An Australian woman was recently in the news for tracing the person who morphed her image onto a pornographic content and spread it viral, and suing him successfully for damages. Deepfake is a machine learning model to manipulate, edit or superimpose existing images, videos, or audios to create a new piece of content that appears to be real but is fake.

The rising use of deepfake technology has raised concerns about the need for stronger legal frameworks to address issues such as privacy, data protection and cybercrime. While India has some laws that can be applied to combat deepfake technology, there is a need for more specific legislation to address the unique challenges posed by deepfakes. One issue is the lack of a clear legal definition of deepfake technology and the activities that constitute deepfake-related offenses. This can make it difficult to prosecute individuals or organisations that engage in malicious or fraudulent activities using deepfakes.

Laws against deepfakes in India

Section 66E of the IT Act of 2000 is applicable in cases of deepfake crimes that involve capturing, publishing or transmitting a person’s images in mass media, violating their privacy. This offense is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to ₹2 lakh.

Another relevant section of the IT Act is the Section 66D. It provides a provision to prosecute individuals who use communication devices or computer resources with malicious intent, to cheat or impersonate someone, which can result in imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to ₹1 lakh. These sections of the IT Act can be invoked to prosecute individuals involved in deepfake cybercrimes in India.

Indian law provides for copyright protection of works, including films, music and other creative content. Copyright owners can bring legal action against individuals who infringe upon their rights by creating deepfakes using copyrighted works without permission.

Under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957, Section 51 provides for penalties for certain offenses including infringement of copyright. It prohibits the unauthorised use of any property belonging to another person and on which the latter person has an exclusive right. Indian law includes provisions that prohibit fraud, including identity theft and financial fraud.

In addition to these legal provisions, on January 9, 2023, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued an advisory to media organisations to exercise caution while airing content that could be manipulated or tampered with. The Ministry also advised mediato clearly label any manipulated content as “manipulated” or “modified” to ensure that viewers are aware that the content has been altered.

While India does not currently have specific laws that addresses deepfakes, there are legal provisions and government initiatives that could potentially be used to address the issue. As deepfakes become more widespread and sophisticated, it is likely that the Indian government will take further steps to address the issue and protect individuals from harm.

(The author is Managing Partner, Verum Legal, a law firm)