According to the Lumen database, the DMCA notice — related to AR Rahman's song 'Maa Tujhe Salaam' — was sent by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry on behalf of Sony Music Entertainment.

Ravi Shankar Prasad speaking at a press conference, waving right hand. PTI
Atom Controversy Saturday, June 26, 2021 - 13:37

Twitter on Friday briefly blocked IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad from accessing his account, ratcheting up tensions with the government as it came under renewed attack for not following local laws. Twitter denied Prasad access to his account '@rsprasad' for almost an hour on the grounds that he violated the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), but the minister said the microblogging platform violated new IT rules that require intermediary or a host of user content to give prior notice before locking access. The DMCA notice purportedly involved a 2017 tweet by Prasad. The IT Minister called out Twitter over the brazen arbitrariness and running its "own agenda".

However, according to the Lumen database, the DMCA notice — related to AR Rahman's song 'Maa Tujhe Salaam' —  was sent by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) on behalf of Sony Music Entertainment. A video paying tribute to the Indian Army on the anniversary of 1971 war victory was reportedly posted where the song composed by Rahman was used as background music. As per the Lumen database, the DMCA notice was sent on May 24, 2021, and received by Twitter on June 25, 2021. Lumen database is an independent research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content, and requests received by Twitter for withholding content are published on its site.

Under the DMCA copyright, owners can notify Twitter claiming that a user has infringed their copyrighted works, the message read. "Upon receipt of a valid notice, Twitter will remove the identified material. Twitter maintains a repeat copyright infringer policy under which repeat infringer accounts will be suspended. Accruing multiple DMCA strikes may lead to suspension of your account," the message locking him out of his account read.

About an hour later, Twitter unlocked access to the account by posting a warning message to the minister's account stating, “Your account is now available for use. Please be aware that any additional notices against your account may result in your account being locked again and potentially suspended.” It further said, "In order to avoid this, do not post additional material in violation of our Copyright Policy and immediately remove any material from your account for which you are not authorised to post.”

The temporary locking of the IT Minister's Twitter account comes at a time when the US digital giant has been engaged in a tussle with the Indian government over the new social media rules.

In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson said, “We can confirm that the Honourable Minister's account access was temporarily restricted due to a DMCA notice only and the referenced tweet has been withheld. Per our copyright policy, we respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorised representatives.”

Prasad lashed out at Twitter, and in a series of tweets said it was apparent that his statements calling out the "high handedness and arbitrary actions" of Twitter, had ruffled feathers.

He went on to say that it is now obvious why Twitter is refusing to comply with the intermediary guidelines and added "because if Twitter does comply, it would be unable to arbitrarily deny access to an individual's account which does not suit their agenda".

Twitter's actions are in gross violation of the IT rules, where they failed to provide any prior notice before denying access to the account, the minister said.

"Twitter's actions indicate that they are not the harbinger of free speech that they claim to be but are only interested in running their own agenda, with the threat that if you do not toe the line they draw, they will arbitrarily remove you from their platform," Prasad said.

The minister made it clear that platforms will have to abide by the new IT Rules fully and warned that there will be no compromise whatsoever.

Soon after Prasad flagged the issue, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted that he too had faced something similar. "Raviji, the same thing just happened to me. Clearly DMCA is getting hyperactive. This tweet has been deleted by @Twitter because its video includes the copyrighted BoneyM song `Rasputin'," Tharoor tweeted.

Tharoor further said: "As Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, I can state that we will be seeking an explanation from @TwitterIndia for the locking of @rsprasad's & my accounts & the rules & procedures they follow while operating in India".

Twitter and the government have been at loggerheads over multiple instances in the past months.

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