There has been a lot of brouhaha over the recent judgment of the Delhi High Court, where the Court has ordered ISPs to block websites that were illegally broadcasting the FIFA World Cup in a suit filed by Multi Screen Media (MSM) Satellite claiming exclusive broadcasting rights. The initial judgment contained 472 websites, however, an order passed on July 1st named 219 websites in furtherance of an application made one of the Defendants.

Delhi HC Judgment – In Brief

MSM has the sole and exclusive right to broadcast the FIFA World Cup in India on various channels owned by them and in addition also has Radio Rights, Mobile Transmission Rights and Broadband Internet Transmission Rights. They also have a mobile application Sony LIV which is adaptable to all types and formats of mobile devices.

This would imply that anyone who is, in addition to any other acts, hosting, streaming, broadcasting, making available for viewing and downloading or communicating to the public through the internet or any other manner is violating their copyright.

The plaintiff submitted a list of 472 websites and stated that these were ‘rogue websites’ which were infringing the right conferred on the plaintiff by virtue of Section 37 of the Copyright Act, which deals with broadcasting rights. They also argued that this loss was not only affecting the plaintiff but also the revenue which the government is likely to earn through service tax payable on subscription and the act of the defendants being done illegally was denying the government this revenue. In addition, the plaintiff stated that it was mainly during the live broadcast of the matches that they could recover the huge investments they had made to acquire the exclusive rights.

The Court took into consideration the facts and placed on record the argument brought forth by the plaintiff and granted an ex-parte injunction against the defendants. In furtherance of this, the ISPs were required to block these websites. As mentioned earlier, a revised list of 219 websites was approved by the Court on the 1st of July when one of the defendants made an application suggesting that all websites in the first list weren’t rogue websites.

Online Article titled ‘How to access Websites blocked by the recent Delhi High Court Order’

Of the many news articles and blogs that I read, apart from the judgment, I came across an article on a prominent news website titled ‘How to access Websites blocked by the recent Delhi High Court Order’. I found that the article listed a host of ways to view the content ranging from changing the URL to using websites and software that change your IP address. I did however find that there was a caveat; they were talking about the ‘legitimate websites’ that were blocked in this list of 219 websites. The readers though were not given a list of the 219 websites nor the list of websites they believe to be legitimate. Even so, they can’t be the ones to decide which of websites on that list are legitimate and which ones are not because at the end of it, what we should go by is the order of the Court. It is only in furtherance of the order that the ISPs have blocked these websites and for this reason have not exercised any discretion of their own. So it would be highly inappropriate for a renowned news website to provide hacks to its readers because they are openly encouraging piracy.

While you may consider my comment on encouraging piracy a bit premature, the article had a link to another one posted on its site titled “To pay or steal: How piracy is offering a better TV and movie viewing experience.” The cherry on cake was the fact that the article sought comments from the readers on the other ways people had found to view blocked websites.

I have no personal vendetta against the website or its correspondent but the article clearly defeats the purpose of the order which seeks to restrain defendants

who are likely to host, stream, broadcast, retransmit, exhibit, make available for viewing and download, provide access to and communicate to the public…

Even though the author states that this hack is for the ‘legitimate websites’, it is possible that they can be used even for the other websites and more importantly, the question is really whether the author has the right to decide which websites are in fact legitimate.

This is a clear reflection on how people are either not aware about piracy or worse still are aware and feel that it’s not worth bothering about. Whether it’s a tech blogger who writes such an article or a prominent news website, they should be held accountable for it. However, the onus of reporting responsibly and being mindful of whether there is likely to be any interference with law is much greater on journalists writing on behalf of reputed news houses.

Bottom Line

Courts have time and again been criticised for not acting swiftly on matters that require immediate attention and for not granting injunctions. So when Courts do take swift action, we have journalists giving people ideas on how to get around such court orders. In this case, the article reflects disregard for Court orders and encourages piracy; both these acts ought to be condemned.

This article has been authored by Nikita, an IP Law practitioner.