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Dhruv Rathee Proposes To Blur Visuals Referring to Dabur’s ‘Real’ Fruit Juice In Video For Amicable Settlement: Report

This case highlights a curious intersection of copyright and critique in the digital content world.

In an important development in the case between Dhruv Rathee and Dabur, Rathee has proposed to blur visuals resembling Dabur’s Real juice packet in his YouTube video that Dabur had taken objection to, according to a report by LiveLaw.

According to the report, Dabur had sent a letter to Rathee suggesting that the YouTuber must avoid making statements associating packaged juices with Type II diabetes. While Rathee agreed to Dabur’s suggestions to send a sample blurred image that would replace the original image in the video, he refused to not make any comment against all other packaged fruit juices. The matter will be next heard on March 19, 2024.

This is the latest development in the case since March 2023, when the Calcutta High Court ordered YouTube and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to “take down/remove/block and restrain” access to Youtuber Dhruv Rathee’s video containing references to Dabur’s Real fruit juice product from all the “URL/WebLinks” in their control.

A quick recap of the case:

On February 14, 2023, Rathee posted a video analysing the health benefits of packaged fruit juice products. Dabur swiftly moved the HC claiming that Rathee’s video “disparaged” its product and made an “unfair comparison” between soft drinks and ready-to-serve food, thereby discouraging people from consuming fruit juices. In its petition, the company also stated that the YouTuber used portions of their ad videos and “intentionally and maliciously obscured the registered mark/logo ‘Real Fruit Power’” causing damage to its reputation. Dabur told the court that it had asked Rathee to remove the video, but he refused to do so.

Interestingly, on March 15, 2023, the Calcutta HC found merits in Dabur’s petition stating that the video “overtly and covertly” targeted the brand. Justice Ravi Krishan Kapur had observed that it was in violation of Section 29 (9) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, and the Copyright Act, 1957.

MediaNama’s take:

Rathee’s case throws up interesting questions on copyright, fair use, and censorship. The Court, in its March 15 order, noted that Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution guaranteed freedom of speech and expression, and dissemination of information is a part of it. Moreover, it is in the interest of the consumer to access information through any “medium or platform.” However, stating the restrictions to the said freedom under Article 19 (2), the judge also said that in cases where legality of any published information is in question, “what has to be balanced is the right of the consumer to be made aware vis-a-vis the right of any manufacturer not to be ridiculed”.

The intersection of copyright, and freedom of speech and expression, as well as the right to access information, has been discussed in the past by unpacking the extent of infringement and the applicability of “fair use” provisions under the Copyright Act, 1957. Under Section 52 of the Copyright Act, research, criticism or review of any other work, and reporting of current affairs do not constitute an infringement of Copyright. Rathee’s video that created a stir can be seen as a research-based review or analysis of health claims made by companies selling packaged fruit juices. Isn’t Rathee then well within his rights to retain the original video as is? 

Further, the same could even be considered a journalistic report or review of a food product. Journalists do not enjoy exclusive rights under Indian law, and as MediaNama Founder-Editor pointed out in 2015, on the internet, everyone acts as a journalist, for example, citizens publish photos, videos, and content from war zones and essentially, they are all reporting about these events across the globe. Is there a globally accepted standard definition then to define a journalist in today’s age?

Rathee’s case indicates that legal disputes with big corporations can often cause independent creators to self-censor content to protect their work online, which may be their major source of income. MediaNama’s report on Prasar Bharti’s copyright claims of clips of parliamentary proceedings in YouTube videos delves into similar challenges faced by journalists and independent creators of content on YouTube.  In this context, the suggestion to further blur the visuals for amicable settlement sets an undesirable precedent for various copyright infringement cases against creators publishing information that may be of public relevance. This not only limits the publisher’s ability to exercise their right to speak, report and express freely but also the public’s right to information.

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Curious about the intersection of technology with education, caste and welfare rights. For story tips, please feel free to reach out at sarasvati@medianama.com

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