Corrigendum: The judgment defines mobile rights as follows:
“Mobile Activation Rights means the right to make available any form of BCCI-branded schedule; match and score alert and application exploited via SMS, MMS or any other form of Mobile Communications Technology or Mobile Wireless Technology; It is clarified that no other form of exploitation would be permitted such as competition, game, fantasy event, predictor game, application or other activation which are expressly prohibited.
Mobile Rights means the Mobile Activation Rights and the right to deliver or provide access to the Feed or Footage, the Audio Feed, any Unilateral Commentary and Unilateral Coverage in the Territory during the Rights Period, for reception and viewing in an intelligible form on a Mobile Device where the communication link(s) used in such delivery comprises, at least in part, Mobile Communications Technology and/or Mobile Broadcast Technology but excluding Television Delivery and Internet Delivery.”
The exclusion of Internet delivery should suggest that providing information on the Internet and to mobile apps is allowed. We should have taken this into account before presenting the analysis below.
Earlier: A few things to consider following the Delhi High Court’s landmark judgment in the Hot News, giving STAR India limited (more on the case here), exclusive rights to the dissemination of Cricket scores and ball by ball commentary:
- Freedom of press to report not applicable to continuous live updates? The judgment states that “Therefore, it is amply clear that the dissemination of the ball-by-ball or minute-by-minute updates at a premium cannot be exonerated under the freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a). Meanwhile, all noteworthy information arising from a cricket match constitute news”, and the reporting “of such noteworthy information would be protected under Article 19(1)(a).”
We wonder what this means for live reporting of events, for liveblogs on the web, since this can easily be extended to platforms other than SMS, and events other than Cricket. The important part of the statement above is “at a premium”. News organizations like Reuters were founded on the basis of providing updates quicker than others via telegraph: times have changed, as has media and reportage, and it’s troubling to note that the court isn’t taking into account the effort it takes to provide continuous and live updates. “For a premium” should not be a consideration because it is the right of an organization or an individual to monetize its efforts the way they see fit.
Why should the media be relegated to the role of only reporting on what the Court considers history…Why not history as it is being made? Remember what the earlier Delhi High Court order, from Justice Valmiki J Mehta had said: except in case of “qua momentary news” Cricket related updates will go into the public domain after 2 minutes, and “qua momentary news”, which are “crucial momentary events” like a fall of a wicket go into the public domain immediately, since “the same becomes stale news or ordinary news within seconds.”
Also consider the definition of the term ‘Press’. What is the press in this day and age of the Internet?
- IVR, Apps & Mobile Internet Too? What is MVAS? From what I recollect, all services that are not voice (hence telecom services) are defined as MVAS under India’s various telecom licenses: SMS, IVR and the Mobile Internet, technically, would be covered under MVAS. Star’s notice contends that this includes “SMS, MMS or any other form of Mobile Communications Technology or Mobile Wireless Technology”, which appears to include all MVAS. I was in court for all the hearings on this case, and while STAR only argued for SMS, the order appears to cover MVAS, and appears to extend this to all platforms. This is worrying, because it also brings the Internet into its mandate. So will this impact mobile websites and applications as well? We’ll know when STAR starts sending out legal notices. Remember that STAR has sent out legal notices to application developers before.
- On Free Riding: The court contends that STAR is only “only seeking the declaration of a right to generate revenue by monetizing the information arising from an event, which has been conceptualized, developed, created and organised by the sole efforts and expenditure of the BCCI; as its assignee,” and says that the defendants would have “had a legitimate right to disseminate contemporaneous match information, had they obtained a license by either participating in the bid conducted by the BCCI or by obtaining a sub-license from the plaintiff.” The Court says that the defendants might be spending on infrastructure and employ personnel for dissemination of information, but none towards the organization of the sport, and this action is constitutes free-riding.
One could argue that the service being provided here, as with most media organizations, is one of collecting and disseminating information related to events, to public, and they are charging for collection and dissemination of this information. This conclusion from the Court is worrying, because what the Court says could be extended to mean that all media which is reporting on events is involved in free riding. TV has a lot of live reporting, and such a contention appears to undermines the role of the media.
Remember that this now means that other events being organized will now be in a position to place similar restrictions on dissemination of information from the event. It will all depend on the balance of power between the organizers and media organizations: does live coverage matter more to the organizer or the media organization?
This isn’t a healthy situation to create, in my opinion.