The Delhi High Court has once again issued a “dynamic+” injunction against 45 “rogue” websites streaming copyrighted content of major studios without authorisation. In a November 21st order, Justice Pratibha Singh restrained the websites from making public the studios’ copyrighted content, including their future works in which copyright ownership is undisputed. The case will be heard next on March 21st, 2024.
The “well established Hollywood studios” that moved the court were Universal, Warner Bros, Columbia, Netflix, Paramount, and Disney, while some of their content being streamed online illegally included Stranger Things, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman, Spider Man: No Way Home, Top Gun: Maverick, and The Jungle Book.
Justice Pratibha Singh’s order was first uploaded by Bar and Bench.
What action did the court take? The 45 rogue websites targeted by the order include their mirror websites, variations of websites associated with the studios, and “other domains/domain along with their sub-domains and sub-directories, owners, website operators/ entities or even sources of content”.
The Department of Telecommunications and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology were directed to issue blocking orders for the websites within a week of the order’s release, after which Internet Service Providers were directed to block them. Domain Name Registrars were directed to block the websites’ domains after being informed by the studios of them. They were also directed to provide the studios with the KYC, credit card, and mobile numbers connected to the websites.
A quick refresher: First issued by Justice Pratibha Singh earlier this year, dynamic+ injunctions protect all future works of a copyright owner from infringement. So, in the case of a studio, it wouldn’t just protect the content it makes today from being streamed online without authorisation—it would automatically protect its future copyrighted shows that find their way to streaming sites too.
The lawyers for the studios in the present case argued that this injunction type has helped crack down on piracy better:
“…Several of such rogue websites are being blocked on an international level and not just within the territory of India, which is therefore having a positive impact to curb piracy on the internet,” Justice Singh’s November 21st order observed. “Ld. Counsel further submits that the decisions of the Delhi High Court on curbing of piracy are having vast implications as DNRs are locking and suspending the domain names, rendering them inaccessible. As per ld. Counsel, this is leading viewers to avail access to legitimate platforms as was evident in the recent World Cup Cricket finals 2023 when one of the OTT platforms had a logging in of more than 5.3 crores, thus multiplying the viewership for such platforms and curbing viewing of pirated content….”
However, critics argue that blanket injunctions prevent another person’s right to dispute the copyright holder’s “ownership” of the content. The larger lack of judicial deliberation over ownership could lead to copyright owners having to prove once again down the line that they own the copyrighted content in question.
Did the rogue websites take any action earlier? Different variations of “raretoonsindia” were hosting copyrighted children’s content without authorisation, Singh’s order observed. After being notified of the same, an email response said: “Thanks For Informing Us! All Requested Content is Deleted!”. However, soon after, a mirror domain surfaced with all the copyrighted content flagged earlier.
What makes a website “rogue”? Singh listed out various characteristics of the 44 websites in question, which included:
- The names of the persons who registered the domain names are unavailable. Most websites do not have contact details or addresses, but some do have email addresses;
- The websites “mask their identity” by subscribing to features like “privacy protect”. Also, there’s no clarity on who makes available the content on the websites;
- Some appear to generate revenue, given that they host ads for virtual private networks. The websites also promote their mobile apps, as well as downloading the .apk files for them;
- The websites seemingly encourage users to download Telegram and join channels where unauthorised content is widely shared. Interestingly, Justice Singh delivered a landmark order on Telegram’s intersections with piracy last year, directing the platform to disclose information on the users coordinating similar acts of piracy;
- Different quality options are provided to download the content (such as high definition, etc). This content can also be downloaded to phones.
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