A representation has been made by the Indian digital liberties organization Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) to Google India’s public policy head, declaring that recent content takedowns and blocking of YouTube channels belonging to independent news outlets, citizen journalists, and satirists resulted from misuse of copyright laws.
IFF has further outlined that some of the copyright strikes — most notably, the freeze on Newslaundry’s channel since September 29 — were based on complaints from large media houses and intended to “weaponize” 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 recognized and protected by the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. Transformative work, where the original is given “new expression, meaning, or message,” further commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, and teaching are considered fair use under the aforementioned laws and YouTube’s policies.
IFF stated that misusing copyright laws infringe the fundamental right to free speech and expression, considering that YouTube is the primary platform used by individual reporters and independent channels to carry on their profession under the constitution of India. These measures allegedly infringe upon their audience’s right to access information as well. Moreover, IFF mentioned that 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 demands YouTube to work out a thorough due diligence mechanism to deal with takedown requests.