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Can't Media Houses Comment On Each Other's Work & Keep Free Speech In Check? Newslaundry To Delhi High Court In TV Today's Suit

Suhavi Arya
21 Jan 2022 5:17 AM GMT
Cant Media Houses Comment On Each Others Work & Keep Free Speech In Check? Newslaundry To Delhi High Court In TV Todays Suit
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The Delhi High Court on Thursday continued hearing the suit filed by TV Today against news portal Newslaundry, it's CEO Abhinandan Sekhri and others, seeking damages of Rs. 2 crores for copyright infringement and defamation of its anchors, management and employees. Senior Advocate Saurabh Kripal appearing for Newslaundary reiterated the issue of maintainability and argued that...

The Delhi High Court on Thursday continued hearing the suit filed by TV Today against news portal Newslaundry, it's CEO Abhinandan Sekhri and others, seeking damages of Rs. 2 crores for copyright infringement and defamation of its anchors, management and employees.

Senior Advocate Saurabh Kripal appearing for Newslaundary reiterated the issue of maintainability and argued that while copyright infringement is a commercial dispute, defamation is not and if there are non-commercial causes of action then the suit cannot be called a commercial suit. He stated that if the present suit is declared a commercial suit, it will open floodgates.

Further, it was argued that this case is a "freedom of speech" case in masquerading as a commercial suit.

Kripal submitted that Newslaundry was merely commenting on some of the work done by Aaj Tak and not copying them. He asked the court if media houses should get free-pass under the garb of freedom of speech, and shouldn't other media houses be allowed to comment on each other's work, if only to keep them in check?

Previously, Newslaundry had argued that it does commentary and voiceover to show the bias of mainstream media. "India Today's shoulders are broad to enough to hold this. We can each hold each other accountable," it had argued.

Senior Advocate Hrishikesh Baruah on the other hand, representing TV Today which owns news channels India Today and Aaj Tak, argued that copyright protected work of another cannot be used "out of context". He emphasized that copying of another's work, to make one's own program more interesting, attractive or enjoyable, is not permitted.

Reliance was placed on Justice Hari Shankar's judgement in Lakshmi Murdeshwar Puri v. Saket Gokhale, where the 'right to reputation' was upheld and RTI activist Saket Gokhale was directed take down his defamatory tweets pertaining to former Indian Assistant Secretary-General to the United Nations, Lakshmi Puri.

"Reputations, nourished and nurtured over years of selfless service and toil, may crumble in an instant; one thoughtless barb is sufficient," the Judge had remarked therein.

The matter was being heard by Justice Asha Menon
During the course of hearing, the Judge commented that "copying is a form of flattery". Expressing agreement with the proposition, Kripal submitted that if imitation is a form of flattery then aren't the two accusations of 'copyright infringement' and 'defamation' contradictory.
Hearing will continue on Kripal's arguments on 9 February 2022.

TV Today has alleged that Newslaundry uploaded various videos infringing its copyright. Further, it is alleged that the online news portal made defamatory remarks about the Network's anchors and management.

Also Read: Newslaundry Agrees Before Delhi High Court To Take Down Video Making Comments On TV Today's Suit Against It

Case Title: TV Today Network Ltd. v. Newslaundry Media Pvt. Ltd.& Ors., CS (Comm) 551/2021

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