Showing posts with label Facebook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Facebook. Show all posts

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Internet Intermediary Liability In India

Information Technology Act 2000 (IT Act 2000) is the sole cyber law of India. IT Act 2000 is also regulating the functioning of Internet intermediaries in India. Internet intermediaries’ law and liability in India has become very stringent after the passing of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 of India.

These Internet intermediaries liability Rules of India demarcates the rights and responsibilities of internet intermediaries in India. If the Internet intermediaries follow these Rules and exercise proper cyber due diligence, they are entitled to a “safe harbour protection”. Otherwise, they are liable for various acts or omission occurring at their respective platforms once the matter has been brought to their notice.

Social media due diligence in India has also emerged out of IT Act 2000 and the corresponding Rules. Now legal actions against foreign websites can be taken in India. Further, cyber litigations against such foreign websites would increase in India in the near future.

Privacy violations and data breach investigations would also be required to be undertaken by these companies in India. Data protection requirements would also add further obligations upon these companies and websites in India. It is of utmost importance for these foreign companies and websites to follow Indian laws in true letter and spirit.

The cyber laws due diligence requirements for companies in India are strenuous in nature and Internet intermediaries in India need to take care of the same to avoid legal troubles. Companies like Google, Facebook, etc must appoint nodal officers in India that can be served with notices and communication pertaining to Internet intermediary obligations in India.

Cyber law due diligence in India is also required to escape liability for online violations of intellectual property rights in India. Liability of Internet intermediaries for copyright violation in India is well known and even foreign companies recognise this fact. The Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA) of United States has been enacted as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 1998. Foreign companies like Google, Facebook, etc are complying with the DMCA requirements while taking down intellectual property violating contents.

However, these foreign companies and websites are still not aware of the requirements of India laws. Further, even if they are aware, they are not complying with the same in the appropriate manner. Time has come for these foreign companies to take Indian laws, especially intellectual property and cyber law, more seriously.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Are Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Heading For A Trouble?

Companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc facing a cyber battle in New Delhi, India. A criminal complaint against these companies is pending before a Trial Court of New Delhi. Obviously, these companies did what was best in their interest. They petitioned the Delhi High Court for quashing of criminal complaint against them.

Before the Delhi High Court, the respondent has placed it final arguments on 02-02-2012 and the petitioner would put its final arguments on 14-02-2012. Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court has dismissed a plea of a business man to hear him in this case for violation of his right to speech and expression. The Delhi High Court observed that till date neither the Trial Court nor the Delhi High Court has passed any order which curtailed the citizens' fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression.

The Delhi High Court also observed that Google and Facebook do have the right to freedom of speech and expression but they are not above the law. There is no second opinion about this proposition as companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc must comply with Indian laws. Further, legal actions against foreign websites in India can be taken if they fail to comply with Indian laws. In fact, cyber litigations against foreign websites would increase a lot in India.

In fact companies like Twitter and Google have already taken steps to ensure compliance with Indian laws. Twitter has put in place a country specific mechanism to censor/remove offending tweets. Google has also started redirecting Indian bloggers to ***.blogspot.in domains instead of ***.blogspot.com domain. This method would allow Google to remove offending contents pertaining to ***.blogspot.in alone once a valid legal request is made from a particular country or residents of that country.

Yahoo has separately approached Delhi High Court and requested for a separate trial as its case falls in a different category. The Delhi High Court has accepted the request of Yahoo and issued necessary notices in this regard.

Now the companies in question have two options. Either they declare that these laws are not binding upon them or they comply with the same. It seems companies are deliberately avoiding observance of Indian laws. This is an unacceptable behaviour that Indian government cannot afford to allow. It is not a case that only Indian government is feeling offended by non observance of Indian laws. Even private individuals and companies face problems when requests for removal of offending and intellectual property violating contents are made.

Another problem that Indian government must take care of pertains to conflict of laws. When laws of India are clearly violated, there is no sense in complying with laws of foreign jurisdictions, especially when the companies involved in such process also have sound business and commercial presence in India. India must develop an alternative mechanism to DMCA complaints to such India based subsidiary companies as well as their parent companies based in foreign jurisdictions.

These companies are openly violating the requirements of Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 without any legal justifications. These companies cannot use the subsidiary argument for long as Indian government would formulate more stringent norms for Indian subsidiaries dealing in information and communication technology (ICT) related matters.

This proposition is also reflected in the recent hearing of the Delhi High Court. Justice Suresh Kait observed that these companies are not above the law and their rights are to be determined under the laws of the land. He further observed that nobody is against the freedom of speech and expression. In fact, despite the summoning order against the websites, neither the Trial Court nor Delhi High Court has asked the websites to shut or restrain from functioning. They have only been summoned in accordance with the law as nobody is above it.

The next date of hearing before the Delhi High court would be on 14-02-2012 where these companies would put forward their final arguments. Let us hope that the Delhi High Court would deliver cyber justice to India.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Google And Facebook Must Comply With Indian Laws

Companies like Google, Facebook, etc are facing criminal trial in India. With the passage of time, more and more legal arsenal is now becoming available for Indian courts to hold these companies liable for violation of Indian laws. In fact, hints are now given that these companies are deliberately ignoring and violating Indian laws like copyright law, trademarks law and cyber law of India of which United States must take a serious and urgent notice.

Even laws of United States like Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 1998 (DMCA) and Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA) are not complied with by many US companies and websites. A recent DMCA complaint filed with Google Incorporation and notice to Google India are still to be complied with as per US and Indian laws.

In fact, Perry4Law and Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB) have also provided their suggestion for the strengthening of remedies for small copyright claims in US that covers acts or omissions of companies like Google as well. These suggestions also cover the practical difficulties that Indian nationals, companies and Indian government face while getting the offending contents removed from companies like Google, WordPress, etc.

The new privacy policy and terms of service of Google have been recently announced and the same would become applicable from 01-03-2012. It has many far reaching legal consequences that are applicable to Indian cyberspace as well. India must develop alternatives of DMCA complaint to Google, WordPress and other companies and websites. Wherever applicable, legal blocking of foreign websites in India as per Indian laws must also be performed.

We believe that India must take urgent steps so that companies and websites like Google, Facebook, etc comply with legal demands as per Indian laws as well. We suggest the following in this regard:

(1) All subsidiary/Joint ventures companies operating in India that deal in information technology and online environment, must mandatorily establish a server in India. Otherwise, such companies and their websites should not be allowed to operate in India.

(2) A stringent liability for Indian subsidiaries dealing in information technology and online environment must be established by laws of India.

(3) More stringent online advertisement and e-commerce provisions must be formulated for Indian subsidiary companies and their websites.

We at Perry4Law and PTLB believe that any attempt by Internet intermediaries to pre screen contents uploaded by users in India is not practical and feasible. However, we believe that cyber law due diligence by Internet intermediaries operating in India cannot be taken casually and with great disregard to India laws as is presently happening in India. If companies are not willing to follow either foreign laws like DMCA or Indian laws, they clearly lack the intention to comply with various legal frameworks.

In any case, companies and websites that have Indian existence and are deriving financial gains from India must adhere to India’s laws that they are currently flouting. We hope the lower court and Delhi High Court would consider these aspects as well while deciding the fate of these companies.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

India Must Invent Alternatives Of DMCA Complaint To Google And Others

Of late foreign companies and websites like Google, Facebook, etc are increasingly finding themselves in the legal net of India. In fact, a criminal case is already pending against Google, Facebook, etc for failure to exercise cyber law due diligence.

If websites like Google, Facebook, etc fail to exercise cyber law due diligence as per the requirements of Indian information technology act, 2000 (IT Act 2000), the Internet intermediary protection is lost. All that is required to make Internet intermediaries like Google, Facebook, etc liable under Indian laws is to notify them about the objectionable contents.

The objectionable contents may take the form of defamatory contents, cyber stalking, pornography, religious riots incitement materials, intellectual property violating contents, etc. Indian cyber law allows 36 hours to such Internet intermediaries to remove the offending contents from their platforms.

While there is no problem in applying Indian laws to foreign companies and websites operating in India yet these companies and websites use the fa├žade of parent company by declaring themselves as mere subsidiaries of such parent companies. And when these parent companies are called to comply with Indian laws, they openly deny the same by saying that they are governed by foreign laws.

Naturally, Indians also cannot be forced to follow foreign laws like Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 1998 and Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA).

As many of you may be aware that we are currently pursuing a copyright violation, trademark infringement and impersonation matter with Google Incorporation and Google India. Further, Perry4Law and Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB) have also provided their suggestions to US Copyright office regarding remedies for small copyright claims in United States so that interests of small copyright holders can be protected.

We have also filed a DMCA complaint to Google Incorporation (US) and a notice under IT Act 2000 to Google India on 22-01-2012 for copyright violation, trademark infringement and impersonation.

From the responses we received so far, it seems Google Incorporation is not willing to respect and comply with Indian laws and Indian legal requests even if DMCA procedure is duly complied with. We are still waiting for the response of Google India and would proceed further once the time limit of 36 hours is expired.

However, this has forced us to think in a very different direction. We believe that India must take urgent steps so that companies and websites like Google, Facebook, etc comply with legal demands as per Indian laws as well. We suggest the following in this regard:

(1) All subsidiary/Joint ventures companies in India, especially those dealing in information technology and online environment, must mandatorily establish a server in India. Otherwise, such companies and their websites should not be allowed to operate in India.

(2) A stringent liability for Indian subsidiaries dealing in information technology and online environment must be established by laws of India.

(3) More stringent online advertisement and e-commerce provisions must be formulated for Indian subsidiary companies and their websites.

Further, US government needs to change its policies towards foreign IP infringements and enforcements. Incidences like not following laws of other jurisdictions are responsible for enacting harsh laws like SOPA and PIPA. These incidences are also responsible for filing of civil and criminal complaints against companies like Google in India.

Indian government and Indian courts need to consider these aspects while deciding various cases against foreign websites and social media platforms. If Indian intellectual property and cyber laws are not respected, there is no other option but to choose a harsh stand of foreign websites blocking in India.

The matter would come for hearing before the Delhi High Court on 02-02-2012 and we hope the Delhi High Court would take judicial note of these facts also while adjudicating upon that matter.

Monday, January 16, 2012

US Companies, India, Conflict Of Laws And Criminal Liabilities

Companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc and social media websites like Facebook, etc are currently facing criminal trail in India for not removing objectionable contents from their respective websites.

According to cyber law of India and laws of other jurisdiction, the safe harbour protection of Internet intermediaries is lost the moment they are notified of the offending act or omission. However, till they are notified regarding offending contents, they are not liable for violations committed by their users.

However, US companies are not following Indian laws and they are insisting upon following of US laws even if Indian laws are clearly violated. For instance, websites located in US are openly violating the copyright of Indian websites and when they are contacted in this regard to remove the copyright violating posts they ask Indians to use US laws like Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 1998.

Surprisingly, even if these US companies are informed in writing and with relevant information like weblinks of copyright violating posts and copyright subsisting posts, they still insist upon following of DMCA procedure. What is more frustrating is that a majority of these US websites and companies are themselves not following the requirements of DMCA and hence are not entitled to its safe harbour protection.

Even in the case of cyber laws, US companies are applying US standards and are not following Indian standards. This is a classic situation that is occurring due to conflict of laws. This is also the reason why an international cyber law treaty is required to being harmonious application of cyber law principles.

US need to change its policy regarding enforcement of foreign IP rights and cyber laws. By not respecting the laws of other countries, US websites and companies are imposing laws like SOPA and PIPA upon themselves. Further, companies like Google must pay special attention as they are deriving revenue out of online advertisements placed upon such copyright violating posts. This makes them not only a beneficiary but also liable for damages in appropriate cases.

Companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook are facing prosecution under the Indian cyber law. Further, if we analyse the cyber law trends in India of 2012 and cyber security trends of India 2012, such prosecutions are going to increase further in future. Insisting upon following of US laws to take action against offenders and websites located in US would not serve any purpose if branches or subsidiaries of such companies are located in India. Further, if such websites and companies fail to comply with Indian laws, Indian government can block such foreign websites in India.

The present litigation before Indian courts is just a beginning and US companies and websites must start respecting Indian laws. If cyber crimes are committed with great disregard to Indian laws and the copyright and other IP rights are openly violated by such companies and websites, their prosecution in India is inevitable. Perry4Law and Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB) strongly recommend that such foreign companies and websites must ensure cyber due diligence in India to escape various civil, criminal and financial obligations.

Why Vinay Rai Did Not Contact The Concerned Websites?

Vinay Rai, the person behind criminal complaint against social media websites and companies like Facebook and Google, has become instrumental in testing the internet intermediary law of India. Presently, Google and Facebook are gripped in the Indian cyber law tangle.

To make the matter worst, not only the executives of parent companies have been personally summoned by the trial court but it has also been proved that Google and Facebook are beneficiaries of the revenue arising out of offending contents. This may make even the subsidiary companies of Google and Facebook liable for violation of Indian laws.

It is not the case that these companies have not protested in the past against the provisions of the Indian laws. For instance, Yahoo had filed a petition raising the questions regarding the right to privacy of a company that stores sensitive data of its customers and users and to what extent Indian authorities can coerce it to part with the information considered necessary to either track terror perpetrators or thwart future attacks.

The Google’s outcry for lack of Internet intermediary law in India is another example of growing dissatisfaction towards Indian cyber laws, especially Internet intermediary laws and social media laws of India. But the same has come too late and is too insignificant at this stage.

However, in this entire episode one thing is simply not understandable. Why Vinay Rai did not contact the concerned websites and brought to their knowledge about the offending contents? As per Vinay he did not deem it appropriate to approach foreign companies himself. Rather he thought it fit to invoke the governmental machinery to get appropriate remedy.

Surprisingly, he has been pursuing this matter with the information technology ministry for over a year now. The ministry took no action despite constant reminders and follow ups from his end. It was only two to three months ago that the ministry held an internal meeting on the issue and ordered enquiry.

It seems both Vinay Rai and our IT ministry are guilty of not taking appropriate steps in this regard. Clearly, Vinay Rai did not approach these companies and informed them about the offending contents. Now the only question that remains to be seen is whether the IT ministry has also not contacted these companies in this regard?

If even the IT ministry has not intimated these companies “appropriately”, then this may be as serious lapse on the part of Indian government. In such a situation companies like Google, Facebook, etc cannot be held liable for offensive contents posted by the users. Only time would tell what was communicated and what was not and who is responsible and who is not.