A viral social media post has been doing the rounds that it is illegal to share the pdf links of e-papers on Whatsapp and other media. Post lockdown, many housing societies have put restrictions on the delivery of newspapers. Therefore, residents of such societies and others have become dependent on pdfs of e-papers being circulated for their fix of the daily newspaper. The text of the viral message on social media is as follows:
A report in Dainik Bhaskar stated that action can be taken against the group admin of a Whatsapp group for not putting an end to the circulation of such pdfs. Let us check the veracity of such claims. As per the president of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), which is the central organisation of the Indian Press, if a media house gives free PDFs of e-paper, then circulating them is not illegal. In a report published by India Today, INS president Shailesh Gupta has been quoted as saying that, ‘It is okay to forward PDF files which are free, but it is not okay to copy a PDF from a paid e-paper service and forward it. Basically, it is being targeted for aggregators who are trying to increase their traffic because of other newspapers; it is piracy’ (sic).
Infact, some editors such as Sunil Jain of the Indian Express Group, have taken to social media platforms to announce that they are distributing PDFs of their newspapers free. In a reply to a tweet, Mr Jain wrote that
“The @IndianExpress group is distributing its PDFs free as well as with various partners so that readers don’t suffer in the lockdown period” 
Therefore, the viral social media post quoted above is not true. If a media house is providing free pdfs of its newspapers then it is not illegal to share them, however paid e-papers should not be copied illegally and circulated.
In an ex parte interim order dated 29.05.2020, the Delhi High Court in Jagran Prakashan Limited v. Telegram FZ LLC, CS (COM) 146/2020 and I.A. 4073/2020 directed social media messaging app Telegram to take down channels who are illegally distributing e-papers of the plaintiff’s newspaper, Dainik Jagran in PDF format on their platform. As per the Plaintiff, their newspaper website had a security feature whereby a reader could read the newspaper in the digital form on the website itself and could not download it in PDF format. At present, the readers of the newspaper have the option to either subscribe the physical/print newspaper or to read the daily newspaper in the digital format on the web page of the newspaper itself. It was added that considering the present COVID-19 situation, the Plaintiff was contemplating imposing fee on the digital newspaper in India. It was alleged that certain users of Telegram had created channels on the platform to share e- papers of the Plaintiff in PDF format on a daily basis. Such activity permitted its users to download all the previous editions of the e-paper published in the past, which is otherwise available to a user only if he/she paid a subscription fee. The Court opined that the Plaintiff had made out a prima facie case in its favour and granted an injunction. More details of the case can be read here.
Nilufer Bhateja, Editorial Assistant has put this story together.