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This article is written by Mayank Labh, a student of NALSAR, Hyderabad.

Often, on the internet, you come across images which you find inappropriate for various reasons like the image is obscene, too gratuitous or it has violated your copyright etc. So, this article is about what legal recourse do you have to remove such images from the internet.

There are various laws that govern content on internet like IT Act, Copyright Law, Indian Penal Code etc.

Information Technology Act, 2000

Information Technology Act 2000 regulates the content on the internet or mobile media including the images on the internet.  In order to understand how to remove images or contents it is necessary to understand some legal jargons which are as follows:

Intermediaries

Intermediaries are defined as any person who on behalf of another person stores or transmits that message or provides any service with respect to that message.

Who is an Intermediary?

It is specifically mentioned in the Act that Telecom Service Providers( like Airtel or Reliance),  Network Service Providers(It provides connectivity to Internet Service Providers), Internet Service Providers( like BSNL), Web Hosting Service Providers( It provides people space to launch their websites like godaddy.com), Search Engines, Online Payment Sites, Online Auction Sites and Cyber Café.

Moreover, in a Delhi High Court[1] judgement, it was held that social networking websites fall within the definition of Intermediaries.

“Due Diligence”

Now, these intermediaries have to observe due diligence while discharging their duties:

1) They must lay down terms and conditions which informs the users not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any information that[2]

  1. a) he does not have any right to;

(b) is grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever;

(c) harm minors, no matter in what way;

(d)  violates any patent, trademark, copyright or any kind of  proprietary rights;

(e) infringes any law for the time being in force;

(f) deceives or misleads the addressee about the origin of such messages or communicates any information which is grossly offensive or menacing in nature;

(g) impersonate another person;

(h) contains software viruses or any other computer code, files or programs designed to interrupt, destroy or limit the functionality of any computer resource;

(i) threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order or causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence or prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any other nation.

What can you do if you get offended by some images

If you get offended by any image or find something which comes within 79(3) of IT Act then you can file a written complaint to the intermediary with an electronic signature. It is the responsibility of the intermediary to take it down within 36 hours.

What if Intermediary does not do so

If an intermediary does not take the image down within 36 hours then the intermediary is liable to be punished for imprisonment which may extend up to Section 69(a)(3) of IT Amendment Act and fine as well. It is important to note that there is no legal liability of the person uploading it under this act. However, the intermediary might inform the person uploading it about the complain and can ask him/her to remove the objectionable images.

N.B.: This article specifically deals with images only. The said I.T Act is applicable to other contents as well.

[1] K GovindAcharya v. Union of India

[2] Section 79(3) of Information Technology Act, 2000.

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