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The interplay between intellectual property rights and data privacy

14 September 2022

The interplay between intellectual property rights and data privacy

The case Neetu Singh & Anr. v. Telegram FZ LLC & Ors., CS (Comm) 282/2020 has established that “by taking the garb of privacy, one will not be allowed to abuse the intellectual property rights of another person,” said Gautam K.M., an associate partner at Krishnamurthy & Co. in Bangalore.

“The case is a classic example of the interplay and fine balance between data privacy and the infringement of IP rights,” Gautam added.

Delhi-based KD Campus Private Limited and its founder and director Neetu Singh filed a copyright infringement suit against messaging app Telegram. According to the coaching centre, Telegram disseminated the centre's videos, lectures, books and other study materials through its various channels without their consent. The materials were created for students in India who are about to take competitive examinations. 

Despite an interim order from the court in July 2020, the unauthorized dissemination of study materials continued unabated. Thus, the Delhi High Court instructed Telegram to disclose certain information namely the channel operators and devices used by the app to disseminate the materials and users’ mobile numbers, IP addresses and email IDs.

Telegram argued that disclosure of user information is a violation of its privacy policy and the laws of Singapore where its physical servers are situated.

According to Gautam, the defendants relied heavily on:

  • Rule 4 (2) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which condones upon providing any such sensitive personal data or information of the first originator unless ordered by a judicial order passed by a court of competent jurisdiction for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, or punishment of an offense related to: the sovereignty and integrity of India; security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order; or incitement to rape, sexually explicit material, or child sexual abuse material.
  • Article 21 of the Constitution of Indian and Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which protects the right to freedom of speech and expression.

“We observe how the Delhi High Court has rejected the above contentions, citing Section 81 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which clearly states that the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 are supplemental to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957,” said Gautam.

“Therefore, in the above-mentioned case, in light of the technological advancements, the Hon’ble Court had to find a balance between protecting the data privacy and also uphold the copyright owner’s rights. The Hon’ble court has given precedence to the copyright owner’s i.e., plaintiffs’ right to seek relief under Section 55 of the Copyright Act and merely because defendant chooses to locate its server in Singapore, the same cannot result in the plaintiffs’ being left completely remediless against the actual infringers and ordered disclosure of details of the channels/devices used in disseminating the infringing content, mobile numbers, IP addresses, email addresses, etc., used to upload the infringing material.”

Gautam added that the case is important as it broadens the horizon of IP which is imperative in the current digital age.



Espie Angelica A. de Leon

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