copyright of the plaintiff in its news broadcasts” under the Copyright Act, 1957 accusing the Newslaundry of using various portions of original works and telecasts from its news channels.

Newslaundry’s use of video and sound recordings is not protected by Section 52 of the Copyright Act, which provides an exception to copyright infringement for ‘fair dealing’, according to the suit.

TV Today’s suit says that clips used are “over and beyond the parts which could be considered absolutely necessary for the purpose of criticism or review.”

On defamation

The lawsuit alleged that Newslaundry’s videos on its website and the social media platforms “made untrue, unfair, disparaging as well as maliciously defamatory remarks” about the news, reporting and news anchors of the news channels operated by it as well as management of the media group. 

The allegations and vitriolic remarks made by the Defendants are untrue and unfair commercial statements only with the intent to increase Defendant No. 1’s (Newslaundry) market share in the digital news industry — TV Today lawsuit

Newslaundry attempts to “create an impression” that the TV Today Network is not an independent broadcaster, and is involved in “broadcasting and publishing fake news and spreading communal disharmony in the public.”

Newslaundry’s response

MediaNama reached out to Abhinandan Sekhri who said that this was a “frivolous lawsuit from media barons who can’t handle criticism”. 

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Reporting, critique and analysis of news media is an important part of what Newslaundry does since we started. In the current environment it is needed even more — Abhinandan Sekhri, co-founder

When asked why Newslaundry is often a target of legacy media organisations, he said that “news barons are too used to being atop the pyramid where they report, critique, and comment on everyone from politicians to judiciary, industrialists and film stars but themselves are not used to facing similar scrutiny”. Times Group had filed a Rs 100-crore defamation case against Newslaundry for videos on TV anchors earlier this year. The verdict is yet to be delivered.

Do we need to revisit the Fair Use Clause in the Copyright Act, 1957? 

Sekhri said that there is enough in law and past judgements to protect fair use. “I am sure an unequivocal black and white interpretation would discourage such bullying,” he clarified.

In TV Today vs Newslaundry, how is YouTube involved?

It all started when YouTube decided to block Newslaundry’s YouTube channel after TV news channel Aaj Tak reported it to YouTube for copyright infringement. Aaj Tak filed 55 copyright complaints against the channel within 2 weeks in September. As a result, Newslaundry’s YouTube channel was locked on September 29, leaving the digital media body unable to upload new videos on the platform.

YouTube allows the complainant to decide what action to take regarding copyright violations. In some cases, Aaj Tak decided that the video must be taken down. In others, the TV channel decided to monetise Newslaundry’s videos and earn from the ads, Newslaundry revealed in a video report on the event.

Newslaundry has sent a legal response to YouTube regarding the issue and is still awaiting a resolution. As of publishing this report, Newslaundry’s YouTube account is now live. 

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Written By

I cover several beats such as crypto, telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I will be loitering at my local theatre and consuming movies by the dozen when I am off work.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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