The Delhi HC in a suit filed by Channel 2 Group Corporation, which is the exclusive broadcasting agency for the major sporting event- the Cricket World Cup 2019, has passed an ex-parte interim restraining order, stopping over 60 websites and radio channels along with a certain number of ISP’s from broadcasting the World Cup. The duration of the world cup extends from 30th May – 14th July, 2019. An Audio rights assignment agreement was entered upon by the plaintiff covering the following rights:

(a) Transmit audio coverage of Matches and warm-up matches (or any adapted, altered or edited version thereof, and including comment, commentary, interviews and/or associated data) whether live, delayed, highlights or report in all languages via any delivery system now known or hereafter developed which is capable of transmitting or making available audio material for reception anywhere in the world, including via analogue and/or digital radio broadcasts, audio streaming/broadcasts to mobile phones, audio transmission on a digital TV channel (provided such transmission is accompanied only by basic scoring graphics and does not contain and ICC Marks)

(b) Stream such audio coverage via the internet and/or simulcast radio broadcasts via an audio internet stream, and/or make such audio content available on demand, including the provision of downloadable audio content commonly called podcast.

(c) Transmit or broadcast resulting from the exercise of the Audio Rights, by Private FM Radio Stations within and throughout India, after obtaining the necessary rights, clearances licenses and permission in relation to such broadcast subject to the Indian law which permit such live broadcast of cricket events on Private FM Radio Stations.

(d) Exclusive right to exploit the Audio Rights and the right to negotiate and conclude the license agreements with sub-licensees.

The plaintiff alleged that the Defendants were not authorized by the Plaintiff and hence the act of them making audio or radio broadcasts or streaming and reporting any live or deferred updated pertaining to the ICC event and the matches therein of this particular tournament would be illegal and amount to piracy, due to the exclusive copyright in the hands of the plaintiff. It was further alleged that such conduct would cause considerable financial loss to the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that:

“Due to the unique nature of online piracy and the unstructured nature of the internet, enforcement of rights against such pirating websites is a time consuming, mammoth task. The pirated websites can switch from one domain name to other. Further, most of the times, such websites hide under the garb of privacy as a result of which it is difficult to pin down the allegations against such website owners. The Plaintiff apprehends that if the Plaintiff were to wait and identify specific parties and collect evidence of infringement by such specific parties, significant time would be lost and the cricket matches may come to an end. Irreparable injury, loss and damage, would be caused to the Plaintiff in such a scenario, which would be impossible to quantify in monetary terms alone.”

 The court went on to recognize a case of piracy and granted an interim injunction/ restraining order against the defendants, their partners, proprietors, agents etc. This was with respect to transmitting any match, audio only and/or any part of the World Cup, 2019, including live or deferred score updates, and textual or audio-only commentary, through any website, application through internet, mobile or radio delivery, till the next date of hearing. Although the court recognized and took into account the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Star India Pvt. Ltd. V. Akuate Internet Services Pvt. Ltd wherein the court held that any person who wishes to broadcast a score update without a license can only do so with a time lag of 15 minutes.

Hence, all those defendants who didn’t have a license have been completely restrained from infringing upon the Plaintiff’s Copyright.

A copy of the order can be found here.

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