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STAR Gets Interim Injunction From Supreme Court of India In Cricket’s Hot News Case

Update: STAR India has sent us a copy of the interim injunction, a text of which is available online here. Our reading of the order: there is no license fee, and only the respondents (Idea, OnMobile and Cricbuzz) need to deposit Rs 10 lakh, and maintain accounts of SMS’ sent. You should check with your legal counsel on whether this is applicable to the Internet (we think it isn’t), and whether this order is applicable to all parties or just the respondents.

Earlier today: The case that STAR India is fighting to gain ownership of Cricket scores on mobile, (through licensing from the BCCI), has, as expected, reached the Supreme Court of India. Mint reports that STAR has been granted an interim injunction, which requires companies providing scores via “text messages and online updates”, to deposit Rs 10 lakh per match, and the status quo as per the order from the single judge of the Delhi High Court, delivered in March 2013, has to be maintained. (hat tip: Anand Raman)

We don’t have a copy of the order yet, but Mint’s story on the interim injunction isn’t very clear:

– The Delhi High Court order by a single judge in March, allocated exclusive rights to STAR, with limitations. The order:

a. A limited interim injunction restraining the defendants from disseminating contemporaneous match information in the form of ball-by-ball or minute-by-minute score updates/match alerts for a premium, without obtaining a license from the plaintiff.
b. There shall be no restriction upon the defendants to report noteworthy information or news from cricket matches (as discussed in paragraph 49), as and when they arise, because stale news is no news.
c. There shall be no requirement for the license if the defendants do it gratuitously or after a time lag of 15 minutes.

In the first sentence, Mint suggests that every single entity looking to use live Cricket scores has to deposit Rs 10 lakhs. However, it later suggests that the parties against whom STAR has filed a case – Onmobile, Idea Cellular and Cricbuzz – have to deposit Rs 10 lakh per match. This appears to be some kind of an interim license fee for providing score updates, but it’s not very clear.

– The second thing not clear is whether this applies to the Internet as well. The Delhi High Court (single judge) order was for Mobile Rights and Mobile Activation rights (read our clarification here), so it’s not clear whether this has now been extended to the Internet as well. The Mint story initially refers to online updates, and later refers only to SMS updates. This is the first time we’ve seen ‘online updates’ being referred.

We’ll update when we have a copy of the order, because, in the past, we haven’t been convinced about STAR’s convenient interpretation of injunctions.

This case is being fought between the STAR India, which has paid Rs 3,851 crore for exclusive media rights to cricket matches organized by the BCCI, until 2018. STAR has recently launched paid live streaming at Starsports.com.

This case of significant importance for media in India, since it creates a new set of rights, called quasi property rights, which STAR is laying claim to. Facts cannot be copyrighted, but STAR is claiming rights to Cricket scores, saying that it (via the BCCI) has ownership of the events, and thus has rights to prevent the information being used for commercial purposes. This can have a significant impact on freedom of expression, since it sets a precedent that the right to report facts vests with the event organizer, and whoever licenses the rights to report those facts.

A critical statement in the judgment, when STAR lost this case at the division bench of the Delhi High Court, is that ‘Neither Star nor BCCI can be permitted to say that mentioning “mobile” rights and auctioning them, would ipso facto legitimize the parcelling away of right to disseminate information, without first establishing that the right or exclusive domain over such rights existed in the first instance.’

Essentially, this means that before you license rights, you should first establish that they exist.


Note: We’ve written to STAR, Idea, OnMobile and Cricbuzz for clarifications, and a copy of the order.

Our coverage of this 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

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