Newslaundry's YouTube Channel Taken Down After India Today Reports 'Copyright Violation'

Newslaundry says it has sent a legal reply to YouTube on the matter, noting that use of footage while commenting on news does not constitute copyright violation.

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New Delhi: Independent news media company Newslaundry has claimed that YouTube has frozen its video channel after India Today Group reported it multiple times for copyright violation.

Denying that it has indulged in any copyright violation, the news outlet has said that the idea behind such serial complaints is to stop it from doing its work. It said a legal response has also been sent to YouTube in this regard.

Co-founder and chief executive officer of Newslaundry, Abhinandan Sekhri, told The Wire it has been about a week since the first two ‘copyright strikes’ happened.

Sekhri said before complaining to YouTube, India Today Group did not get in touch with Newslaundry. Following the complaints by the media house, YouTube has frozen the website’s channel.

Explaining the process, Sekhri said: “YouTube has this system of strike which is kind of automated where if someone has used your footage, you can do a copyright strike and three such strikes in a month can mean that your channel will get blocked. This is an automated system in which an artificial intelligence (AI) machine checks if the footage is the same.”

Sekhri added that while the YouTube system is AI-based, someone has to file a complaint. In the current matter, he said, “They had more than 50 complaints in two weeks”.

Sekhri said that there’s no copyright violation if a news website uses footage of another news organisation for critiquing, commenting on or analysing the news itself.

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On how the website reacted on the matter, he said: “We had sent our reply to YouTube around five-six days ago. The system that it follows – which is also problematic – is that once they look at your response they ask the other (complaining) party to figure and then they restore the channel if there is no violation.”

Sekhri said he sent them a reply through his lawyer stating that “there was fair use and there is legal precedence and even the Supreme Court has stated that if you are critiquing, commenting on or analysing a part of original content, and if you are adding your own intellectual input to that commentary, then it is not copyright violation because if you have to comment on news, then how will you do it. You will have to show what you are commenting on.”

Sekhri further said that he had a chat with YouTube on the issue on Friday in which YouTube said they have sent the response to the other party and that after this, it takes around 10 days to restore the channel.

“I told them that they should figure things out because even if you see YouTube’s fair use policy, it is consistent with Indian law – that it is fair usage if you are commenting on something. But the procedure is quite long-winded. YouTube should up its game and have a better system.”

As for the charge of copyright violation, he denied that there was any. “We are not interested in showing their stuff as our own. They know it. It is just a way to kind of make the things hard for us.”

On Friday, Meghnad S. from Newslaundry tweeted that the channel went silent on YouTube because Aaj Tak mass reported it for copyright violation following which YouTube froze it.

He further said, “This shows you the power of independent media. This shows you how legacy media behemoths are actively trying to create problems for us.”

Another tweet by Meghnad said that the channel is posting all videos on newslaundry.com, including their regular shows.

Executive editor at Newslaundry, Manisha Pandey tweeted that she was as clueless as anyone on “what prompted India Today Group’s sudden surgical strike on the Newslaundry YouTube channel”.

Earlier, on October 6, Pande had tweeted that the news portal had “not been able to upload anything to its YouTube channel because of Aaj Tak’s copyright complaints”. In a tweet, she had also denied that any case of copyright violation was made out and claimed that “the idea is to stop Newslaundry from doing exactly what it set out to do – critique, question and report on the media.”