Dynamic injunction a red card for sports pirates

Dynamic injunction a red card for sports piratesThe rise of digital technology has revolutionised access to and sharing of digital content. It has also led to a significant increase in digital piracy, a major concern for content creators, copyright holders and the entertainment industry. As a protection against digital piracy, dynamic injunctions have proved highly effective. They have been shown to safeguard the interests of content creators and copyright holders.

In the recent case of Star India Private Limited and Anor v JioLive.TV and Ors, the extended role of dynamic injunctions was an effective solution to the problem of having to take prompt action against every instance of copyright infringement during large-scale sporting events.

The plaintiffs, Star India Private Limited and Novi Digital Entertainment Private Limited telecast 77 TV channels in eight languages and owned media rights to events in such sports as football, badminton, tennis, hockey and domestic and international cricket matches. In particular, they had the right to broadcast matches organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the International Cricket Council (ICC). Novi Digital Entertainment is a Star India affiliate company and owns the over-the-top streaming platform, Disney+ Hotstar.

The plaintiffs applied for an injunction to prevent the illegal dissemination and broadcasting of matches or segments of them in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023. The plaintiffs asserted exclusive global media rights assigned to them by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for events, including the World Cup, for eight years. They identified nine defendants as rogue websites and sought to restrain them from any unauthorised communication and broadcasting. The plaintiffs alleged that these websites, if not restrained, would engage in unauthorised dissemination of World Cup matches, causing irreparable harm to the plaintiffs’ exclusive rights.

The plaintiffs asserted that they had in the past seen almost all major sporting events illegally streamed and broadcast on the internet. The plaintiffs feared such activity would occur during World Cup cricket matches. Star India and Novi argued that whenever the courts had granted injunctions for such sporting events they had been successful against the websites identified in the applications. However, during the events themselves, many other rogue websites had been found unlawfully streaming and broadcasting the matches.

Emphasising the need for a dynamic injunction in advance, the plaintiffs contended that in events since 2021, while the number of websites which could be identified as defendants were few in number, rogue websites subsequently identified were many. Such websites had been combatted by dynamic injunctions being granted by the courts and the services taken down. The court in this case recognised the significance of the World Cup matches and the substantial investment made by the plaintiffs in acquiring exclusive media rights. It acknowledged the need for effective remedies in the virtual world to protect intellectual property rights. The court granted an interim injunction restraining the nine defendants from communicating, screening, or disseminating any part of the ICC World Cup Cricket matches. It further directed eight domain name registrars, nine internet service providers and two government authorities to take immediate action such as locking, suspending and blocking the rogue websites.

The court acknowledged the importance of a dynamic injunction to address future infringements, particularly as the matches were one-day fixtures. It allowed the plaintiffs to communicate details of any new rogue websites during the World Cup for real-time blocking. The Department of Telecommunications and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology were directed to issue blocking orders promptly on receiving information from the plaintiffs.

The court granted the interim injunction, recognising the urgency of protecting the plaintiffs’ rights during the World Cup. At a hearing three months later, the plaintiffs informed the court that 406 sites had been identified. The court ordered the names of the sites to be placed on record.

The decision reflects a proactive approach to preventing the unauthorised streaming of sporting events, highlighting the need for dynamic injunctions in the digital age.

Author: Ritika Agarwal

First Published by: LawAsia Here