By: Aarti Surkale
Case Name and Citation
Sony Pictures Network India Pvt. Ltd. Vs. www.sportsala.tv and ors.
High Court of Delhi, CS (COMM) 28/9/2021.
Facts of the case –
Sony Picture Network have exclusive license and media rights to broadcast the India Tour of England 2021.
This license is granted by the England and Wales Cricket Board Limited (ECB) and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC)
Accordingly in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, and the Maldives the Sony Pictures network has media rights to broadcast the India Tour of England 2021.
Later, Sony Pictures found that www.sportsala.tv was streaming these events on their website. This website had an illegal business of streaming and uploading unlicensed material. It also illegally streamed athletic events. The website had previously infringed on Sony Pictures Networks’ exclusive media rights.
Due to this reason, Sony Pictures Networks filed a lawsuit to formally forbid them from doing so during the 2021 India-England International Cricket Series.
Issue Raised –
The issue framed in the lawsuit is:
How to prohibit www.sportsala.tv from infringing their exclusive contents?
The defendant, their partners, owners, officers, employees, agents, and representatives, franchisees, head-ends, and all those acting as principal or agent on their behalf were prohibited from hosting, streaming, reproducing, distributing, or transmitting to the public any cinematograph work, material, program, or event.
The Court ordered an interim injunction prohibiting such activities in which the plaintiff owns the copyright. This is known as the John Doe or Ashok Kumar order because it was obtained as a temporary ex parte injunction on the broadcast.
The temporary injunction also included MSOs (Multiple System Operators) and cable operators. To monitor and enforce the Court’s directives local commissioners were appointed. The Court’s rulings principally apply to Sony Pictures’ copyrights. It implied that non-infringing and fair uses of content related to cricket matches between India and England/Sri Lanka are permitted.
To protect plaintiffs from the damage these injunctive reliefs are given by the Hon’ble Courts. Injunctions are fair and impartial solutions. It cannot be attained as a matter of right. But they are available only when parties have completely used up all other legal options. This means that John Doe’s orders are in the same way as to be the last option for granting relief.
An injunction in favour of Sony Pictures was granted by the court against websites including their redirects, mirrors and alpha-numeric versions. A dynamic injunction was also granted against rogue websites, which may reproduce, broadcast, make available, communicate to the public or distribute the cricket matches.
An order was also passed by the court asking ISPs to block the mentioned and other rogue websites. The government of India was asked to give appropriate directions to prevent infringement of copyrights of Sony Pictures in the matches.
The plaintiff possessed exclusive media rights from the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board Limited) and SLC (Sri Lanka Cricket), the court noted.
Moreover, a prima facie case had been set up in favour of the plaintiff for protection against the illegal transmission, communication, broadcasting, telecast, and unauthorized distribution of any clip, film, audio-video, audio-only, match, event, or film of the India Tour of England, 2021, which were planned from August 4 to September 14, 2021, and the India Tour of Sri Lanka 2021 scheduled from 13 July 2021 to 27 July 2021.
The unauthorized streaming of the matches will result in monetary losses to Sony Pictures Network, the Court held. And also it will cause losses to the Government in the form of revenue collected through taxes.
The Court expressed that if the plaintiff is not given an injunction for safeguarding its rights against the defendant, it is possible that the plaintiff would suffer irreparable loss and harm, which cannot be repaid in monetary terms and may be reimbursed to the plaintiff afterwards.
Two local commissioners were assigned by the Court to investigate the defendant’s unauthorized dissemination.
The Court has issued the copyright infringement and the John Doe or Ashok Kumar order to prevent the infringement.
Copyright infringement is the use or production of copyright-protected material without the permission of the copyright holder. It implies that the rights afforded to a copyright holder, such as the exclusive use of a ‘work’ for a set period of time, are being breached by a third party.
If anyone copies the copyrighted content, supply its copies to the public, share or exchange it to the public, rent or lend it to the public then the infringement of copyright take place.
A copyright owner can seek civil remedies in this case. He or She can also file a criminal complaint. Where copyright in any work is infringed upon, the owner of the copyright is entitled to all such remedies according to Section 55 ( Civil remedies for infringement of copyright) of the Copyright Act, 1957.
The owner has the right to seize copies of such infringing articles, can seek injunctions to prohibit further infringement. He also can recover damages for loss from the account of the infringer’s profits.
As far as criminal complaints are concerned, Section 63 (Offences of infringement of copyright or other rights conferred by this Act) of the Copyright Act (1957) states that any person who knowingly infringes or abets the infringement of the copyright in a work or any other right conferred by the Copyright Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than 6 months, which may extend to three years; and with a fine not less than Rs. 50,000, which may extend to Rs. 2,00,000.
Any police officer not below the level of sub-inspector may make copies without a warrant to produce before a Magistrate if he is convinced that an offence under Section 63 in relation to the infringement of copyright in any work has been committed.
IRRO (Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation) is a reprographics license, through which you not only get blanket coverage but also help reduce the risk and potential cost of infringement.
IRRO is a copyright society incorporated in 2000. It is authorized by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. It stands for the rights of authors and publishers. It also regulates the use and reproduction of their literary works.
John Doe or Ashok Kumar order
The term ‘John Doe’ has its origin in medieval England. They indicate orders directed against persons or groups that are not identifiable. Oxford Dictionary defined John Doe as “Anonymous Party”. Ashok Kumar is the Indian substitute for John Doe.
The name has gained legal acceptability, according to India Legal. In India, this order is mostly related to illegal broadcasting of channels, pirating of movies, illegal publishing of books, etc among others.
Ashok Kumar’s Orders direct ISP’s to block websites that host content ‘relating’ to the plaintiff’s copyrighted material. If it is proved that the entire website contains illegal material then only blocking injunctions for whole websites should only be issued.
The first ex parte interim order in the matter of Taj Television & Anr v Rajan Mandal & Ors, 2003 was issued by The Delhi High Court, giving authority to the plaintiff to search and seize equipment and gadgets of the unknown defendant. This helps in establishing the jurisprudence of issuing orders against John Doe/Ashok Kumars.
While the Taj Television verdict was seen as unclear in terms of implementation and the drafting of execution directives, Indian courts have developed in the last decade to deal with IP infringement cases. The growing media and entertainment industries are seeking John Doe orders against internet service providers, unlawful unlicensed distributors, and cable operators as an effort to minimize piracy and its threat.
Copyright” literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. In civil law, Copyright infringement is any violation of the exclusive rights of the owner.
Punishment of copyright infringement varies according to case across countries. Convictions may include severe fines and/or jail time for every example of copyright infringement. Copyright law does not grant authors and publishers absolute control over the use of their work.
Only certain types of works and kinds of uses are protected. Only unauthorized uses of protected works can be said to be infringing. The Copyright Act, 1957 provides the creator right of adaptation, right of reproduction, right of publication, right to make translations, communication to public etc.
Copyright protection is conferred on all Original literary, artistic, musical or dramatic, cinematograph and sound recording works.