Meghan Markle Sues Newspaper, Google Refuses to Pay French Publishers, Tech Giants to Face Another Antitrust Inquiry and more
Meghan Markle Sues Newspaper; Google Refuses to Pay French Publishers; Telegram Facing PIL to Ban App; FPIs Oppose Localisation Norms for Data Protection; Tech Giants to Face Another Antitrust Inquiry, Comcast Accuses Google; Malaysia Fines Grab for Abuse of Dominance; ‘Fake News’ Law Goes into Effect in Singapore and more.
Meghan Markle Sues Newspaper
American actress and now Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, has initiated legal proceedings against the publisher of the UK daily newspaper the Mail on Sunday and its parent company, DMG Media, after the newspaper published a handwritten letter she had sent to her estranged father.
The decision was announced along with the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, through a statement on their official website. In his statement, Prince Harry made references to his wife, Meghan Markle, and his mother, Princess Diana, bringing out the similarities between their respective relationships with the press and calling out the unaccountable behaviour of media.
The couple has employed a leading law firm in defamation/reputation management, using private funds. The suit, filed before the High Court, includes claims of misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In the case of letters, the physical possession of the letters does not affect the copyright owned by the authors. The Mail has denied the allegations, and has expressed its intent to defend itself in the suit. However, if the Duchess is successful in her action, it could open the door to more suits against DMG, which has refused to resolve the issue and has continued to publish derogatory stories.
California Passes Fair Pay to Play Act, May Face Antitrust Lawsuit
California Governor Newsom recently signed the Fair Pay to Play Act which will allow all student athletes enrolled in public and private four-year colleges and universities in the state to earn money from the use of their name, image, or likeness. Student athletes will also be able to hire sports agents, and not lose their scholarships if they receive income for their work. This is the first law of its kind in the nation to allow college student athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.
The Fair Pay to Play Act does not make it mandatory for agencies to pay athletes for the use of their likeness. Instead, it prohibits California colleges from enforcing NCAA rules that prevent student athletes from earning compensation. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athletes and organizes college sports leagues in North America. The enactment has caused NCAA to threaten to ban California colleges and universities from participating in its events, which could impact the recruitment of athletes from these colleges into professional leagues. The NCAA’s threat is reminiscent its 1984 suit against the Board of Regents, in which the US Supreme Court forbid the NCAA from punishing member colleges that played more games on national television. The NCAA rules currently allow only universities, and not the athletes themselves, to profit from the use of names, likenesses and other identifying characteristics, and disqualifies students earning such income from sports scholarships.
Google Refuses to Pay French Publishers
In response to France’s implementation of the EU Copyright Directive, which intended to generate licensing revenue for authors and publishers from big internet companies, Google has issued a statement limiting its own use of content from French publishers. Many of Europe’s biggest news publishers and entertainment companies strongly supported or lobbied for the controversial Copyright Directive, which France was the first to implement.
In a recent post on its blog, Google has states that it will only show links and “very short” extracts of news content, which fall within the fair use exception and don’t attract copyright licensing fees. Publishers who wish to display more of their content will have to give explicit consent to Google, and effectively waive their rights to a licensing fee under the Copyright Directive.
Google has defended its position pointing out that journalists and publishers benefit from being featured in Google News, and also explaining that the Google Search is run based on the relevance of information and not commercial partnership. The post also points out that Google sells only ad words and not a place in its search results, which means Google does not need to pay publishers when users click on their link through the search.
Similar laws passed prior to the Copyright Directive in Germany and Spain resulted in Google dropping many publishers entirely from its News feature, which caused a massive decline in user traffic to such sites and eventually forced them to cooperate.
Telegram Facing PIL to Ban App
A Public Interest Litigation has been filed by Athena Solomon, an LLM student of National Law School of India University Bengaluru, in the Kerala High Court seeking a ban on the popular messaging platform Telegram. The petition alleges that Telegram’s infamous encryption function allows for anonymous posting of messages, which is being misused to promote child pornography and terrorism. It also alleges that users circulate obscene and vulgar content featuring women and children.
Unlike its competing messaging platform, Telegram does not have a nodal or registered office in India, making enforcement of the Information Technology Act virtually impossible. Although Telegram is required by law to remove illegal content, the encryption and use of automatic bots makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to trace the originators circulating criminal content.
The Madras High Court is at present holding proceedings to ascertain means to trace out identities or originators of criminal content on other platforms. Telegram has been banned in Russia and Indonesia, citing similar concerns.
FPIs Oppose Localisation Norms for Data Protection
Overseas funds invested in Indian assets are opposing the proposed Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) that requires them to maintain within India a copy of financially sensitive ownership-related data, including the details of ultimate beneficiaries and offshore banking accounts of foreign portfolio investors (FPI) dealing in Mumbai-traded securities.
The Asia Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association (Asifma), which represents the interests of FPIs such as Citi, Invesco and CLSA, has approached the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in a letter that which emphasizes potential problems in the financial sector that the proposed law could create.
According to Asifma, the law should apply only to entities that process the data of Indian individuals, as the FPIs are already in accordance with the data privacy laws applicable in their home countries for the data of other individuals.
Tech Giants to Face Another Antitrust Inquiry, Comcast Accuses Google
The Small Business Committee Chairwoman of the US House of Representatives has expressed an intent to invite Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. to face questions from her committee on how the companies may be harming the competitive landscape for small businesses.
Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez’s hearing will give lawmakers another opportunity to examine how small businesses are coping with the dominance of Big Tech in eCommerce and internet traffic, and the problems they face in promoting their businesses. The inquiry is likely to follow a familiar path for the tech companies, particularly Amazon, which are being separately investigated for abusing their dominance.
Meanwhile, media and communication giant Comcast has accused Google of using privacy concerns as a pretext to limit the ability to Comcast’s ad arm FreeWheel to sell ads on the YouTube channels.
Comcast appears to be trying to prevent Google’s dominance in online ads extending to YouTube, making this the first time such a powerful company with its own lobbying arm has taken sides in the looming antitrust battle. The issues raised by Comcast and its subsidiary have been echoed widely in the cable and ad technology industries. Comcast’s attack is aimed at Google’s move to reduce third parties from selling ads on YouTube, which Google says it has implemented to comply with emerging privacy regulations.
Google has declined to comment on Comcast’s recent actions but has said it is cooperating with the investigations.
Malaysia Fines Grab for Abuse of Dominance
The Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) has imposed a fine of USD 20.5 million on Malaysian ride-hailing platform Grab for abusing its dominant position in the market by preventing its drivers from promoting and providing advertising services for its competitors. An additional daily penalty of USD 3,582 maybe imposed on Grab if it fails to address these concerns.
Grab claims the decision came as a surprise, as its management believed it was “common practice for businesses to decide upon the availability and type of third-party advertising on their respective platforms, tailored according to consumers’ needs and feedback”.
Last year, Uber and Grab were fined by anti-trust watchdogs in Singapore and the Philippines for their merger. Singapore said the deal had driven up prices, while the Philippines criticised the firms for completing the merger too soon and for a dip in service quality.
Under Malaysia’s Competition Act, the mere existence of a monopoly or dominant player in the market is not an infringement of the law, unless the entity abuses its position in the market.
‘Fake News’ Law Goes into Effect in Singapore
A new law, The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, came into effect this week in Singapore. This Act requires online platforms including social networking, search engine and news aggregation services to issue corrections or remove content that the government deems false.
Media companies that fail to comply will face fine up to 1 million Singapore dollars (USD 722,000). Individuals found guilty of violating the law, both inside and outside Singapore could face fines up to USD 60,000 or prison for up to 10 years.
Opinions on the Act range from it being called a step in the right direction to legislation attempting to restrict free speech. Google has expressed concerns that the law stated could stunt innovation and hurt plans to expand the tech industry, while Facebook and free speech advocates have expressed concerns over the extent of powers wielded by the executive branch.
Singapore is home to the Asia headquarters of Facebook, Google and Twitter.
Authored and compiled by Ashwini Arun and Snehaja Rana (Associates, BananaIP Counsels)
The IP, Privacy and Antitrust Law News Bulletin is brought to you by the Consulting/Strategy Division of BananaIP Counsels, a Top IP Firm in India. If you have any questions, or need any clarifications, please write to [email protected] with the subject: IP, Privacy and Antitrust Law News.
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