New Delhi: The Delhi high court has ordered the Centre for Science and Environment, or CSE, not to put up articles published in newspapers owned by HT Media Ltd without permission on a website managed by the centre.
The India Environment Portal, also promoted by the National Knowledge Commission, an advisory body to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has been aggregating environment-related articles published in several newspapers, including those owned by HT Media: Hindustan Times and Mint.
Public good? Centre for Science and Environment’s Sunita Narain.
“We’ve already removed all the articles,” insisted Sunita Narain, director of CSE. “This is thoroughly unprofessional. Only criminal companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo use interim orders and file suits without informing all the parties.” CSE has battled cola companies over the alleged presence of pesticides in their soft drinks.
Manoj Bhargava, deputy general manager, legal, HT Media said: “There’s no legal obligation on our part to inform the CSE before we file suit. It’s a clear case of copyright violation, and we are determined to see it through to the end.”
He added that HT Media had already sent two legal notices to CSE, which explicitly warned of legal action if the articles used without permission weren’t removed. HT Media’s main contention is that the websites of its newspapers publish the same articles for free and CSE’s publishing of the articles in their entirety, without obtaining any “prior consent, authorization or license” from HT Media is a violation of India’s Copyright Act.
The court’s interim order on 15 December restrains CSE from using articles published by HT Media’s newspapers without permission until the matter comes up for hearing in March.
HT Media had earlier sent a legal notice to CSE on 16 October asking that articles appearing in its publications that are used on its Internet portal be removed. CSE wrote back on 27 October, saying: “...This has been noted for the future and will be done.”
HT Media told the Delhi court that despite the October promise, “over 800 articles” of Hindustan Times were available on the website, “compelling the plaintiff (HT Media) to issue another letter” on 6 November to CSE, “which has not elicited any response”.
“There were some Mint stories and several HT (Hindustan Times) stories that continued to be listed,” Bhargava told Mint. “They were available as word files. That’s when we wrote to them again and we never got a response to that. On 12 December, we filed a suit against CSE in the high court and got an interim order restraining it from further publication.”
Narain claimed HT Media was making a mountain out of a molehill.
“The aim of such a portal is to disseminate information to the general public,” she said. “We are not driven by profit. We have content from a variety of sources—newspapers, journals, etc., and nobody has objected to this, simply because it is evident that this is not a for-profit endeavour.”