Videos deleted, YouTube channels defunct: What happens when Indian TV is accused of copyright violations

A digital rights management firm has filed a lawsuit in California naming several news channels.

WrittenBy:Pratyush Deep
Date:
Article image
  • Share this article on whatsapp
play_circle

-NaN:NaN:NaN

For a better listening experience, download the Newslaundry app

App Store
Play Store
subscription-appeal-image

Support Independent Media

The media must be free and fair, uninfluenced by corporate or state interests. That's why you, the public, need to pay to keep news free.

Contribute

Several Indian news channels have allegedly deleted thousands of videos over the last few days to avoid penalties after copyright violation strikes – a legal process to remove copyrighted content – on YouTube. Most of these videos contained footage of natural disasters from across the globe.

These strikes were initiated earlier this month after US-based firm Viral DRM, a digital rights management company partly owned by weather photographer Brandon Clement, submitted  takedown notices under Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The firm last week also filed a lawsuit in a federal court in California after receiving what it calls an unsatisfactory response from several channels. 

The lawsuit seeks “actual damages and defendants’ profits attributable to the infringement, or, at plaintiff’s election, statutory damages,” as provided in the US copyright law.

Clement alleged that News Nation has made the lion’s share of these video deletions, standing at over 51,000, to avoid penalty. The channel was unable to upload any content on its YouTube channel for two weeks until its account’s operations were re-enabled on December 29.

News Nation, meanwhile, has approached the Delhi High Court seeking an injunction against any proceedings in the US, claiming that the copyright strikes were unfair since it had used the visuals under a fair use exception granted under the copyright law – which pertains to the use of copyrighted content to report on current affairs. 

Two other news channels, TV9 Bharatvarsh and Zee News, whose YouTube channels were also restricted from uploading content over alleged copyright violations, began to upload videos after a gap of eight days and six days, respectively. TV9 Bharatvarsh and Zee News allegedly violated copyright in at least eight and six instances, Clement’s lawsuit claimed.

The YouTube channel of Quint Hindi, which had four alleged instances of copyright infringement, remains suspended. 

Viral DRM also allegedly initiated copyright strikes against India TV, Times Now Navabharat and News 18 India. The complaint also named TV9 Telugu, Kalinga TV, and Manorama News, among others.

Newslaundry reached out to all the channels mentioned in Clement’s complaint but received a response from only a few. This report will be updated if others respond.

Viral DRM’s lawsuit claimed that Zee News deleted around 16,000 videos and India TV around 4,000.

Newslaundry reached out to Zee News for comment.

India TV, meanwhile, said it “takes the protection of  intellectual property rights seriously. Any frivolous claims against India TV, from any quarter, will be contested stoutly.”

News Nation refused to comment on the issue. However, a source in the channel maintained the issue is not copyright violation but “fair use of content”.

TV9 Bharatvarsh’s digital editor Panani Anand denied any copyright infringement and said the channel got three strikes because of which they were not able to upload content for a while. “Now our channel is restored and we have not violated any copyright and videos were taken from US-based agency APTI,” he said.

‘Misleading counter-notices’

Viral DRM alleged that the channels downloaded  its  copyrighted videos from YouTube and copied and edited them to remove its copyright management information, and then uploaded new versions.

“Defendants copied plaintiff’s works in order to advertise, market and promote their YouTube channels, grow their YouTube channel subscriber base, earn money from advertising to their YouTube subscribers, and engage in other money-making business activities using plaintiff’s copyrighted media content,” its legal suit claimed.

A lawyer with expertise in intellectual property cases opined that news organisations are free to claim the fair use clause, but it is necessary to give credit or attribute the content to the original creator. “Otherwise you're portraying someone else’s content as your own,” the lawyer said.  

The suit alleged the channels responded to the complainant’s DMCA notices with false and misleading counternotices. “Defendants knowingly and materially misrepresented that its copies of plaintiff’s works were removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification,” it read.

YouTube and Google’s AdSense terms of service prohibit channels from uploading content that includes third-party intellectual property such as copyrighted material unless with permission from that party or if they are otherwise legally entitled to do so. YouTube may remove or disable access to any content that it believes infringes on someone else's copyright.  

‘Misinformation’

The lawsuit also alleged the channels started to mass delete their content after  it notified YouTube and the channels of the violations via DMCA takedown notices.

Established in 1998 by the US Congress, DMCA  intends to prevent widespread piracy of creative works, such as videos, photographs, graphics, and technology, on the internet. Under the act, the owner of content has the right to process a takedown notice against a website owner or an online service provider if the content owner's property is found online without their permission.

However, Clement told Newslaundry that after the DMCA notice, many of these channels started to delete their content to avoid penalty. He claimed the process to act on copyright violations on YouTube is tedious and gives channels an opportunity to remove evidence of infringement. “The whole process takes two to three weeks, allowing the violators to delete their content.”

While News Nation’s petition claimed that it used visuals to report on events in an independent manner, Clement alleged that News Nation used three of the most viral tornado videos belonging to the firm repeatedly to report on unrelated events. “They are claiming all are from a tornado in March that hit Mississippi, USA. Actually, those tornadoes are from 2018 in Colorado, 2022 in Kansas, and 2022 in Texas…This is just a small sample of the evidence and misinformation we have.”

He claimed that News Nation used a video from Hurricane Ian in Florida in 2022 with a misleading title “Australia Climate Change” in 2023. The channel also misrepresented footage from Rolling Fork in Mississippi as one from India, he alleged.

“We have well over 100 examples and we still haven’t logged many of the videos screen recorded prior to News Nation deleting content,” Clement claimed.

Reports like these take time and resources. Help us tell more stories that are in public interest. Subscribe today.

Also see
article imagePlagiarism row: Indian Express withdraws economist Shamika Ravi’s May 25 article
subscription-appeal-image

Power NL-TNM Election Fund

General elections are around the corner, and Newslaundry and The News Minute have ambitious plans together to focus on the issues that really matter to the voter. From political funding to battleground states, media coverage to 10 years of Modi, choose a project you would like to support and power our journalism.

Ground reportage is central to public interest journalism. Only readers like you can make it possible. Will you?

Support now

You may also like