Giving tough competition to the climate, the Cricket World Cup Fever is soaring high on the temperature scale. Every brilliant shot is already in the headlines, before it even makes it back to the ground. Whilst the crowd is praying for the homecoming of the beloved trophy, the stakeholders are marching forward and building strong defence to defeat any possible attacks on their intellectual property rights that inevitably ensue during such colossal events. The Delhi High court in its order dated June 03, 2019 issued an ex-parte interim injunction against unauthorized Audio Broadcast of ICC World Cup 2019. The suit was filed by Channel 2 Group Corporation on the apprehension of a likely abuse of its audio rights, against a number of Defendants including various websites, radio channels, internet service providers and also unknown defendants by praying for a John Doe/Ashok Kumar Order.
The Plaintiff entered into an Audio Rights Agreement with ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC, which is the organizer of ICC Men’s World Cup, 2019, an event organized every four years and whose present edition began on May 30th, 2019 and shall conclude on July 14th, 2019. Under the mentioned agreement, the Plaintiff has the exclusive right to exploit the Audio Rights in relation to the matches and warm up matches being held under the stated ICC tournament and the right to negotiate and conclude the license agreements with sub-licensees. The Plaintiff had initiated this quia timet action, on the apprehension of a likely abuse of its audio rights. It was argued by the Plaintiff that due to the unique nature of online piracy and the unstructured nature of the internet, enforcing rights against pirate websites is a time consuming and mammoth task as the pirated websites can switch from one domain name to other. It was also averred that if the Plaintiff were to wait for infringement, identification of infringing parties and collecting incriminating evidence, significant time would be lost and the cricket matches may come to an end which would result in irreparable injury, loss and damage.
The Hon’ble Delhi High Court referred to the principle laid down in Star India Pvt. Ltd. v Piyush Agarwal, 2013 (54) PTC 222 (Del), which directed that any person, wishing to gratuitously relay ball-by-ball or minute-by-minute score update or match alerts without a license, can do so, provided a time lag of 15 minutes is maintained in transmitting such updates. This 15 minutes time lag principle was also upheld by the Supreme Court vide its order dated 30th September, 2013 in Star India Pvt. Ltd. v. Akuate Internet Services Pvt. Ltd., SLP (C) No. 29633 of 2013.
Considering the above discussed principle, the Hon’ble High Court granted the ex-interim injunction, restraining the Defendants from broadcasting/transmitting/communicating to the public any audio/ radio streaming of the subject ICC tournament, whether by way of live reporting or deferred updates, through any means without authorization of the Plaintiff. However, it was further clarified that any Defendant complying with the interim order may relay the score update gratuitously, maintaining the time lag of 15 minutes. The issued interim order shall also operate as a John Doe order against the unknown defendants.
The Hon’ble High Court further directed the search engines to take down/delete from their search result pages, listings of websites/ URLs which are infringing upon the Plaintiff’s copyright and broadcast reproduction rights, as and when notified by the Plaintiff. The internet service providers (ISPs) have also been directed to comply with Plaintiff’s requests to block access to the unlicensed content of the infringing websites, upon the Plaintiff giving notice of the infringing activity to the said ISPs.