In Neetu Singh and Anr. v. Telegram FZ LLC and Ors., the Delhi High Court ('Court') held that Indian Courts can exercise jurisdiction over Telegram FZ LLC ('Defendant 1'), a foreign intermediary having servers outside India, as the Defendant 1's messaging platform was widely available in India and further as copyright infringement over Defendant 1's messaging platform occurred in India. Accordingly, the Court directed Defendant 1 to disclose the details of the individuals whose channels/devices had been disseminating infringing content on Defendant 1's platform ('Infringing Channels'), the copyright in which was owned by Ms. Neetu Singh and K. D. Campus Private Limited ('Plaintiffs').

The key objections raised by the Defendant 1 against the need for revealing the identity of the persons operating the Infringing Channels were: (i) the interim arrangement in place directing Defendant 1 to take down the Infringing Channels was sufficient to protect the interests of the Plaintiffs; (ii) as per Defendant 1's privacy policy, details of subscriber information cannot be revealed until and unless such person is a 'terror suspect'; (iii) since the servers of Defendant 1 were located in Singapore, the Personal Data Protection Act, 2012 ('PDPA') of Singapore would apply to Defendant 1, which does not grant powers to an Indian Court for directing the disclosure of the requested information; and (iv) any disclosure of subscriber information violates the right to privacy recognized and guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and recognized by the Supreme Court of India in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India.

On the question of jurisdiction, the Court observed that the Court's jurisdiction cannot be ousted merely due to the servers of Defendant 1 being located abroad, as the Plaintiffs were residing and carrying on business in Delhi and further as infringement was taking place in India. With respect to the aspect of privacy, the Court concluded from a reading of the PDPA that it creates an exception to privacy in the event of violation of a law. Moreover, the Court held that since Singapore is also a signatory to The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 1886, the Plaintiffs' works would enjoy copyright protection in Singapore by such extension. The Court also did not accept the contention of Defendant 1 that its duty as an intermediary is simply to remove the infringing content upon receipt of a notice, since Defendant 1, as an intermediary, also has a duty to protect the rights of copyright owners. Thus, the Court opined that taking down of the Infringing Channels was not sufficient due to new Infringing Channels cropping up instantaneously and held that the legislative intent of the Copyright Act, 1957 would be upheld if the identity of these infringers was revealed, so as to enable the Plaintiffs to recover damages from the other defendants.

Originally published 30 September, 2022

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