Here are the top tech policy cases worth tuning into this October—ranging from Google’s antitrust trials to Manipur’s Internet shutdowns, to Humans of Bombay’s copyright suit.
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Regulating platforms and businesses
October 10th; Google’s challenge against India’s competition regulator: The tech giant is challenging the Competition Commission of India’s order upholding a previous ruling on its anti-competitive ‘abuse’ of the Android market before the Supreme Court.
- Case number: CA 4098/2023.
October 10th; Supreme Court issues notice in real money gaming tax challenge: GST Authorities have challenged the Karnataka High Court’s ruling holding that games of skill played for chance cannot constitute gambling, and cannot be taxed under this bracket. The Supreme Court issued notice a few weeks ago, temporarily staying the southern court’s order until further orders. The Court’s verdict in this case will determine how the distinction between games of chance and skill may be applied to tax regimes (or not).
- Case number: SLP(C) 019366-019369/2023.
October 12th; The troubled tale of India’s online gaming rules: The Delhi High Court will continue hearing the challenges against the rules released earlier this year, which the petitioners argue are unconstitutional on multiple counts. Point to note: source-based reports suggest that the IT Ministry may also consider junking the mainstay of the rules, its self-regulatory framework to oversee the industry. The question on our minds: what’s left of the rules without it?
- Case number: WP (C) 8946/2023.
October 13th*; The long wait for the IT Rules challenges continues: The Supreme Court may hear the multiple constitutional challenges filed against the IT Rules, 2021. The case was listed last on July 27th, 2022.
- Case number: TP (C) 1147-1152/2021.
October 17th; Clarifying what ‘reasonable’ efforts under the IT Rules means: A few weeks ago, the Delhi High Court asked the IT Ministry to clarify for once and for all what ‘reasonable efforts’ platforms are supposed to take to moderate content online, and comply with the IT Rules, 2021. The development emerges from Starbucks’ challenge against the National Internet Exchange of India and others for hosting domains that infringed its copyright. The F&B giant argued that under the IT Rules, platforms have to undertake “reasonable efforts” to cause users not to propagate misleading or deceitful content online.
- Case number: CS (COMM) 224/2023.
October 18th; PayPal and a money laundering law: The Delhi High Court will continue hearing PayPal India’s challenge against a recent verdict classifying it as a payment system operator under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. The tag comes with added compliance obligations, including maintaining detailed user records and reporting suspicious transactions to the Financial Intelligence Unit. PayPal thinks the verdict shouldn’t stand—especially since the Delhi High Court also recently ruled that Google Pay is a third-party UPI app and not a payment system operator.
Case numbers: LPA 594/2023; CM 42770/2023; CM 42771/2023; CM 42772/2023/ CM 42773/2023.
Free speech and expression on the Internet
October 4th; Regulating satire on the Internet: The Delhi High Court will hear Tanul Thakur’s challenge against the blocking of his satirical website www.dowrycalculator.com. The website was blocked a few years ago by the Indian government under Section 69A of the IT Act—a decision that Thakur has been rallying against ever since. As an aside, India’s latest IT laws also seem to be keen on regulating satire (to the potential detriment of comedy and free speech).
- Case number: WP (C) 788/2023
October 4th; Twitter’s challenge to Section 69A verdict: The Karnataka High Court will hear Twitter’s challenge to an earlier verdict upholding the Section 69A blocking orders issued to the platform by the Indian government. The last hearing saw the High Court ask the Indian government if it would be open to reviewing some of the blocking orders it issued (including for the accounts and tweets of journalists, activists, and more). Not to be forgotten: Twitter recently took down the account of Dr. Cyriac Abby Phillips following a Bengaluru court’s order in a defamation case filed by Himalaya Wellness Corporation. Both the order, and Twitter’s compliance with it given its Section 69A challenge, have been criticised.
- Case number: WA 895/2023.
October 5th; The right to be forgotten in legal archives: The Delhi High Court will hear a man’s plea against judgments acquitting him of rape charges being available online. Back in May, the legal archive Indian Kanoon was asked to mask the name of the petitioner in its judgments. The High Court also directed the legal portal to submit its policies on the right to be forgotten and on the masking of names in judicial orders.
- Case number: WP (C) 5400/2023 and CM Appl 21149/2023.
October 12th; Manipur’s Internet shutdowns continue: The northeastern state has once again been subjected to an Internet shutdown following communal clashes. This is following a shutdown earlier this year that lasted for over 140 days, after which, the Internet suspension was only partly lifted. The Manipur High Court will continue hearing challenges against the shutdowns, which have disrupted daily life, and citizens’ fundamental rights.
- Case number: PIL 25/2023
October 17th; Compliance with the Supreme Court’s verdict on Internet shutdowns: The Supreme Court will hear a media group’s plea requesting state governments to comply with the top court’s verdict on Internet shutdowns (Anuradha Bhasin). Back then, the Supreme Court held that indefinite Internet shutdowns are illegal, and that suspension orders should be proportionate and made public. Not to be missed: the Jharkhand High Court recently directed the state government to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines in Anuradha Bhasin should it decide to suspend the Internet in the future.
- Case number: MA 208/2021 in WP (C) 1031/2019.
October 18th; Challenging the block on the BBC’s Modi documentary: The Supreme Court will hear N. Ram, Prashant Bhushan, and Mahua Moitra’s petition challenging the ban on a BBC documentary questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Past hearings saw the top court request the Indian government to produce the “original records” behind the documentary’s blocking.
- Case number: WP (C) 116/2023.
Surveillance and policing
October 5th; A challenge against facial recognition technology in Madras: Chennai resident Akhilesh Kumar Kandasamy has moved the Madras High Court to restrain the Tamil Nadu police from using facial recognition technology while policing. Akhilesh and his brother were stopped by the police last year—and a police officer took their pictures for a “formality” without their consent. Kandasamy is concerned that his photos were uploaded to the state government’s facial recognition technology databases. The police’s actions are being challenged on grounds of proportionality, privacy violations, and more.
- Case number: WP 24338/2023.
October 13th*; Challenges against search and seizure of electronic devices: The Supreme Court may hear a media group’s challenges against the wide search and seizure powers granted to Indian police authorities. The groups allege that these practices violate the rights to privacy and self-incrimination, among others. Point to note: as of October 3rd, multiple reports have emerged claiming that Delhi-based journalists’ houses were raided by the police in a case involving the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The electronic devices (phones, laptops) of many were seized too. Amidst the din: a Delhi court recently ordered the release of devices seized during an investigation against The Wire, adding that there were no “reasonable grounds” for the police to hold them indefinitely.
- Case number: WP (Crl) 395/2022.
October 16th; Digging up information on the government’s surveillance activities: The Delhi High Court will continue hearing Apar Gupta’s challenge against a Central Information Commissioner order upholding the Home Ministry denying information on its surveillance under Section 69 of the IT Act under the Right to Information system. The Ministry first denied the information on national security grounds. Afterwards, it claimed it didn’t hold such information.
Case number: WP (C) 5662/2022.
October 5th; The great debate on copyright v/s access to knowledge: Alexandra Elbakyan will continue defending pirate website Sci-Hub against a gaggle of academic publishers alleging copyright violations before the Delhi High Court.
- Case number: CS (COMM) 572/2020.
October 11th; A ‘human-interest’ copyright case everyone’s talking about: The Delhi High Court will continue hearing Human of Bombay’s infringement suit against storytelling platform People Of India. The latter allegedly replicated Human of Bombay’s business model, images, and videos. The suit was criticised by the founder of Humans of New York—the inspiration for Humans of Bombay’s work.
- Case number: CS(COMM) 646/2023.
October 12th; A media magnate takes on WhatsApp: The Delhi High Court will continue hearing media mogul Bennett Coleman’s challenge against WhatsApp for allegedly hosting unauthorised copies of its e-papers on the platform.
- Case number: CS (COMM) 232/2021.
In case you missed it: the September edition
Two months until landmark judgment on fact check amendment: The Bombay High Court will deliver its verdict on the government’s plans to fact check online information on itself on December 1st. The stay on notifying the amendment will continue until then. Click here to browse through our detailed reporting on the controversial amendment, and how it was criticised and defended in court.
Anil Kapoor protects his personality (and dialogues, like jhakaas): The Delhi High Court prohibited the unauthorised use of Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor’s image, voice, name, and personality traits for commercial gains by digital entities. Among other things, Kapoor was concerned about the use of AI, morphing techniques, and deep fakes to create visuals featuring Kapoor’s name and images that were superimposed on other materials. Kapoor also sought a restraining order against entities ‘misusing’ his name, nicknames’ and famous dialogues (including Jhakaas) without permission.
No Aadhaar required for school admissions for marginalised children: The Delhi High Court upheld a previous verdict staying the need for children from Economically Weaker Sections (EWS)/Disadvantaged Group(DG)/Children With Special Needs (CWSN) categories to provide Aadhaar details during school admissions. The High Court acknowledged the threat that this poses to a child’s right to privacy.
Using trademarks in Google ads doesn’t always count as trademark infringement: In a case between Policybazaar and insurance companies (and Google), the Delhi High Court concluded that using trademarks as ad keywords doesn’t amount to infringement, unless there is the likelihood of causing “confusion between the sponsored links and the trademarked company name”.
Ticket reseller faces legal heat for jacked-up Cricket World Cup tickets: Tech policy researcher Raghav Ahooja has filed a complaint against ticket reselling website Viagogo at the Grievance Appellate Committee, which deals with cases of compliance with the IT Rules, 2021. Ahooja alleges that listing highly inflated ticket prices (think: a Rs. 5,000 ticket being resold for over two lakhs) violates the IT Rules, the E-commerce Rules of 202, and the Competition Act of 2002.
Watching porn in private isn’t an offence: So ruled the Kerala High Court while quashing criminal proceedings against a man arrested for watching porn on his phone on the roadside. Interfering with an individual’s private choice to watch porn would amount to violating his privacy. Not to be missed: the court’s warning to parents that watching porn can be addictive for children, followed up by advice that children should be fed home-cooked food. “Instead of purchasing food from restaurants through ‘Swiggy’ and ‘Zomato’, let the children taste the delicious food made by their mother and let the children play at playgrounds at that time and come back home to the mesmerizing smell of mother’s food,” the order observed.
US kicks off massive antitrust trial against Google: The US’ Department of Justice alleges that Google indulged in anticompetitive tactics to retain and expand its monopoly over the search engine and advertising markets. As we’ve reported, “the trial is being seen as the biggest challenge against a tech giant by the US government since the landmark 1998 battle against Microsoft over bundling Internet Explorer.” Catch up with the main arguments in our explainer.
I am become dynamic+ injunction, destroyer of all privacy: The Delhi High Court came out with a new kind of order to tackle piracy and copyright violations—the dynamic+ injunction. This order protects not only currently copyrighted works against infringement, but also future works as soon as they are produced by the copyright owners. Critics argue that the order does away with due deliberations, including over who owns the copyright of yet-to-be-created works.
Real money gaming major may take on GST evasion notices: Dream11 has reportedly moved the Bombay High Court over massive retrospective tax evasion notices following the government’s decision to hike the tax rate for the sector to 28%.
Epic Games challenges Apple’s victory in stateside antitrust suit: The Fortnite developer has moved the United States Supreme Court asking it to review a lower court’s ruling that upheld Apple’s allegedly monopolistic in-app purchases policies.
*This date has been auto-generated by the Supreme Court of India, and is subject to revision.
- Court Watch: Tech Policy Cases To Keep An Eye Out For This September
- Court Watch: What Tech Policy Issues Are India’s Courts Hearing This August?
- Court Watch: The Biggest Tech Policy Cases India’s Courts Are Hearing This July
- Court Watch: Tech Policy Cases India’s Courts Will Hear This May
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Note: this piece was updated on 4/10/23 at 8:40 am to correct a typographical error.