Fair Use/Fair Dealing in Copyright vis-à-vis Aaj Tak v Newslaundry

Fair Use/Fair Dealing in Copyright 
Aaj Tak v Newslaundry
Photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash

In late 2021, TV Today Network, which owns the news channels India Today and AajTak, filed a lawsuit against Newslaundry (a digital media house), its management, editors, and other staff and sought damages of Rs 2 crores for defaming the news channels, its management, and its news anchors and also for copyright infringement under the copyright law[1]. Moreover, AajTak filed around 55 copyright claims and several copyright strikes for various videos of Newslaundry on YouTube in just two weeks. Newslaundry’s YouTube channel was locked, leaving the media unable to upload videos[2].

Newslaundry contended that Section 52of the Copyright Act, which deals with Fair use/Fair dealing (in other words, certain acts which shall not constitute an infringement of copyright), provides exceptions to copyright infringement where the use of content is to criticize or review the original content[3].

Fair Dealing/Fair Use

Fair use is a legal doctrine that encourages freedom of expression by allowing the unlicensed use of copyright protected works in certain situations under Section 52 of the Copyright Act, 1857. The fair use statute dictates that nonprofit or educational use is favorable. In other words, to constitute fair use, copyrighted material should be for individual or personal use. At the same time, Section 52 (2) deals where the content won’t be considered a copyright infringement if the content is used to criticize or review the original content[4]. However, fair use doesn’t only safeguard criticism or review. It also protects other circumstances such as a lecture given by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction, the reproduction of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic work, or reading in public of any reasonable extract from published content, etc.

Although, the ideology behind critically reviewing a piece of media, art, or literature is the generation of a new point of view. This was thus held in a landmark judgment by Delhi High Court in Super Cassettes Industries Ltd. v Chintamani Rao, wherein the Court noted that “The focus of attention and interest of the producer of the work and the viewer should not be the work of another, but the work created by the person who in good faith using the work of another for the specific purpose of criticism or review of that work, or any other work” and there has to be an intellectual input and original mental exercise undertaken by the person in good faith copying the work which would involve either review or criticism of a copied work[5].

Therefore, Fair Use permits the limited use of copyrighted, protected material without the permission of copyright owners and without the risk of infringement, provided that the work is used for individual or personal purposes and not to earn profits.

[1] Scroll.in. 2021. India Today Group files Rs 2 crore suit against ‘Newslaundry’ for defamation, copyright infringement. [online] Available at: <https://scroll.in/latest/1008626/india-today-group-files-rs-2-crore-suit-against-newslaundry-for-defamation-copyright-infringement> [Accessed 6 January 2022].

[2] Kauntia, N., 2021. Youtube suspends Newslaundry's account: Is it a misuse of copyright? [online] MediaNama. Available at: <https://www.medianama.com/2021/10/223-youtube-newslaundry-aaj-tak-copyright-issue/> [Accessed 6 January 2022].

[3] Fair Use | Section 52 in the Copyright Act, 1957. [online] Available at: <https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1013176/> [Accessed 6 January 2022].

[4] Ibid

[5] Indiankanoon.org. n.d. Super Cassettes Industries ... vs Mr Chintamani Rao & Ors. on 11 November, 2011. [online] Available at: <https://indiankanoon.org/doc/576454/> [Accessed 10 January 2022].