Updated below

Earlier: Hot News is hot again: Multi-Screen Media (MSM), the Sony owned media company which had acquired exclusive rights to the India-New Zealand TV Series, appears to have received an interim injunction from the Delhi High Court, preventing premier Cricket websites ESPNCricinfo, Cricbuzz and the online version of Radio One, the radio channel owned by BSE listed Next Mediaworks‘ from providing live updates and commentary online. While many publications have reported this injunction – CricketCountry, Indiantelevision.com and TelevisionPoint – MediaNama couldn’t locate a copy of this order on the Delhi High Court’s website. We’re yet to receive a response to emails sent to Cricbuzz and Cricinfo, and Mult-Screen Media appears to have changed its PR agency in the last two weeks, and apparently the old one doesn’t have any contacts in MSM anymore. (Updated below)

The India-New Zealand series began on Sunday, January 19th 2014, and will continue till February 18th, and includes 5 One Day International matches, and two Test matches. The series is being broadcast online on SonyLIV.com, and on its mobile applications. The New Zealand Cricket Board had granted exclusive media rights including television, internet, mobile and data rights to MSM for the Indian sub-continent.

It’s important to note that the injunction granted was ex-parte (which means that Cricbuzz, ESPNCricinfo and Radio One weren’t present), and is an interim injunction, not the final verdict. While ESPNCricinfo and Cricbuzz were providing live text based commentary, Cricbuzz and Radio One were also providing live audio commentary online.

This is the third such Hot News case in progress right now: a case between STAR India and BCCI versus Idea Cellular, OnMobile Global* and Cricbuzz is currently in the Supreme Court of India, after three rounds in the Delhi High Court, where first the defendents won, then the plaintiffs won (part one and two), and finally the defendents won again. The second case is between Reliance Communications and VRock Mobile.

What Is Hot News?

Hot News refers to the situation where rights are claimed over news while it is hot: that is,  the right to report the news remain with the entity that has exclusive rights to it, typically for a specified. These rights are claimed by the entity creating the news, such as an event organizer like BCCI, or the entity that first reports the news. What’s noteworthy here is that this news isn’t typically about copyright – since copyright only exists in the phrasing of content, and not in the facts. Therefore, companies tend to go to court to argue for the creation of a new set of rights called quasi property rights. To understand more, read How STAR Is Claiming Rights Over Cricket Scores.

Update: As per the order, a copy of which is in MediaNama’s possession, the Delhi High Court has granted an ex parte interim injunction, wherein the companies have been restrained from:

“(i) making available, through any medium whatsoever, live/contemporaneous text match commentary of the cricket series between India-New Zealand; (ii) exploiting or authorizing the exploitation of cricket match-related material/information/details including but not limited to current cricket score, ball-by-ball updates, score cards, score updates, alerts, etc. contemporaneous with match situations/events, as they happen in relation to the cricket series between India-New Zealand.”

The lawyers for Multi Screen Media had contended that “on 19.1.2014, during the live broadcast of the first match in the India-New Zealand Cricket series, the plaintiff learnt that defendants, without any authorization from the plaintiff, on its website i.e. http://www.espncricinfo.com are providing live and contemporaneous text commentary and live contemporaneous audio commentary of the said first match in Hindi and English languages. In the first match, which was played on 19.1.2014, the defendant had given ball-to-ball commentary on their website.” They further contended that since Multi Screen Media “has exclusive media rights, the defendants cannot be permitted to invade into rights of the plaintiff and provide ball-to-ball commentary on their websites. It is further contended that the defendant seeks to reap profits without making any investment and without obtaining any license thereby making illegal gains at the cost of the plaintiff.”

MSM also said that if the defendents wish to provide the services they’ve now been restrained from providing, they can do so by taking a license from MSM.

MediaNama’s Take

In our opinion, if the court allows the creation of quasi-property rights, it will restrict freedom of speech, and the freedom of media entities to report on things as they happen, and this goes against public good and defies the fair use doctrine. While an event organizer might own the rights to access to an event, it cannot and should not be allowed to prevent entities from reporting on it. Reporting on events live, and even providing parallel audio commentary, are legitimate media activities. We’d written against the creation of hot news in our submission to the Indian government when the country’s Copyright Act was being amended.

Our coverage of the STAR Cricket case:

24 Aug, 2012: Don’t Use Live Scores, Ball-By-Ball Alerts For Ind-NZ Cricket Series, STAR Tells App Devs
21 Sep, 2012: STAR Takes Cricbuzz Founder & OnMobile To Court Over Cricket Updates
21 Nov, 2012: Delhi High Court Says Cricket Updates Go Into Public Domain After 2 Min; Implications
22 Nov, 2012: The Digital Rights That BCCI Had Granted STAR & What Happened To Exclusivity
4 Feb, 2013: How STAR Is Claiming Rights Over Cricket Scores
15 Mar, 2013: On The Delhi High Court Judgment Granting STAR Rights To Cricket Scores – Part 1
15 Mar, 2013: On The Delhi High Court Judgment Granting STAR Rights To Cricket Scores – Part 2
20 Mar, 2013: STAR Sends Notices To App Developers After Delhi HC Judgment Grants Cricket Score Rights
23 Mar, 2013: Interim Stay In STAR Cricket Case Allows Scores On Mobile
26 Mar, 2013: On The Confusion Over The Interim Arrangement In STAR Cricket Scores Case
4 Sep, 2013: Hot News: STAR’s Claim Over Rights To Cricket Scores Rejected By Delhi High Court
7 Oct 2013: STAR Gets Interim Injunction From Supreme Court of India In Cricket’s Hot News Case

Disclosure: OnMobile Global is an advertiser with MediaNama