Digital news portal Newslaundry today agreed before the Delhi High Court to take down its video making commentary on the suit filed by TV Today Network against it alleging defamation and copyright infringement.
Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal, appearing for Newslaundry, submitted that the portal will only do fair reporting of court proceedings, free from any critique or comment.
"I have taken instruction. I will not offer any comment on court proceeding. We will only report like what Bar & Bench or LiveLaw report", Kirpal submitted.
The development came after the counsel appearing for the Plaintiff-company informed the Court that the online portal has been making videos on the suit proceedings.
Justice Asha Menon, who was presiding over the matter, took strong exception to such a practice and asked Newslaundry to not indulge in "parallel proceedings".
"The expression on face of the lady shows how contemptuous she is of the plaint", Justice Menon said about the anchor after watching a video uploaded by Newslaundry commenting about the suit filed against it by TV Today Network.
"Who are you to determine the merits of someone's plaint? You cannot have all this!" the Judge added.
Justice Menon however made it clear that the portal will be free to report court proceedings in a fair and transparent manner, without including its views and comments.
Commenting on the aspect of freedom of speech argued by the defendant, the Bench observed,
"One cannot be allowed to harm another's reputation under garb of freedom of speech. Commenting doesn't really add to information. Mockery or parody is supposed to be creative...You have to understand what kind of touch can be done."
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.
It has sought permanent and mandatory injunction against Newslaundry, its CEO Abhinandan Sekhri and others.
Today, Advocate Mr Hrishikesh Barua, the counsel appearing for TV Today took the bench through two videos, one allegedly defaming the network and another, infringing its copyright.
Allegations of Defamation
The counsel for the Plaintiff highlighted that both Newslaundry and channels owned by TV Today, i.e., India Today and Aaj Tak, are digital news platform, and are hence competitors.
He then cited a division bench judgment of the Delhi High Court to argue that "Defamation of competitor's good is not permissible".
Further, Mr. Barua also pointed out that multiple copyright strike requests were made against YouTube channel of the defendant. The bench was lead through a compilation of documents where there were different reports which mentioned how the defendant company made defamatory remarks.
"These documents was to show that I operate in digital news platform. It's a growing and big industry where they can say anything about themselves. They can say false things, claiming themselves to be the best. But when they start claiming things against me, it is a clear case of commercial disparity", prayed Mr. Barua.
Mr. Barua also showed the bench videos upon which he said "it is clear from this video that their intent is to say that I am at the mercy of advertisers. It is clear violation of this Court's judgment. There cannot be any freedom of speech on this
Allegations of Copyright Infringement
On the issue of copyright infringement, the counsel for TV Today showed a video to the Court where allegedly, only a few seconds were Newslaundry's original work and rest was copied.
"Your lordship will see in this video, there is nothing they have done. Everything is mine… Once I have taken out my material, it is not at all attractive. They just have a lady and a man. Whereas I have spent so much on my copyrighted material to make it appealing," the counsel submitted.
However, Newslaundry claimed that it does commentary and voiceover to show the bias of mainstream media.
"If I am making a commentary on their video, so that will obviously appear. It's fair use… I am an organisation with a philosophy. Today, large amount of media is giving certain biased information. We are critiquing that. Unless I show what bias is and give my comment, how will people understand? This is my defence. I am trying to show your reporters are not doing a fair job of journalism," the counsel submitted for Newslaundry.
"India Today's shoulders are broad to enough to hold this. We can each hold each other accountable. If they cannot take criticism, how can they criticize others? They are criticizing politicians everyday. In public life, one has to have a thick skin".
He also urged the Bench to not rely on the edited videos filed by TV Today and to take a decision only after watching the whole video.
"It's a matter of free speech. I am doing voiceover and commentary. There are Supreme Court judgments in my favour. There cannot be injunction on this," the counsel added.
It is Newslaundary's claim that it has used TV Today's video for criticism/ review, which is permissible under Section 52 of the Copyright Act, 1957. the portal has also questioned the maintainability of the commercial suit, since defamation has been alleged.
TV Today on the other claims that the Defendants are "piggy-backing" on its work.
"The Defendants are using the original cinematograph films and sound recordings of the Plaintiff for the sole purpose of making their own programme more interesting, attractive or enjoyable and are therefore deriving benefit from using the said works at the cost of the Plaintiff's exclusive rights in the same and are therefore infringing upon the copyright of the Plaintiff in the said original cinematograph films and sound recordings."
According to the suit, the unlicensed use of the original cinematograph films and sound recordings of the Plaintiff company by the Defendants is not protected by Section 52 of the Copyright Act.
"The said use of the original cinematograph films and sound recordings by the Defendant Nos. I to 9 does not constitute fair dealing as provided under the said provision," it states further.
Case Title: TV Today Network Pvt Ltd v. Newslaundry & Ors.