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Madras HC directs Google to reveal international user IP in defamation case

calcutta high court

The Madras High Court has directed YouTube to reveal details of a user for posting a video which was called out to be defamatory by the private company Lebara Foundation, reports ET Tech. Interestingly, YouTube mentions that the IP address of the user was registered outside India, and as such was outside Indian jurisdiction, hence it cannot comply with the order.

Note that in May this year, the court had granted an interim order restraining the company from making available the video in question about Lebara. Since then, Google has blocked the video in India by blocking it on the country domain. However, the company said it could not block the video outside India as ordered by the court initially, as it would amount to monitoring content of videos posted on the platform. It said that following the order would expose the company to legal action by the user, and that it was illegal and impossible to monitor all content.

The court has rejected the argument, asking YouTube to provide the name and the IP address of the user in question. According to the court, YouTube does not contain terms of agreement that disallow it from disclosing user information on court orders. Lebara has been trying to figure out which country the user originates from to send them a notice.

International legal solutions: Google mentions that to obtain the information the litigant can apply to an American court to obtain evidence for use in non-US proceedings. It said the company could file a ‘John Doe’ lawsuit in Santa Clara, US, or invoke diplomatic procedures such as the Hague Evidence Convention to obtain evidence in the US. However, the Madras High Court said that “If a person is aggrieved by the offending video uploaded by an unknown, then the identity will have to be made know or else there will not be any remedy in the eye of the law,” as such ordering Google to reveal the IP address.

MediaNama’s take: This is a particularly tricky case for Google, and highlights the need for better international cooperation to resolve global investigations. The company currently has been given 2 weeks to disclose the IP address. Even if Lebara obtains the IP from Google, what if it belongs to an VPN service? Will the company then approach a local court in that country to disclose the original user? Additionally, Google is right in worrying that such a precedent could open it to lawsuits. Suppose the company was ordered to disclose the identity of an Indian citizen and/or block a video by an autocratic government, would we, as global users of the internet, be safe if it complied? Either way, it will certainly be interesting to see Google’s response in the coming weeks.

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Also read: Full court order

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