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Prasar Bharati denies sending copyright claims to YouTubers: Here’s what doesn’t fit the argument

While anonymous Prasar Bharati officials have denied copyright claims to The Hindu, MediaNama recounts its conversations with YouTubers who have received such notices from the government organisation

What’s the news: Prasar Bharati officials told The Hindu on October 1, 2023, that the organisation “does not make copyright claims on any public service content, which includes the parliamentary proceedings reproduced by it.” The report cites the statement as a response to an allegation by Congress leader Gurdeep Singh Sappal that Prasar Bharati sent “copyright infringement notices to YouTubers as regards parliamentary proceedings.”

YouTubers flag copyright claims: In September 2023, MediaNama published an exclusive article on how independent journalists posting their videos on YouTube received copyright claims from Prasar Bharati. They used video clips regarding Parliamentary proceedings and bits of speeches by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Former NDTV journalist Abhisar Sharma and a veteran journalist who wished to remain anonymous told MediaNama how they had to remove the video clips to avoid such conflicts with Prasar Bharati. This is despite an exemption stated in the Indian copyright law that allows the use of such content for news coverage or current affairs.

MediaNama also had an exclusive interview with Meghnad S., an independent journalist who covers the Parliament at length on YouTube, wherein he talked about the challenges he faced due to such copyright claims from Prasar Bharati.

Prasar Bharati denies sending such notices: While speaking to The Hindu, a Prasar Bharati senior official said that it “had never issued such a notice,” and that the organisation’s public service-related contents were copyright-free.

Another official also said that the notices may have been sent by YouTube via its algorithm, which automatically flags such content usage with a feature called Content ID. Gaurav Dwivedi, CEO of Prasar Bharati, gave a similar reply to MediaNama when asked about the organisation’s procedure in selecting the channels to send copyright claims to.

What is Content ID? Distinct from legal actions like copyright removal requests, Content ID is an automated content identification system that identifies and manages copyright-protected content on YouTube. It does so by creating a database with the help of the copyright owner and then scanning all videos uploaded on YouTube against the same.

YouTube also says:

“When Content ID finds a match, the matching content gets a Content ID claim. What happens to the matching content depends on the copyright owner’s Content ID settings…

Depending on the copyright owner’s Content ID settings, Content ID claims can:

  • Block content from being viewed.
  • Monetise content by running ads on it and sometimes sharing revenue with the uploader.
  • Track the viewership statistics on the content.”

This means that the Content ID feature functions based on the copyright owner’s settings for Content ID claims. Yet, while speaking with The Hindu, the Prasar Bharati official claimed that it resolves such issues “as and when we receive information about such notices, which involve public service contents.” The official then pushed the onus onto the affected person to contest the claims, stating that if the individual does not pursue the matter with YouTube, the platform may never even ask Prasar Bharati for clarification.

Article continues below ⬇, you might also want to read:

Sappal dissatisfied with statement: Following The Hindu’s story, Sappal retweeted his original criticism against the alleged copyright claims, adding that Prasar Bharati must make an official statement by named officials.

“If the intent of Prasar Bharti is indeed not to claim copyright over the usage of Parliamentary proceedings, then it must issue an official statement clarifying it. Such a statement can then be used by social media content creators for their official reply to the notices,” he said in the tweet.

Regarding YouTube’s algorithm and automated functions, Sappal pointed out that Prasar Bharati can still clarify which content, for example, “footage with Sansad TV logo,” is free from copyright claims.

Sappal also asked, “There have been media/ social media stories on this issue of notices to YouTube content creators. But why did Prasar Bharati not clarify for a full week? Was it out of ignorance or did it choose to remain conspicuously silent and allow the unfounded fear to seep into the content creators? This fear may well lead to voluntary self-censorship by several content creators to avoid notices of copyright infringements.”

It may be mentioned that neither The Hindu nor Sappal credited MediaNama for bringing this issue to light. The article has since been republished on other news media platforms like Scroll.

Incidentally, we sent an email to Prasar Bharati with the following questions in September:

  1. How does Prasar Bharati select the channels to whom it sends copyright claims?
  2. How many teams consisting of how many members are involved in the process of sending out copyright claims?
  3. Are copyright claims only sent to online or independent content creators or are they sent to TV channels as well?
  4. Should content funded by tax-payers’ money be free for use, reporting and/ or satire for the citizens of India? What is Prasar Bharati’s stand on this idea?
  5. If the answer to the previous question is no, why does Prasar Bharati feel such content should not be in the public domain?
  6. Approximately, how many copyright claims were sent out by Prasar Bharati in 2023?

As of the time of publication, the organisation still has not responded to the queries despite a follow-up mail.

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Written By

I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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