In an incident that wouldn’t serve Telegram well when its come to privacy debates and comparisons to Whatsapp, the instant messaging service has complied with the orders of the Delhi High Court and released the details of those users and channels that have allegedly participated in copyright infringement.

In an order dated August 30, 2022, the court directed the defendant to reveal the details of the channels and devices that were involved in the dissemination of the infringing content. These details include their mobile numbers, IP addresses, email addresses, the names of the administrators, the servers (located in Singapore), devices, and networks on which they were created, and other data. The order had given Telegram a window of two weeks to disclose the details, which shall be filed in a sealed cover with the Delhi High Court.

Another court order dated November 24 informed that Telegram, in an affidavit filed on October 6, had confirmed that it had filed the data – which includes the names of the admins, the phone numbers, and IP addresses of some of the channels – and attached it as a sealed cover to the affidavit. In the court order, Justice Pratibha M. Singh acknowledged Telegram’s compliance with the court’s judgement.

“Let copy of the said data be supplied to ld. Counsel for Plaintiffs with the clear direction that neither the Plaintiffs nor their counsel shall disclose the said data to any third party, except for the purposes of the present proceedings. To this end, disclosure to the governmental authorities/police is permissible,” Singh informed in the court order.

“List before the court for case management on February 14, 2023. This shall not be treated as a part-heard matter. The matter shall be listed before the Roster Bench,” the court added.

This incident sets forth a new precedent, and perhaps a tad bit dangerous one at that, as we are likely to see wide use with plaintiffs and litigants now seeking to reveal user information in cases of alleged copyright infringement. Additionally, it lays down the liability of the intermediary – in this case, Telegram – and its duties to prevent copyright infringement. In the current case, Telegram found itself taken to court after the plaintiff – Neetu Singh, a teacher – alleged that videos of her lectures and books were frequently uploaded on several channels on Telegram without her knowledge and consent, and students could access the material at discounted rates. Justice Singh noted that it was a matter of copyright infringement, which “has to be nipped in the bud.”

Telegram had little choice but to share the data with the court, although it argued that the disclosure of such information amounted to the violations of the privacy policy and the Personal Data Protection Act, 2012, of Singapore. However, its pleas were soon quashed by the Delhi High Court as Singh replied that the violations of intellectual property would reign unchecked if the court made such an allowance and allowed Telegram to not share the data.