Legal Guide For Indian Bloggers

imageI came across an astonishingly detailed guide for US bloggers on the legal issues that a blogger can face due to various acts. It clearly mentions that the guide is exclusively for US bloggers since there is strong constitutional protection for speech. I tried to search a similar guide for India and failed to find anything useful. With the advent of social networking, blogs have become an extremely viral media, so apart from the financial risks of social networking, there are definitely legal issues for any public dissemination of information including blogging.

(Picture courtesy Over the Top of NY)

India has been typically laggard with respect to cyber laws, not only in implementation but unambiguously defining it as well. One of the biggest reason I would assume would be that law makers themselves may not be able to keep pace with the fast changing technology. The first indian IT law was introduced in 2000 called the IT Act 2000 [Summary Slides from IIT-M - PDF]. This act was further modified in 2008 The Information Technology Act 2008.

The pertinent question is “Why blogging cause legal issues?”. The problem is the extremely viral nature of blogging, since it has now become more ubiquitous with millions of people getting influenced by what they read on blogs.

I would provide you a real world analogy. Let us say you bought a product from Company X, unfortunately it turned out to be a junk and useless product with not keeping up to the promise that was given before you purchased. You go to the customer care or their office and nothing happens, no-body listens to your complaints. But instead of “chalta-hai” attitude you decided to tell it to few of your close friends and let them be warned about it. It is still fine with the company, but now imagine you called up a public meeting and started talking about your rough experience with the product. Initially there might be just few of your friends but slowly hundreds and thousands of folks joined your meeting and started getting warned about the junk product and the pathetic customer service from Company X. That is illegal, you just de-famed the Company X.

This is exactly what happens when you blog. You are disseminating information for public consumption which can have significant influence on people either in their behavior or opinions about something. The first indian blogging controversy happened for exactly same reason.

It is so difficult to read through the mumbo-jumbo of legal laws, as Mark Twain rightly said

Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any law on the planet.

So how do bloggers (just about anyone with internet connection can become a blogger) keep themselves safe from the legal wrangle? Here are some simple DO’s and DON’Ts that will help any blogger to avoid cyber law (typically applicable to Indian bloggers):

The ultimate expression of a government’s lust for power lies in a term coined by Orwell in 1984: thoughtcrime. Thoughtcrimes are thoughts that have been criminalized, and if the technology to detect emotions existed, It is not unlikely that the Indian government would ban hatred. Or, at least, hatred of things that it deems should not be hated.

  • Do not write negative comments about any religious personality, deity or organization.

  • Do not criticize any company’s products or services. You may not like the product or services but publicly criticizing it for spreading the word is not the right way. If you absolutely have to do it like a review of a book or movie or mobile phone, please put a disclaimer mentioning these are your own personal thoughts with no legal liability on you. Defamation is extremely complicated subject in the books of law, and so is proving your innocense.

  • Do not post pornographic material including anything slightly sexually explicit (especially pictures or videos). It may be just a fun video or fun pictures for you, but it can hurt someone’s sentiments and hence an absolute NO NO.

  • Do not publish any confidential information from within your company. I would suggest do not post anything related to what you do within your company (unless you own the company and want to promote it through blog). Any information on what you are currently working on or what are the future releases or any inside information say company want to layoff people or planning to acquire any organization, absolutely everything is confidential. This information is typically governed by trade secrets which are complicated.

  • Do not plagiarize. If you copy paste the text from another website or you copy that beautiful picture or video without the consent from the original author and publishing it without providing the link to original source, then you are plagiarizing. One of the biggest and innocuous way of plagiarizing is to search that image you need from Google Images or Flickr and put it in your post without bothering about copywrite issues. You should only use legal pictures from flickr or any other website for your blog posts. Also it is illegal to edit the pictures or videos (removing watermarks or just any editing action like cropping) that you downloaded without permissions and then publishing it. Note that small actions can lead to copywrite violations.

  • Do not publish any data, numbers, figures, charts that you do not own. Always reference to original source from where you found the data. If you do not have the original source, stop and do not publish it.

  • Do not share private information about anyone you know without his/her permission. So you went with your girl friend on that famous beach and posted those pictures without asking her, think again. You just gave your friends contact details or wrote that caustic remark providing private details of the person you hate, beware you are surely violating privacy laws. I would advise not to even post edited pictures of film celebrities.

  • But if fate decides to screw you, it can not be avoided similar to when it caught Lakshamana Kailash and what he got is 50 days with 200 under-trials at Yerawada Jail, finally ending with a “sorry” from Police and Airtel.

Read some more interesting posts like “Bloggers and Defamation” and “Restricting Freedom with Excuses of Responsibility” on this issue. Here is an interesting video on this subject.

Please note that this list is not exhaustive (and definitely not legally scanned and is not a substitute for legal advise) in nature but just the common sense approach to avoid any legal issues. Just to be on safe side, here is the disclaimer, that this list does not guarantee avoidance of law-suite due to material published by you, so I would not be liable for any damages :-)


  1. Very good article. lakshmana'a story is real touchy!!!

  2. Thanks.. I shudder imagining myself in place of lakshmana... media will report these incidents... but you will never get to know what happened to him afterwards.. did he got compensated?

  3. Very well explained.

  4. Thanks for comment ShriKrishna. I guess lot of bloggers esp Indian bloggers violate copyright... (typically copy pasting text and rehashing it or copying pictures)

  5. That was very well written. However, if bloggers are to follow all these guidelines, then probably the only thing one can post on one's blog is children's stories with a moral.
    In India on the other hand, there is probably nothing like a true freedom of expression, and probably it is wise to be careful while blogging.

  6. Thanks doctoratlarge for comments. I agree that we have less freedom of speech, so it is good idea to know what you are getting into if you blog. Most blogger are NOT even aware of these issues. (I have seen many blogs violating copyright laws by copying text or pictures).

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  8. i never thought about "Legal Aspect of Blogging". Its a great read and has made me cautious about my blog tooo.

  9. Anonymous1:41 PM

    Thanks Amit for Visiting my blog. Your blogs looks good too...


  10. You made my life tough by writing all this - LIC must be preparing a case against me. ;)

    I must say you are doing a great job. Keep Rocking.

  11. Hello,

    Your article is really great and says a lot about dos and donts.....I have a question....being in IT industry....working in a a project....using a third party tool from a third day u decide to write a blog about the that legal? YOu write only about the good or bad stuffs...just about the working of that tool...for example.... you write about Oracle Access manager.......

  12. Thank you sayanta for the comments.

    Your question depends on what content you write related to the tool. Is that information publicly available or is it a company confidential (even using a tool in specific way can be a "restricted access").

    You can typically omit the way the tool is configured in your company or any scripts etc that are not available publicly but very specific to your company's usage of tool.

    Sometimes mentioning that "your company is using that particular third party tool", this information may itself be confidential.

    It is really difficult question to answer and depends on case to case basis.

    You can consult your legal department before posting if that is possible. Your company may already have the blogging guidelines.

    I do not write about technical stuff at-all thus avoiding any possible conflict of interest. (may be i am more paranoid types)