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  • Sakshar Law Associates

Digital Piracy and the Latest Judgment of Delhi High Court

Updated: Sep 3, 2022


Sakshi Shairwal

Vaishnavi Dandotikar

One of the most emerging problems due to modern-day technology is piracy. Although it has been around since ancient Greece, its meaning has changed tremendously over time. In present times, piracy mostly relates to “Digital piracy; the illegal act of duplicating, copying, or sharing a digital work without the permission of the copyright holder, a violation of copyright laws.”

Although its meaning is not limited only to that, the increased reach of not

limited only to that, the increased reach of internet services and globalization has led scale at which digital piracy takes place. One of the most common forms of digital piracy is the pirating of movies and shows which are often secure behind a paywall. Popular websites with similar nomenclature tend to offer people these services at a great quality for free.

This is what happened in the case of Sony Pictures Network India vs Www.Sportsala.Tv And Others. The suit was brought forward by Sony Pictures against Sportsala Tv and 146 others in order to prevent them from illegally streaming the India Tour of Australia 2020, the India Tour of England 2021and the India Tour of Sri Lanka 2021.

The plaintiff had acquired the exclusive license to stream these tours in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, and the Maldives for the India Tour of England 2021 and worldwide, excluding Sri Lanka in respect of the India Tour of Sri Lanka 2021 on their paid platforms. The defendant's act of illegal transmission led to a revenue loss both for the plaintiff and for the Government.

The suit was brought forward under section 55 of the Copyright Act which provides for civil remedies in cases of copyright infringement.

Hon’ble Justice Jayanth Nath at the High Court of Delhi passed an order estopping the plaintiffs from “reproducing, making sound and/or visual recordings of the Plaintiff's Channels or the feed thereof and communicating the same to the public without authorization of the Plaintiff, or doing any other thing as is likely to lead to infringement of the exclusive rights of the Plaintiff in the Sporting Events.”

Apart from this, the court also passed an Ashok Kumar Order which will enable the plaintiff to, “facilitate the service of summons upon and the extension of the injunction to parties who violate the plaintiff's rights” against any unknown future infringers.

The Ashok Kumar or the John Doe Order was first propounded by the British Courts in 1976 in the case of Anton Piller KG v. Manufacturing Processes Ltd. It enables the aggrieved party to get a court order in general against unknown parties who might infringe their copyrights in the future.

Popularised all over the world, it made its way to India in the year 2002 in the Delhi High Court judgment in the case of Tej Television Limited vs. Rajan Mandal. Similar to the case mentioned above, even in this one the plaintiff sought to stop the illegal transmission of their sports broadcasting on other television channels.

After a thorough interpretation of the circumstances under which the foreign courts had granted such an order, the Hon’ble court passed the Ashok Kumar Order while quoting a Canadian judgment, “The principle rests on the basic premise that as long as the litigating finger is pointed at a particular person then the misnomer is not fatal.”

Similar orders were passed in a number of cases. Taking it away from the media industry, this order was passed in Luxottica Group Limited vs. Ashok Kumar from which it gets its name. In this, the copyright and trademark rights of the plaintiff were being infringed.

In the case of Reliance Big Entertainment v. Multivision Network and Ors, the court while citing the Rajan Mandal case passed the John Doe Order on three criterias provided by the plaintiff, which were, prima facie cases, imminent danger, and balance of convenience.

In its statements in the Indian Performing Right vs. Mr. Badal Dhar Chowdhry, the Hon’ble Delhi Court highlighted how this order could be misused as well. Hon’ble Justice Rajiv Sahai said, “vague injunction can be an abuse of the process of the court, and such vague and general injunction of anticipatory nature can never be granted.” Therefore, it is essential that before a judgment is pronounced, the court should thoroughly investigate if such an order is required at all.

The Ashok Kumar Order provides a dual advantage. One, it reduces the number of times an aggrieved party has to approach the court in order to have their rights enforced. This in turn helps in reducing the burden on the courts. And most importantly, two, it ensures that the holders of these intellectual property rights are protected even against future infringements. This enables them to act swiftly and reduce the amount of damage caused.

In the previously mentioned Sony case, the last respondent was a “John Doe” which is to say that the last respondent was used as a blanket front for any future copyright infringers. If for example a new website infringing Sony’s rights is made by a new player in the market, even they would be bound by the judgment given in this case.

This blanket cover helps Sony secure its rights without having to prove them first. It will ensure faster redressal for their issue and the amount of time that the Honourable Court has to spend on it will also be drastically reduced.

In the present conditions were going to courts, again and again, is not the most feasible option, the Ashok Kumar order with its prospective application helps individuals and companies enforce their rights more conveniently and efficiently.


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