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Shark Tank India cracks down on startups using show clips in personal content

Several startups featured on Shark Tank India reported that their posts were randomly deleted and their social media and ad accounts suspended after they posted clips from their own pitches online.

Shark Tank India cracks down on startups using show clips in personal content

Tuesday May 07, 2024 , 4 min Read

Key Takeaways

  • Dorje Teas says it has received a legal notice from Sony regarding usage of the clips in its YouTube and Meta posts
  • Other startups say their online posts containing clips from their Shark Tank India pitches have been reported and pulled down
  • Some said their social media and ad accounts were also suspended because of Sony's actions

Shark Tank India, a startup-focused show which often finds itself in controversies, has sent legal notices to several startups for using clips from their pitches on the show for online ads.

The incident first came to light after Dorje Teas Founder Sparsh Agarwal, who pitched on the show, put up a post on LinkedIn saying the move from Sony Pictures Networks India, which airs the reality show, was in a bad vein.

Agarwal added that the media conglomerate had cracked down on "each and every startup" that has appeared on the show and was using clips from their pitches for ads on online platforms, including their websites, YouTube, and social media channels.

"After all Dorje Teas, and other companies like Skippi IcePops, Assembly, Perfora, Hoovu Fresh, Beyond Snacks, Wakao Foods, Nasher Miles, and so many others are spending lakhs every month to boost Shark Tank content, thereby giving free publicity and brand recall to the SHARK TANK INDIA brand!" his post said.

Many startups have also reported that their social media posts and website videos have been flagged by Google and Meta for copyright infringement, resulting in the removal of their content from these platforms or, worse, suspension of their accounts.

A screengrab from a WhatsApp group that consists of Shark Tank India alumni shows that at least 18 startups were affected after their posts containing any aired content got flagged and removed.

"Our Meta ad account has been disabled, and it's very much affecting our business," Yashwant Budhwani, Co-founder and CEO of Hoora Technologies, featured in Season 3, told YourStory.

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Several other startup founders reported comparable problems, saying the suspension of their social media and ad accounts was leading to significant financial losses.

Under the Indian copyright laws, Sony may have legitimate grounds for seeking recourse.

"Sony Pictures Networks India is the producer of the show; they therefore own the entire episode.  The producer is the author of the work under Section 17 of the Copyright Act. When the producer has paid for the production of the film (cinematograph work), they are the first owner," said Swapna Sundar, Senior Partner at PVS Giridhar Associates Law Chambers.

"The copyright law protects the rights of the producer and also grants certain rights to the performer, which are typically independent. But the producer has the exclusive right over the integrated content."

She added that startups that wanted to use the content should have either sought a license from Sony, or backlinked to Sony's platform or YouTube channel where their pitch was featured.

Dorje's Agarwal, in his LinkedIn post, wrote that the legal notice was not in the spirit of promoting startups, and seemed like a bad decision.

Members of the startup community rallied behind Agarwal's position, expressing disapproval of Sony's actions and questioning whether Shark Tank India genuinely intended to support startups or merely wanted to attract attention. They also pointed out that the legal notice and strike-down of content that used Shark Tank India's clips was a departure from the ethos of its US counterpart.

However, Sundar suggested that Sony's actions may have been driven by concerns regarding the misuse of intellectual property, potential brand dilution, and the risk of losing control over the show's format.

"Startups go to Shark Tank India because of the proven creative format of the platform fortified by its brand value, and Sony is rightfully aggressive about protecting its IPR and brand image," she noted.

In a directive to participating startups on the show, Shark Tank India clarified that companies were authorised to share images and videos supplied by them on their social media platforms.

"Request you to refrain from using Shark Tank India, Sony LIV, Sony Entertainment Television logo, pictures, font, and videos on your website or social media. Doing so would constitute copyright infringement. The pictures and videos shared by our teams can be uploaded on your social media only," the advisory read.

"You can mention only "As Seen on Shark Tank India" and not "Approved by Sharks" or "Approved on Shark Tank India etc," it added.

Edited by Kanishk Singh