The Delhi High Court in case Warner Bros. INC. vs. Otorrent.com &Ors., CS(COMM) 367/2019 has issued a permanent injunction in favour of Warner Brothers, prohibiting “rogue” websites from pirating and distributing, broadcasting, transmitting, and streaming its property under Order XIIIA of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter referred to as “CPC”).
Warner Bros Inc. (hereinafter referred to as “the Plaintiff”) is a global entertainment company based in the United States of America, and has been engaged in the business of creating, producing, and distributing motion pictures.
Plaintiff is a huge producer of the motion pictures, the said work being of visual recording and which also include sound recording, associated with such visual recordings, etc., qualifying to be cinematograph film under Section 2(f) of the Copyright Act, 1957 (hereinafter referred as “The Act”).
Otorrent (hereinafter referred to as “the Defendant”) is an online website that provides streaming of all shows, movies or cartoons, and has all content of mostly all big to micro-production houses and companies. However, the said streaming, downloading, and broadcasting so provided is completely illegal and the website has been doing such infringing activities without the permission of the copyright holder.
Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant is illegally and unauthorisedly streaming, broadcasting, re-broadcasting, and spreading, the content of Plaintiff, on its website ‘Otorrent.com’, for free. This act of Defendant has infringed the Copyright of Plaintiff, and due to such infringement, Plaintiff has been facing losses and reputational damages in business.
A cease-and-desist notice was served upon the rogue sites calling them to cease from engaging in such infringing activities.
Considering the same, the plaintiff has filed an Interlocutory Application (hereinafter referred to as “I.A”) 6469 of 2022 under CPC, seeking a summary trial.
ISSUES BEFORE THE HIGH COURT
- Whether the Defendant has infringed upon the Plaintiff’s works under the Act?
- Whether the Defendant are ‘rogue websites’ and are illegally streaming the Plaintiff’s content on their websites?
CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES
The Plaintiff contended that the motion picture so produced by the Plaintiff is a work of visual recording and includes sound recordings which qualify to be a cinematograph film under Section 2(f) of the Act.
The claim of the Plaintiff is premised on the allegation of illegal and unauthorised distribution, broadcasting, re-broadcasting, transmission, and streaming of the Plaintiff’s content by the Defendant.
The Plaintiff further relied upon the judgment passed by the Delhi High Court (hereinafter referred to as “the Court”) in the case of UTV Software Communication Ltd. & Ors. v. 1337X & Ors., 2019 SCC Online Del 8002, which dealt with the determination of rogue websites.
DECISIONS AND FINDINGS
The Court herein granted Permanent Injunction against the “rogue” torrent websites from illegally streaming, broadcasting and transmitting cinematograph work/content/program, owned by the Plaintiff.
The Court further observed that “the defendants have no real prospect of successfully defending the claim of copyright infringement” and stated that in the light of the same, the Defendant chose not to contest the allegations put forth by the Plaintiff.
However, based on the records available and relying on the UTV Software Communication judgment as mentioned hereinabove, the Court stated that there was not sufficient evidence to hold that the websites of the Defendant and other similar websites are “rogue websites” and thus, this suit is fit for passing a summary judgment invoking the provisions of Order XIIIA of CPC, in a similar way as they are applicable to commercial disputes.
On the contrary, the Court permitted subsequent impleadment of redirecting the websites that provide access to the Defendant website by filing an appropriate application.
The Court further directed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (hereinafter referred to as “MEITY”), to block the domain name “otorrents.com” and its URL, and subsequently issued necessary notifications calling upon various other telecom and internet service providers registered under MEITY, to block the Defendant website.
As new technologies have emerged, people in the garb of earning quick money, are misusing these technologies, by illegally streaming the authentic art/cinematograph of people, thus infringing the Copyright of the original owner of the works.
Thus, these practices need to be curbed at the earliest. The few steps that can be taken in this direction are, firstly, improving content security that cannot be circumvented. Secondly, make such cinematic works more accessible and affordable, wherein the common public does not find the need to access pirated websites. Lastly, take legal action against such organized piracy networks, such as filing a lawsuit to have websites blocked or filing a complaint against pirates, as any action sends a message to others.
Team AMLEGALS, assisted by Mr. Varil Sheth (Interns)
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