UTV Software Communications obtains John Doe orders from Delhi High Court against several piracy websites [READ ORDERS]

UTV Software Communications has moved the Delhi High Court against several piracy websites such as torrentmovies.co, extratorrent.com, fmovies.pe, piratebay, rabrg.org, bmovies.is [Read orders here, here, here, here, here and here].

These orders were passed by the Delhi High Court last month in separate suits filed by UTV against different websites. UTV had contended that their films being works of visual recordings and which also include sound recordings accompanying such visual recordings qualify as a ‘cinematograph film’ under Section 2(f) of the Copyright Act and that they were  entitled to all rights and protections granted under the Copyright Act for cinematograph films. Further that the cinematograph films produced by the plaintiffs and/or their affiliates are ‘works’ within the meaning of Section 2(y) of the Act and the plaintiffs being authors and first owners and owners of the pictures under Section 17 of the Act have all the rights in such cinematograph films granted under Section 14(d) of the Act.

UTV informed the Court that these websites indulge in online piracy by making available for download and otherwise providing access to infringing and illegal content and that online piracy has severe repercussions on the entertainment industry. UTV further stated that the defendant-websites use additional domains to redirect to their current site or establish proxy or mirror sites to illegally host, stream, reproduce, distribute, make available to the public UTV’s original content and such unknown domains/website operators have been named ‘Ashok Kumars’ in the plaint as  UTV was seeking an injunction in the nature of john doe order against these defendants.

UTV further informed the court that they had to array internet service providers as defendants in these suits to ensure effective implementation of any relief that the Court would grant in their favour, as the defendant websites are either anonymous in nature and the information provided in the public domain regarding the owner of the website is either incomplete, incorrect and/or protected behind a veil of secrecy and that the defendant-websites hide behind domain privacy services offered by various domain name Registrars, which enable a website owner to hide behind a veil and not disclose any contact details publicly, to protect his privacy, therefore it being virtually impossible to bring the owners of the websites before the Court in order to ensure that the orders of the Court are complied with.

Department of Telecommunication (DoT) Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY) were also arrayed as defendants to assist in enforcing/ensuring compliance with any order passed by the Court in favour of the plaintiffs and to protect its rights from being infringed by the defendant-websites within the territory of India.

UTV contended that these websites are a vehicle of infringement whose business model is designed to provide members of the public with access to copyright content without authorisation and the same is evident from the vast volume of content available on the said websites, the systematic, organised and intentional nature of infringement and the regularity and consistency with which content is uploaded on the said websites, thereby being in contravention of Section 51 of the Copyright Act as it encroaches upon the exclusive right of the plaintiffs to reproduce, make available and communicate to the public their cinematograph films.

Reference to earlier John Doe orders obtained by UTV was made. The Court accordingly granted interim reliefs in UTV’s favour restraining the websites from, in any manner, hosting, streaming, reproducing, distributing, making available to the public and/or communicating to the public or facilitating the same on their websites through the internet in any manner whatsoever, any cinematograph work/content/programme/show in relation to which plaintiffs have a copyright. The ISP’s were directed to block access to the websites identified by the Plaintiff and further directed to issue requisite Notifications calling upon the various internet and telecom service providers registered under it to block access to such websites.

To avoid the injunction order from becoming too broad, wide and omnibus, the Court has given liberty to the Plaintiffs to approach the Court in accordance with law in the event they become aware of any other websites which are hosting, streaming, reproducing, distributing, making available to the public and/or communicating to the public in any manner whatsoever, any cinematograph work/content/programme/ show in relation to which plaintiffs have a copyright.

Content owners are still required to obtain John Doe orders from courts to prevent piracy of their films. The Supreme Court in the landmark case of Shreya Singhal v/s Union of India had construed Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (which deals with safe harbour provisions for intermediaries) in such a manner that removal of content online may only occur if an adjudicatory body issues an order compelling intermediaries to remove the content. The said decision shields intermediaries from liability unless they fail to comply with an order directing them to remove the illegal content, rather than merely a private party request.  It’s unfortunate that content owners are required to knock the doors of the courts to enforce their rights against this menace of piracy. There is an urgent need for suo motu actions to be taken by government operated anti-piracy units to curb piracy.

Image source: here