top of page
  • Writer's pictureVrinda Sehgal

The Growing Trend of Copyright Infringement Through Mobile Applications & Social Media


Conventional modes of news distribution have now been technologically transformed and virtual dissemination has become the new means in the digital era. While publishing houses have adapted to the changing times, they also face new challenges. With social media and instant messaging applications becoming the primary source of communication in the current times, the spread of fake news and misinformation is becoming a cause for major concern since it becomes difficult to authenticate the veracity of this information. In addition, copyright owners also face infringement issues when their e-newspapers and other copyrighted works spread through various modes without any licenses or prior approvals.

In recent cases, the Judiciary has acknowledged these problems and the efforts to curb the spread of news and information through instant messaging mobile applications are becoming more apparent.


In the case of Bennett Coleman Co Ltd. v. WhatsappInc. And Ors., the Delhi High Court granted an ad interim injunction restraining the Defendants, including the well-known instant messaging applications WhatsApp and Telegram from copying, distributing, adopting, reproducing, transmitting, disseminating in any manner through any website/portal the e-newspapers published by the Plaintiff.

The Plaintiff is the owner of popular newspapers in India, including Times of India and they filed a copyright infringement case against the mobile and web-based applications WhatsApp and Telegram claiming that they were unauthorizedly circulating the e-newspapers of the Plaintiff, hence infringing the copyrights of the “original literary works” owned by them in the said newspapers. The Plaintiff argued that they owned exclusive copyright in the literary works, including the right to reproduce and distribute the material in any form. Thus, it was noted that by freely transmitting the e-newspapers, the Defendants were enabling free downloads. Further, it was alleged that through various groups on these applications, the users were uploading the e-newspapers in PDF format daily.

Holding in favour of the Plaintiff, the Hon’ble Justice stated that, “the plaintiff being an exclusive owner of the copyright in the said literary work, therefore, possesses all rights to it in any material forms. Defendants are illegally circulating copies of e-newspapers owned by the plaintiff which violates the rights of the plaintiff.” The Court issued notices to WhatsApp, Telegram and other Defendants who were allegedly involved in or enabling the circulation of the e-newspapers of the Plaintiff.


It is pertinent to note that piracy in the entertainment industry has been a threat to copyrighted content since the age of DVDs and CD players; however pirated content has become more pervasive through online streaming and mobile applications in recent times.

In the case Zee Entertainment Enterprises v. Tejendra Modi and Ors., the Plaintiff claimed infringement of their exclusive license and exploitation rights in the cinematographic film “Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai” (the “film”). Upon release of the film on their digital entertainment streaming service, the Plaintiff alleged that the film became victim to piracy through social media platforms and messaging applications, including WhatsApp. The Plaintiff claimed that the Defendants were transmitting, circulating and sharing and/or making available the content of the film on social media platforms, including WhatsApp despite the Terms of Service of the application which clearly states that users cannot use the services for violation of intellectual property rights. As a result, the Delhi High Court issued an interim injunction restraining the Defendants from “unauthorisedly storing, reproducing, communicating, disseminating, circulating, copying, selling, offering for sale or making available copies the film or any other portion thereof, through WhatsApp or any other means or modes, that may infringe the Plaintiff's copyright in the film.It is also pertinent to note that the Court in this case recognized the need for “actual knowledge” for intermediaries to be held liable and suspended the directions contained in the previous order wherein the Court had suspended the WhatsApp accounts of certain Defendants.


To conclude, the Judiciary seems inclined towards protecting intellectual property, especially copyrighted material which spreads rampantly through the internet. Recent trends show that the Courts are beginning to recognize the ever-evolving and new infringing means that are perpetrating with technological evolution and changing times that have also been expedited due to Covid-19. At the same time the Judiciary still seems to be wary of all the aspects involved and aware that it is also essential to strike a fair balance between the right to freedom of speech, the safe harbor provisions for intermediary liability under section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the rights of copyright holders.

For any questions, you may write to the author, Ms. Vrinda Sehgal, at


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page