Print news publishers are cracking down on online groups and platforms that have been sharing PDF versions of popular newspapers to readers every day.
For a lot of newspaper management bodies, these informal circulations on social media are nothing but a form of piracy. Soon only subscribed members will be able to access online newspapers.
“It has come to our attention that some publications are facing issues with distribution of the print copies and a lot of piracy and theft of newspapers is happening, especially in the digital format,” said Mary Paul, the secretary-general of the Indian Newspaper Society Secretariat.
Many newspapers are now available in the epaper format online in the morning every day, some of which are free. The availability of the epapers across platforms has been a hit, especially since the beginning of April 2020 when newspaper circulations were forced to stop at several places across the country in the wake of the global pandemic.
According to the INS, many users are creating PDFs out of newspaper pages and circulate them on WhatsApp and Telegram groups to the readers, leading to a loss in both subscription revenue for the print newspapers as well as epapers digitally.
The INS also called this circulation of newspaper on social media illegal and said publications are trying to battle it in their own ways.
The body has also come up with recommendations to stop this:
1. Communicate clearly in the apps, websites and newspapers that circulating any copy or part thereof, is illegal and strict legal action will be taken along with heavy penalties.
2. Additionally, also for any legal action taken, publish a few news stories to talk about the huge fines and lawsuits initiated against offenders to deter others from doing it.
3. Take legal action against offenders, especially against WhatsApp and Telegram admins and trigger legal notices (WhatsApp group admins are liable for anything illegal that happens in their groups).
4. Build certain product features which prevent piracy or at least slow it down. These include:
a. Limiting downloads of PDFs, Images
c. Inserting a user identifier code which is not human visible, so circulated PDFs on Social Media can be tracked back to individuals
d. Auto-generate a list of users downloading greater than a certain number of PDFs per week and block them
Some of the newspapers have already started following the recommendations. Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar has already published a story talking about the piracy of newspapers in the form of online circulation on WhatsApp and Telegram groups.
“The newspaper is the property of the management of that paper. It can be read by either buying it or subscribing to it online. The industry is already going through a tough time and we do not want our readers to abandon the print media. The newspapers are all together in this and we will soon come out with a plan to combat this. We are sure are patrons will stand by us in this,” said the marketing head of a popular language daily of North India.