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Defender of your Digital Freedom

1. Intermediary Liability

An online intermediary is an entity that acts as a facilitator of the flow of data across the Internet. While the actual functions of intermediaries are often not clear-cut, they can broadly be seen as falling into one of two categories i.e. conduits for data travelling between nodes of the Internet, hosts for such data. An Internet intermediary could therefore refer to Telecom Service Providers (TSP), Internet Service Providers (ISP), web-hosting platforms and the myriad websites that provide online services. Intermediary liability, to put in simply, refers to the extent of liability that an intermediary stands to incur due to the non-permissibility under law of content they deal in. This module will discuss the law related to liability of intermediaries under the Information Technology Act, 2000 and its associated rules, covering such aspects as safe-harbour protection from liability over third-party content, due diligence to be followed, notice-and-takedown procedure and more. Notable judgements from India and abroad will also be covered.

2. Net Neutrality

The principle of network neutrality (net neutrality) states that all data flowing across the Internet must be treated equally, without discriminating on the basis of nature, origin, destination or any other attribute. Equal treatment of data is considered essential to preserve the open and decentralized nature of the Internet, and to foster healthy competition and innovation online. However, some fear that over-reliance on net neutrality will in fact hinder innovation and diminish industry revenues. This module will cover the basic tenets of net neutrality and how it is treated under domestic and foreign regulatory frameworks. Regulatory approaches to practices such as paid prioritization, blocking, throttling, and differential pricing will be examined in detail, as will applicable exceptions to the net neutrality principle. Participants will also be introduced to emerging issues and global perspectives from the multi-stakeholder community.

3. Right to Privacy

The Supreme Court’s recognition of privacy as a fundamental right is the beginning of a new era in Indian constitutional jurisprudence. The SC’s unanimous judgement in this regard in the case of K.S.Puttaswamy v. Union of India will usher in a period of great technical and legal creativity. Also considering that IT-based service industries are core components of any Digital India economic strategy, privacy considerations are bound to manifest in a big way in our developmental road-map. This module will trace the evolution of the fundamental right to privacy in India and elsewhere, with emphasis on the series of Supreme Court judgements that iteratively read this right into Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Participants will also be introduced to how the newly established right to privacy will affect the formulation of laws and policies going forward.

4. Data Protection

Despite being one of the largest generators of data, India does not have adequate data protection laws to safeguard individuals from data theft, communications surveillance, unsolicited marketing, among others. The existing body of legislations comprise of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and The Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011. During the course of the Right to Privacy hearings, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology set up an expert committee to come up with a draft data protection bill. This nine member committee is chaired by former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna. This module will cover the relevant laws for data protection in India.

5. Electronic Evidence

The relevance of digital technologies in modern-day life can also be seen in court rooms, as litigations and prosecutions increasingly rely on electronic evidence in the form of email, chat logs, images, video, audio and more. In India, the Information Technology Act, 2000 made amendments to the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Banker’s Book Evidence Act, 1891 to make electronic evidence admissible. A small but growing body of case law on electronic evidence also exists in India, defining additional standards and safeguards. This module will introduce participants to the fundamentals of collecting, authenticating and filing electronic evidence in Indian courts. It will also cover international best practices in this regard, and provide an overview of how electronic evidence in treated across jurisdictions.

6. Censorship

The right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, and is also recognized under international policy documents like the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. The Internet in turn is a key enabler of the right to free speech, as it facilitates instant and inexpensive exchange of information across borders, and enables users to actively publish in addition to passively receiving information. However, in a bid to control the dissemination of information online, Governments across the world routinely disable access to content and services (including the Internet as a whole), thus restricting the right to free speech. This module will cover the legal and policy frameworks that govern online censorship in India. It will also undertake a comparative analysis of domestic censorship practices against global practices, and equip participants to make meaningful interventions against undue censorship.

7. Online Harassment

In the age of technology, the Internet, besides being a tool for facilitating freedom of speech and expression online, can also be used as a tool for harassment. Online harassment and trolling has become a regular occurrence on the Internet, especially on social media platforms, leading to censorship and individuals leaving the platform. Hateful sentiments can be easily propagated online, especially by hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. Hate speech has not been defined in any law in India but there are various provisions under different legislations that allow victims of online harassment to approach the state authorities in order to take cognizance of such incidents. Two statutes that primarily deal with the issue of online harassment are IT Act and Indian Penal Code. This module will discuss the legal remedies available to combat online harassment.

8. Intellectual Property

Intellectual property rights are designed to protect the rights of those who create original works and inventions in any discipline. Copyrights, trademarks and patents are all manifestations of intellectual property rights that give creators the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute and monetize their creations with narrowly defined exceptions. While intellectual property rights are meant to safeguard the interests of creators, they are also capable of being used in exclusionary ways to stifle competition and hinder innovation. It is therefore important for regulators to strike a balance between intellectual property rights and the freedom to innovate, which can be a difficult proposition at times. This module will cover the fundamentals of intellectual property rights in a technological context, and their regulatory treatment in India and abroad. Emphasis will be given to protecting intellectual property in ways that prove least restrictive, while at the same time effectively protecting creators’ interests. Lessons will be drawn from the Free and Open Source Software movement to demonstrate how intellectual property can be protected without hindering competition or innovation.