Early on in the lockdown, many who missed their morning newspaper or had safety concerns took to reading PDFs of The Times of India ePaper shared on social media groups. But even after studies have shown that newspapers are safe and do not spread the coronavirus, many are still continuing with these illegal downloads despite warnings from experts that this could invite legal action against admins of such WhatsApp groups and members.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Pavan Duggal points out that circulation of paid content without permission violates the law. “If a digital edition is being circulated without the permission of the owner, it is a violation of the Copyright Act as well as the Information Technology Act Section 43 which clearly says that if any attempt is made to destroy, delete or alter any information residing in a computer resource, or diminish its value or utility, it is illegal. This person will be liable to pay damages by way of compensation to the person so affected.”
This way of reading newspapers is also risky because it opens up the possibility of someone tampering with the content in the newspaper. A third party circulating the paper without permission may even manipulate and alter the content. This can lead to a whole host of legal and credibility issues, and could make one more susceptible to reading the very fake news that newspapers diligently work to avoid.
This practice not only impacts the readers by opening them up to inaccurate or tampered information, it also negatively impacts newspapers and the state of journalism as well. Newspapers are in the business of audience aggregation through newspaper content. But if this content is available outside newspapers — whether it’s WhatsApp or Facebook, it can hurt the business of journalism and the jobs of many hard-working reporters, editors, photographers, designers and countless others who work together to produce the newspaper.