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StarSports.com Inks Vodafone Deal For Vodafone Sports; What Rights Exactly?

In what appears to be the first major telecom operator deal for Star Sports in India, the company has inked a deal with Vodafone to power Vodafone Sports, as service which will provide content related to Cricket, Football, Motorsports, Hockey, Golf, and Tennis, with free videos, news, photo galleries, and a video scorecard. The service appears to be the same as the mobile version of starsports.com, with HD quality streaming across multiple devices, as well as “latest news, trivia, scores and results, instant access to live matches, interactive video scorecards, exclusive insight and analysis, columns, photos and wallpapers across sports”, and archival video content. The pricing for the content:

– Snack pricing: Rs 10 or Rs 20 for a match, Rs 3 or 5 for a video, Rs 3 for a wallpaper
– All you can eat plan: Rs 49, Rs 99 or Rs 150 for a video series. Archived video clips at Rs 30 or Rs 50
– Subscription at Rs 5 per day or Rs 150 per month

What Rights Exactly?

Mint quotes Vivek Mathur, chief commercial officer, Vodafone India as saying that “Since the content is fully owned by Star, it is not going to have legal ramifications”

Since Star is pursuing a case against Idea Cellular, Onmobile Global and Cricbuzz over rights to Cricket scores and ball by ball commentary, in the same way that Multi Screen Media has taken Cricinfo and Cricbuzz to court, we were curious about what exactly Mathur meant by “the content is fully owned by Star.” Star could well use this instance of Vodafone signing up with it as a precedence in the case, which is expected to be heard in the Supreme Court next month, to say that while other telecom operators have signed up for the service, Idea Cellular hasn’t. Star is claiming quasi property rights (which otherwise do not exist in India) over Cricket scores and ball by ball commentary, saying that it has exclusive rights over facts, and no entity can broadcast this information for commercial gain live. Copyright cannot exist in case of facts.

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We sent the following questions (based on Mathur’s statement) to Vodafone:

1. What content specifically, does Vodafone believe is “fully owned by Star”:
a. Cricket scores and scorecards? If so, under what law?
b. Only to the “official” Cricket scores and scorecards (i.e. with official IPL branding)?
c. Only video content?

2. In case other telecom operators decide to provide Cricket scores on mobile, does Vodafone believe it has grounds to take legal action against them? Under what law?
3. In case mobile application developers decide to provide Cricket scores on mobile (whether via Apps or via SMS), does Vodafone believe it has grounds to take legal action against them? Under what law?
4. Is there exclusivity for Vodafone in this deal. Can STAR provide Cricket content to other telecom operators?

Vodafone’s response: “It’s a comprehensive sports portal that we have launched with StarSports for Vodafone customers that covers live streaming, curated video content, video scorecards, expert analysis etc for all sports that Starsports had the digital rights. To know more about these rights you may please get in touch with Star.

This is not an exclusive partnership but for now such a service is available only to Vodafone customers.”

We sent similar queries to Star, and though a company spokesperson did get in touch with us yesterday for an explanation related to the questions we’ve asked, we’re yet to hear back from them. We’ll update in case they respond.

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MSM vs ESPNCricinfo & Cricbuzz

24 Jan, 2014: MSM Files Case Against ESPNCricinfo, Cricbuzz & Radio One For Live Cricket Updates Online
28 Jan, 2014: ESPNCricinfo, Cricbuzz Delay Live Updates From India-NZ Cricket Series By 5 Overs

Note: Cricinfo agreed to deposit Rs.20 lakh for disseminating updates for the last two one-day internationals of the India-New Zealand series, while Radio One settled the matter with MSM, Mint reports.

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

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Also read: IPL Won’t Be On YouTube In 2014; STARSports Makes A Play

Disclosure: OnMobile Global is an advertiser with MediaNama

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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