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TikTok claims ‘intermediary’ status

After ShareChat’s complaint, TikTok says it does not control user content but has exclusivity rights.

Aug 28, 2019, 06.58 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Short-form video app TikTok has said it is an intermediary, as it does not exercise editorial control over content produced by users at their sole discretion. However, the company said it has certain exclusivity rights over content produced under mutual contractual agreements.

“TikTok welcomes Indian creators to be part of a safe and positive environment that upholds users’ content and intellectual property rights. The platform does not exercise editorial control over user content…,” the app owned by China-based ByteDance said in an email to ET on Tuesday.

“However, TikTok may enter into mutual contractual agreements with some creators, wherein it may enjoy certain exclusivity rights over the content of their creators. In this regard, TikTok has undertaken legal action as part of its commitment to protect its users from copyright infringement,” it said.

The statement comes after ET reported the government was planning to seek clarifications from TikTok on its status as a social media intermediary, after rival ShareChat complained to the ministry of electronics and IT that the app’s claims on “exclusivity” of content were inconsistent with its declared status as an intermediary.

TikTok did not say if its clarification was in response to government communication.

People familiar with developments at TikTok said the company may engage certain users to promote it and teach other users about available tools. “…it (TikTok) may issue a notice to a third party in line with upholding its users' content and intellectual property rights, if that third party infringes the copyrights of its creators and intervenes in the exclusive contractual agreements between the company and its creators,” a person said.

Government officials pointed out that TikTok’s response to all requests to take down certain content, including porn, was based on claims it was a social media intermediary, and therefore had no control over the posted content. But its notices to ShareChat proves otherwise, these officials said.

A government official noted that an intermediary was not supposed to own content, which is precisely why it is protected from liability of the content appearing on the platform.

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