The National Stock Exchange (NSE) has filed a case against domain name registrar GoDaddy and Hyderabad-based technology firm Manshi Systems at the Bombay high court over alleged copyright and trademark infringement of its software, reports Mint. The exchange alleges that Manshi was allowing customers to access NSE’s NOW platform and the available data via its own software at prices far lower than those charged by NSE.
NSE NOW is among the data and info-vending products offered by NSE through its wholly owned subsidiary DotEx International Ltd. The annual fee for real time stock information can range from (pdf) Rs 28 lakh to 40 lakh. The company also offers the same information with a slight delay at lower price points. For instance, you’ll get the information with a minute’s delay for a fee of 12.50 lakh per year or with a 15 minute delay for for Rs 2.50 lakh.
Manshi meanwhile was allegedly letting its customers access these terminals for a monthly fee of only Rs 500 as per this older screenshot of the website! The site however now has a placeholder page on its website.
The company sells a software called Manshi RT which gives one access to various stock related services including the one provided by Now.
Hot News all over again
The data provided by NSE by itself might not be covered under copyright, as it would fall under the ‘hot news‘ category. The company however converts the raw data into various statistical formats for trade analysis. It also has a database that offers various services to its subscribers like calculators, security information etc. that are derived from the NSE. So, if Manshi Systems was passing on all that information to its subscribers as is, then it might be an issue.
This suit sounds similar to the one filed by Dow Jones against European company RanSquawk for illegally accessing its news feed, and broadcasting its content within seconds of publication to traders and other subscribers.
But why GoDaddy?
The case against GoDaddy is the strangest part, since NSE should first prove criminality before demanding that the hosting company take down the website. It is not clear if NSE sent a court order for the same earlier or if the hosting company ignored such an order.
GoDaddy is only an intermediary in this case and as per Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules of 2011, an intermediary should not knowingly host or publish information that infringes upon another person’s intellectual property.
The biggest question here is about the definition of “knowingly” and the hosting company can always plead ignorance citing the large number of clients it caters to in India.
What this means for intermediaries
Depending on the direction this case takes, there will be some effect on intermediaries in India. If the court rules in favour of GoDaddy, then it would probably clarify a lot of gray areas in the law that online intermediaries have to deal with while doing business in India. On the other hand, if the ruling is against GoDaddy, that means the intermediaries will need to be extra vigilant and even pre-sensor content they put up.
In this context it is also worth reading about the steps InfoEdge owned 99Acres took following controversy about listings that were against the followers of a religion. The company had started moderating all posts since then using filtering tools. It is not clear if GoDaddy can use such a solution as the product offered by through the website it was hosting may or may not have been infringing on NSE’s offering.
P.S: I recently had an interesting discussion with TastyKhana founder & CEO Shachin Bharadwaj on the role of intermediaries, which you can check out here.