BENGALURU: Indian regional language social media platform ShareChat was forced to take down TikTok videos uploaded by its users after the Chinese short video app sent notices saying it had exclusive rights over this content.
TikTok made the exclusivity claims based on contractual arrangements between the app and creators. It also said it has the sole right to initiate and control legal action including takedown requests. ET has a copy of these takedown notices and partly redacted contracts between TikTok and some creators.
“We can confirm ShareChat has received multiple takedown notices from ByteDance Technology and have complied with them as they have shared legal contracts stating their ownership to this content,” a ShareChat spokesperson told ET in an email. Questions sent to TikTok were not answered.
Facebook and YouTube users also have posted of TikTok video compilations. It is not clear whether these two platforms received takedown notices as well. Questions sent to Facebook didn’t receive any response. YouTube said it doesn’t mediate copyright claims and it is between the parties involved.
Some technology experts are asking whether TikTok’s exclusivity claim could affect the intermediary status social media platforms enjoy under the IT Act. This status is used by platforms to argue they have no legal liability arising out of content posted by users. TikTok had used this status to argue against its ban in Madras High Court in April for allegedly hosting content dangerous for children.
Tieups with Creators Under Watch
“The minute you become a partner with a user, you stop being an intermediary. You are an active participant in that content creation. However, your ownership status is restricted to that piece of content, not the whole platform,” said a technology and policy lawyer who did not want to be named.
TikTok, owned by Chinese startup ByteDance, has 200 million users in India, of which 120 million are active on a monthly basis. It competes primarily with Facebook and ShareChat in India.
Exclusive partnerships with creators is not a new concept in the industry.
Platforms such as YouTube and Facebook have exclusive content partnerships with creators in order to attract loyal viewership. These partnerships are getting a closer look from governments and law enforcement agencies, experts said.
“If you are claiming exclusivity, that (legal safe harbours) protection falls away,” said another senior technology lawyer, requesting anonymity as he has social media firms as clients. “If something goes wrong, how do we know it (content) is user generated or it was created on behalf of Tik-Tok.”
Eshika Phadke, a legal risk analyst at Inflawence, said the impact exclusive contracts with creators has on TikTok’s intermediary status would depend on whether they have editorial control over these creators.
Source: Economic Times