16 June 2021

Copyright infringement – Direction to WhatsApp to suspend accounts unauthorizedly circulating film content

The Delhi High Court has directed WhatsApp LLC to suspend the WhatsApp accounts of specified defendants to ensure that they cease the infringement of the plaintiff’s copyright on WhatsApp.

However, it may be noted that the direction in the order in the case Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. v. Tejendra Modi which stated that if the plaintiff brings to the notice of WhatsApp LLC, the use of any other account for selling infringing copies of the film, WhatsApp LLC should within 24 hours suspend such accounts, was subsequently kept in abeyance by the Court on 1 June 2021.

The Court in its later Order found prima facie merit in the contention that since the messages between WhatsApp users are protected with an end-to-end encryption protocol, WhatsApp LLC would not be able to review any accounts, reported by the plaintiff in the future, to confirm that they are in fact selling pirated copies of the film in question.

According to the Court, it would be appropriate that any further direction for suspension of WhatsApp accounts be issued by the Court.

The Court also granted an ex parte interim injunction against various defendants alleged to be unauthorizedly circulating the film ‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’ through WhatsApp or any other means.

It noted that as per the printouts (placed on record) of the WhatsApp communications pertaining to the defendants, the account holders, were using the accounts to sell the content of the film and that such use was in complete violation of the terms of the policy of WhatsApp LLC (also a defendant here), as was infringing the copyright of the plaintiff.

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