Access Now mourns the passing of Deepak Gupta, longtime pro bono attorney for digital rights

We are saddened to hear about the passing of attorney Deepak Gupta. A Partner at Farella Braun + Martel LLP, Deepak was a talented lawyer, enthusiastic advocate, and a kind person who was passionate about digital rights.

Deepak collaborated with Access Now on a number of important digital rights legal cases in the United States. Beginning in 2013, Deepak reached out to Access Now, offering to assist us with the drafting and filing of an amicus brief in the Viacom v. YouTube seven year-long litigation over the question of intermediary liability and how safe harbor provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act should apply to video platforms such as YouTube. In our U.S. 2nd Circuit Court submission, we argued that the court should not place the burden of policing copyright infringement on service providers, which would result in censorship of human rights activists. The case was ultimately settled in April 2014.

Last year, Deepak, along with his Farella Braun colleagues Kyle McLorg and Stephanie Skaff, assisted Access Now and seven other human rights organizations in filing an amicus brief in the landmark WhatsApp v. NSO Group lawsuit. This ongoing lawsuit centers on allegations that the notorious spyware company NSO Group used WhatsApp’s servers to deliver its Pegasus spyware to the devices of 1,400 users, including more than 100 civil society actors. The brief spotlights the heartfelt stories of those who were targeted by Pegasus from India, Morocco, Rwanda, and Togo, and argues that the court should not allow NSO to escape accountability in U.S. courts under the sovereign immunity doctrine. Deepak was incredibly passionate about the case and stayed engaged and committed to seeing it through, even as his health deteriorated. The 9th Circuit Court is yet to issue their decision on our amicus submission, which NSO Group opposed.

Deepak was also a speaker at RightsCon 2014, contributing his experience and expertise on the nascent field of crowdfunding, assisting civil society in understanding how to access this emerging source of support.

“Pro bono attorneys, like Deepak, play an important role in defending digital rights,” said Natalia Krapiva, Tech-Legal Counsel at Access Now. “Many human rights organizations, including Access Now, rely on pro bono law firms and attorneys’ unique experience and expertise in our legal filings, as well as in referring at risk individuals who need legal representation.”

At RightsCon 2020, the role of pro bono support was discussed during the meeting of the Digital Rights Litigators Network. During the session, digital rights advocates from across the world have emphasized the need for more collaborations between law firms and civil society to help defend rights of users at risk. It is important that more law firms allocate pro bono resources to allow for such collaborations to happen.

“Since I first met Deepak in 2013, he overflowed with joy, intelligence, and generosity,” said Peter Micek, General Counsel at Access Now. “The law was his calling, which shone through his eagerness to learn about our work and help us advance human rights online. With a bright smile and driving enthusiasm, he made a mark on our fledgling organization and me, personally, as a new lawyer. He will be remembered.”

You can pass on your condolences to Deepak Gupta’s family here.