In a landmark judgement, Delhi High Court has ruled that telecom operators and Mobile Value added service providers cannot provide live updates of matches to their mobile subscribers. The ruling came in favour of Star India, who have exclusive media broadcasting rights for all cricket matches organized by the BCCI until 2018.
Star India had earlier filed three cases against Piyush Agarwal (Cricbuzz), Idea Cellular and OnMobile Global Ltd. stating that that had acquired “bouquet of rights” exclusively from BCCI in regards to cricket matches. The rights included offered to star included “Mobile Rights” as well as “Mobile Activation Rights?.
Star India had contended that offering live score cards, match updates and score alerts via SMS and MVAS services by Telecom providers and MVAS companies constituted to unfair competition and commercial enrichment. On the other hand Idea, cricbuzz and Onmobile had said that they were not breaching any rights as they were not providing actual copy of content of the broadcast nor providing any sort of access to audio or visual footage of the broadcast and hence the case should be squashed.
Actual Court Judgement
According to the judgement, the defendants (Idea, Cricbuzz & Onmobile) cannot be permitted to offer instant updates (within 2-3 minutes) on their platforms or networks if they have not acquired proper rights. At the same time the judgement recognized that they need to disseminate news and information about events to general public and so it cannot offer blanket ruling in favour of Star India.
The most important point of the judgement was that non-right holders can publish or send updates only 15 minutes after the even has happened. Here is an excerpt from the court judgement.
If the time lag was 2/3 minutes, it would be more or less contemporaneous with the live telecast/broadcast of the match. If it is 30 minutes or more, as observed by the Division Bench in the NDTV Case, the information becomes irrelevant, and it would deprive the public of their right to that information. By specifying a 15 minute lag, it is ensured that the defendants are not providing ball-by-ball or minute-by-minute score updates/match alerts contemporaneously with respect to the live telecast/broadcast of match. Considering the time-sensitive nature of the information, after a span of 15 minutes, there is no longer a direct competition between the parties to provide contemporaneous match information to the customers who demand it. This maintains a balance between the right of the plaintiff to monetize the cricket match and the right of the public to receive such information, and also prevents the defendants from free-riding on the efforts of the plaintiff.
How does it affect others
While this case had only 3 defendants there are hundreds of different sites and platforms that offer instant updates and live as-it-happens updates like Cricinfo.com and Rediff cricket. This ruling in all probability will affect all of them and they may not be able to provide such updates.
I am sure that defendants will probably appeal to Supreme court, otherwise an era where we saw ball-by-ball updates may not be there anymore!
[Full Court Ruling]