On the grounds of copyright violations by YouTube, content owned by independent news media firms, citizen journalists, current affairs bloggers, and satirists has been taken down in increasing numbers. These removals are frequently the consequence of copyright complaints from major media outlets. By weaponizing copyrights to prevent political opposition and fair criticism, intellectual property law has been abused.
As a result of the erroneous interpretation of copyright law and YouTube’s standards, the actions done in response to such complaints endangers press freedom and violates the constitutional rights of digital media reporters and their audiences.
According to recent news sources, YouTube has suspended Newslaundry’s channel after receiving 50 copyright violations and takedown demands from the India Today group in less than two weeks.
Since September 29, 2021, Newslaundry has been unable to submit any current affairs video footage to its YouTube account. At first glance, this data appears to indicate a concerted effort to undermine independent media.
You’ve probably seen countless YouTube channels dedicated to reporting. Primetime national television debates and news impact public opinion and can either bring strong attention to a particular subject to stir national debate like CAA/NRC protests or even hide the real news by providing a persistent distraction like Bollywood. As a result, the news is news in and of itself. Furthermore, the news must be reported.
Several YouTube channels address what airs on prime time news channels as a strategy to divert attention away from the country’s other problems. To do so, they’ll have to show you footage from news and debate shows that air on television. This is not a copyright infringement in any way, shape, or form. It’s legitimate news coverage. It even finds an exception to copyright regulations in India and the United States.
How are the Copyright Laws Being Misused?
Large media companies have discovered that social media platforms, particularly YouTube, are quick to remove content that contains even a smidgeon of copyrighted material. As a result, they’ve discovered that “complaint bombing” a video or channel that is critical of their work really causes YouTube to remove the video! Newslaundry’s channel has been entirely frozen on YouTube this time. However, this is not permitted by law. They are based on a misunderstanding of copyright law and YouTube’s policy. This is an issue because it not only jeopardizes press freedom in general but also violates the constitutional rights of digital media journalists and their audiences.
YouTube’s copyright rules and practices indicate that it follows fair use guidelines, which vary from nation to country and case to case, yet oddly, 99.99 per cent of the content deleted by Google is for copyright and trademark breaches.
In India, the legislation on fair dealing is established in Section 52 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, which provides that a fair deal with any work for the purpose of reporting current events and current affairs does not constitute a copyright infringement.
The Delhi High Court went so far as to say that Section 52 of the Copyright Act is based on Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. As a result, any action that prevents a content producer from making fair use of copyrightable work also affects the user’s constitutional rights. This is also in line with fair use rights under US copyright law, as well as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
Copyright abuse is stifling freedom of speech and expression
We must take this seriously since the tendency of “complaint bombing” is a direct attack on democracy’s fourth pillar: independent journalism. Independent news organizations that develop content and broadcast it on YouTube have a fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, as well as the ability to conduct business and practise their profession. You also have a fundamental right to use the internet to access this information.
Their YouTube channels are frequently their primary way of broadcasting their news reports, and denial of access to YouTube deprives the news platform, as well as its audience, of fundamental rights. It is an overreach and misuse of the law to utilize the copyright law to shut off journalistic criticism.
In some cases, real news reporting has been taken down, and entire channels have been shut, without giving such independent news media outlets a chance to be heard. This is how intellectual property law has been weaponized. And it’s done with the intent of stifling political opposition and fair criticism. The copyright law was created to safeguard the rights and interests of authors, artists, and creators, not to harass and intimidate them.
How can this issue be resolved?
YouTube, as a major social media intermediary, must establish a robust procedure to undertake its due diligence upon receiving takedown requests via its Webform before blocking any account or removing any content from its platform, particularly in the case of media organizations.
The method must follow the Santa Clara Principles and include a clause that gives media organizations/individuals a right of reply before their content is removed, or account access is revoked.
Today, YouTube is one of the few companies that have the potential to become a major player in the advancement of a free and democratic society. YouTube’s dedication to protecting press freedom and freedom of speech can help to advance and preserve human rights.
This misapplication of the law by huge media companies, with YouTube’s help, isn’t merely a smear campaign against the satirist. It’s also an attack on satire’s readers and viewers. It limits the types of news we can see. Moreover, it’s an attempt to sway our opinions in a certain direction by limiting the data and viewpoints we’re exposed to. It has an impact on our fundamental rights as well.
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