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.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Google’s New Privacy Policy And Terms Of Service As On March 2012

Google is presently managing 60 different privacy policies across multiple products and services of Google and is in the process of replacing them with a single privacy policy that’s a lot shorter and easier to read. The updated Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service are available online to read and analyse. These changes will take effect on March 1, 2012.

Google new privacy policy would allow sharing of personal information for many reasons including for legal reasons. Google will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google if it has a good-faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of the information is reasonably necessary to:

(a) Meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.
(b) Enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations.
(c) Detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues.
(d) Protect against harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, our users or the public as required or permitted by law.

Google’s enforcement aspects have also been explained by the new privacy policy. Google regularly reviews its compliance with the Privacy Policy. Google also adheres to several self regulatory frameworks. When Google receives formal written complaints, Google will contact the person who made the complaint to follow up. Google works with the appropriate regulatory authorities, including local data protection authorities, to resolve any complaints regarding the transfer of personal data that Google cannot resolve with our users directly.

Google’s Terms of Services (TOS) also carry many interesting aspects. These TOS provide that the user must follow any policies made available to him within the Services. Google does not allow misusing its Services. For example, a user must not interfere with Google’s Services or try to access them using a method other than the interface and the instructions that Google provides. A user may use Google’s Services only as permitted by law, including applicable export and re-export control laws and regulations. Google may suspend or stop providing its Services to the user if he does not comply with Google’s terms or policies or if Google is investigating suspected misconduct.

Google’s Services display some content that is not Google’s. This content is the sole responsibility of the entity that makes it available. Google may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates its policies, and Google may remove or refuse to display content that Google reasonably believe violates its policies or the law. But that does not necessarily mean that Google reviews content.

Google responds to notices of alleged copyright infringement and terminate accounts of repeat infringers according to the process set out in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Google provides information to help copyright holders manage their intellectual property online. If you think somebody is violating your copyrights and want to notify Google, you can find information about submitting notices and Google’s policy about responding to notices in its Help Center.

The laws of California, U.S.A., excluding California’s conflict of laws rules, will apply to any disputes arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services. All claims arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services will be litigated exclusively in the federal or state courts of Santa Clara County, California, USA, and you and Google consent to personal jurisdiction in those courts.

Video Conferencing Laws In India

Video conferencing is increasingly being used for the purposes of digital evidencing in India. Video conferencing would also be an important part of e-courts of India once they would be established. Presently, video conferencing is used for many computerised courts in India.

The information technology act 2000 (IT Act 2000) is the cyber law of India that has provided a legal framework for electronic governance, electronic commerce and many other aspects of online dealing. By implications, the IT Act 2000 also allows use of video conferencing for various purposes.

Despite these provisions and active use of video conferencing in India, video conferencing in India is a troubled technology. The recent episode of Rajasthan government and Rajasthan police not allowing the video conferencing of Salman Rushdie shows Indian anxiety with use information technology.

This controversy happened because we have no dedicated video conferencing laws and regulations in India. Obviously, we have no dedicated video conferencing blocking laws in India as well. In the absence of a clear cut law, Indian government is still applying traditional methods to regulate video conferencing in India. However, if at all any law applies to video conferencing in India the same must be the IT Act 2000 and not any Police Act or local law.

Surprisingly, few of our posts pertaining to video conferencing disappeared from Google India’s SERPs and Blogs search results and appeared again only after reporting of the same. It seems controversial posts that are well within the constitutional right to speech and expressions are screened in India once they are posted. But who is doing so is still a big question that must be answered to properly analyse the role of Internet intermediaries in India in this regard.

While Internet intermediaries have declined to pre screen users generated contents yet post screening is happening in many cases. If this post screening is happening due to Internet intermediary law of India then such post screening and removal may be fine if legally and constitutionally done. This is so because if the companies and Internet intermediaries fail to observe cyber law due diligence in India they may face civil and criminal trials in India.

It would be a good idea to clarify the position of use of video conferencing in India by Indian government so that its uses, abuses and regulation can be legally managed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Foreign Exchange (Compounding Proceedings) Rules, 2000 Of India

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been appointed as one of the Compounding Authority under the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 (FEMA 1999) that can compound certain contravention under the FEMA 1999. The regional offices of RBI have been given compounding powers under the FEMA Act 1999.

Further, the RBI master circular on compounding of contraventions under Indian FEMA 1999 has been recently issued. It prescribes a set procedure for compounding of contraventions under Indian FEMA 1999. The compounding authority (CA) can compound contraventions committed under the FEMA Act 1999 if an application has been duly made in the prescribed manner. Even a post compounding procedure of compounding authority under the Indian FEMA 1999 has been prescribed.

The Central Government has formulated the Foreign Exchange (Compounding Proceedings) Rules, 2000 under section 46 read with sub-section (1) of section 15 of the FEMA, 1999. The Rules are as follow:

(1) These Rules have come into force on the 1st day of June, 2000.

(2) Definitions - In these rules, unless the context otherwise requires -
(a) 'Act' means the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (42 of 1999);
(b) 'Authorised officer' means an officer authorised under sub-rule (1) of rule 3;
(c) 'Applicant' means a person who makes an application under section 15 (1) of the Act to the compounding authority;
(d) 'Compounding Order' means an order issued under sub-section (1) of Section 15 of the Act;
(e) 'Form' means a form appended to these rules;
(f) 'Section' means a section of the Act;
(g) All other words and expressions used in these rules and not defined but defined in the Act, shall have the meaning respectively assigned to them in the Act.

(3) (1) 'Compounding Authority' means the persons authorised by the Central Government under sub-section (1) of section 15 of the Act, namely;
(a) An officer of the Enforcement Directorate not below the rank of Deputy Director or Deputy Legal Adviser (DLA).
(b) An officer of the Reserve Bank of India not below the rank of the Assistant General Manager.

(4) Power of Reserve Bank to compound contravention -
[(1) If any Person contravenes any provisions of Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (42 of 1999) except clause (a) of Section 3 of the Act.]
(a) In case where the sum involved in such contravention is ten lakhs rupees or below, by the Assistant General Manager of the Reserve Bank of India;
(b) In case where the sum involved in such contravention is more than rupees ten lakhs but less than rupees forty lakhs, by the Deputy General Manager of Reserve Bank of India;
(c) In case where the sum involved in the contravention is rupees forty lakhs or more but less than rupees hundred lakhs by the General Manager of Reserve Bank of India;
(d) In case the sum involved in such contravention is rupees one hundred lakhs or more, by the Chief General Manager of the Reserve Bank of India;

Provided further that no contravention shall be compounded unless the amount involved in such contravention is quantifiable.

(2) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall apply to a contravention committed by any person within a period of three years from the date on which a similar contravention committed by him was compounded under these rules.

Explanation: For the purposes of this rule, any second or subsequent contravention committed after the expiry of a period of three years from the date on which the contravention was previously compounded shall be deemed to be a first contravention.

(3) Every officer specified under sub-rule (1) of rule 4 of the Reserve Bank of India shall exercise the powers to compound any contravention subject to the direction, control and supervision of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.

(4) Every application for compounding any contravention under this rule shall be made in Form to the Reserve Bank of India, Exchange Control Department, Central Office, Mumbai along with a fee of Rs. 5000/- by Demand Draft in favour of compounding authority.

(5) The Power of Enforcement Directorate to compound contraventions -

2[(1) If any Person contravenes provisions of Section 3(a) of Foreign Exchange Management Act.]

(a) In case where the sum involved in such contravention is five lakhs rupees or below, by the Deputy Director of the Directorate of Enforcement;
(b) In case where the sum involved in such contravention is more than rupees five lakhs but less than rupees ten lakhs, by the Additional Director of the Directorate of Enforcement;
(c) In case where the sum involved in the contravention is rupees ten lakhs or more but less than fifty lakhs rupees by the Special Director of the Directorate of Enforcement;
(d) In case where the sum involved in the contravention is rupees fifty lakhs or more but less than one crore rupees by Special Director with Deputy Legal Adviser of the Directorate of Enforcement;
(e) In case the sum involved in such contravention is one crore rupees or more, by the Director of Enforcement with Special Director of the Enforcement Directorate.
Provided further that no contravention shall be compounded unless the amount involved in such contravention is quantifiable.

(2) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall apply to a contravention committed by any person within a period of three years from the date on which a similar contravention committed by him was compounded under these rules.

Explanation: For the purposes of this rule, any second or subsequent contravention committed after the expiry of a period of three years from the date on which the contravention was previously compounded shall be deemed to be a first contravention.

(3) Every officer of the Directorate of Enforcement specified under sub-rule (1) of this rule shall exercise the powers to compound any contravention subject to the direction, control and supervision of the Director of Enforcement.

(4) Every application for compounding any contravention under this rule shall be made in Form to the Director, Directorate of Enforcement, New Delhi, along with a fee of Rs.5000 by DD in favour of the Compounding Authority.

(6) Where any contravention is compounded before the adjudication of any contravention under section 16, no inquiry shall be held for adjudication of such contravention in relation to such contravention against the person in relation to whom the contravention is so compounded.

(7) Where the compounding of any contravention is made after making of a complaint under sub-section (3) of section 16, such compounding shall be brought by the authority specified in rule 4 or rule 5 in writing, to the notice of the Adjudicating Authority and on such notice of the compounding of the contravention being given, the person in relation to whom the contravention is so compounded shall be discharged.

(8) Procedure for Compounding -

(1) The Compounding Authority may call for any information, record or any other documents relevant to the compounding proceedings.
(2) The Compounding Authority shall pass an order of compounding after affording an opportunity of being heard to all the concerned as expeditiously as possible and not later than 180 days from the date of application.

(9) Payment of amount compounded -

The sum for which the contravention is compounded as specified in the order of compounding under sub-rule (2) of rule 8, shall be paid by demand draft in favour of the Compounding Authority within fifteen days from the date of the order of compounding of such contravention.

(10) In case a person fails to pay the sum compounded in accordance with the rule 9 within the time specified in that rule, he shall be deemed to have never made an application for compounding of any contravention under these rules and the provisions of the Act for contravention shall apply to him.

(11) No contravention shall be compounded if an appeal has been filed under section 17 or section 19 of the Act.

(12) Contents of the order of the Compounding Authority -

(1) Every order shall specify the provisions of the Act or of the rules, directions, requisitions or orders made there under in respect of which contravention has taken place along with details of the alleged contravention.
(2) Every such order shall be dated and signed by the Compounding Authority under his seal.

(13) Copy of the order - One copy of the order made under rule 8(2) shall be supplied to the applicant and the Adjudicating Authority as the case may be.