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Sports Industry And IP Laws: Focusing On Copyright In India

When we take into consideration the sports industry then we see that it's not only driven by passion, zeal, and courage but innovation and creative ideas too are the key drivers in this domain. In every field of sports be it football, cricket, wrestling, etc, we see that the inventors and the creators are working tirelessly behind the vail to further up the horizons of creating opportunities and also catering to the enjoyment of the athletes to strive towards a better-performing individual in the sports felid.

The sports industry has been breaking the class ceiling of globalized society for a long duration of time which has not only created fans all over the world for the admiration of sports in general but has also created a huge interest in people's minds and has been adopted by the same.

Well-recognized sports such as cricket, hockey, tennis, football, etc is now not just limited to one territory but is massively played world and due to this inter-territorial expansion we see that the role of IP Laws in this field has become a very important aspect. As we have already seen the sports industry thrives upon innovation and creation, so IPR here becomes the promoter and adjudicator to encourage creativity and innovation in this particular domain by protecting the reputation and also the goodwill that is attached to a brand name making sure that the owner of the IP rights gets a fair share of recognition as well as reward for his original ideas and work.

The scope of IP law covers a huge spectrum of sporting events, brands, and many more where IPR is seen bestowing IP rights in every section of the sports field and industry. starting off we can see that copyright here has come into the picture when we talk about the broadcasting of any sports event so that it can be easily accessible to the fans of that particular sport worldwide.

This broadcasting of the event involves a huge amount of money and also has a script, recitation, etc which becomes subject to copyrighted content. the trademark laws again are seen protecting the goodwill of brands that are involved in such sporting events and lastly, we also get to see that designs come into the picture by protecting the aesthetic value of each sports article that is involved.

Patent laws too are required to protect the used technology for the invention of a particular aspect of a product or any goods or service related to the sports domain. Here if we take a very basic example of let's say a sports beverage being used at a particular sporting event then the sports beverage covers a range of IP laws and rights attached to it such as the copyright protects the audio and the visuals used for the creation by the broadcasting team to publicize the beverage.

A trademark protects the goodwill of the brand name associated with the sports beverage by differentiating it from other products in the market that are similar. Patent laws protect the technological and innovative advancement that has been used to invent such a beverage and finally, we see that the design laws protect the aesthetic design of the sports beverage related to the appearance or packaging, etc.

We can see from the above discussion that many IP laws such as Trademark, Copyright, Design, Personality Rights, etc commercialize and also exploit the commercial component involved in the sports arena. so, we will further discuss the legal framework of IP laws in the sports industry.

Copyright In The Sports Industry

In India, we see that there is no proper legislation as such that deals with the issues relating to sports as an industry, and as a result, we see that various laws are used to govern the same. Nowadays because of commercialization and the leading cases of exploitation of sporting events and also athletes have paved the way for copyright to become extremely important and valued for the protection of collective or individual rights.

Copyright in the domain of sports is used for the protection of different aspects of a sport or a sporting event which involves the use of any catchphrases, logos, images, and even promotions. in India, the Copyright Act of 1957 gives protection to all of the above-mentioned facets.

It also gravely safeguards the broadcasting and performing rights and is considered to be fairly liberal by allowing both the author as well as the society at large to explore their creativity. It is worth mentioning that all sports organizations rely heavily on the revenues inculcated from media and broadcasting rights to build the infrastructure of sporting clubs and stadiums, promote and stage new sporting events, and also to engage in the process of community outreach so that the rising interest for the particular sports is maintained.

We can also see that major sporting events are being streamed and aired worldwide which allows millions of spectators to be a part of the thrill and excitement of the event through media outreach. copyright along with the neighbouring rights protects unauthorized and unlicensed broadcasting and provides support to sports and media relationships as they pay hefty amounts of money to gain exclusive rights to showcase the athletic events that are streamed live.

Now since copyright in India does not mandate any registration of the work by the author it becomes very easy and convenient to seek protection for the same and even seek remedies and damages.

In any case of infringement of the copyrighted work, the act provides for civil remedies under Section 55 where Permanent, Interlocutory, Temporary, Mareva Injunctions, and Anton Pillar order help to sought profits or damages and even litigation costs. not only do the remedies stop at a civil remedial step but Section 63 of the Act provides for criminal remedies in the form of imprisonment on account of a cognizable offence which is punishable with a fine amount.

Importance Of Broadcasting And Performance Rights In The Sports Industry

With the up-roaring development and admiration of the sports enterprise in India, the attached issues of broadcasting and sponsorship have also shot great heights. Why is broadcasting such an important aspect of the sports domain has a very simple answer to it. with the word dominance that the sports industry has it becomes difficult to cater to all the fans and audience in one stadium and it also decreases the horizons of the sports itself making it just an intra-territorial affair but with the art of broadcasting all such territorial boundaries are demolished, and every individual can have the access to the sports event through the comfort of television and media.

owing to this global achievability of content created through the means of broadcasting we can see that the Indian Copyright Act recognizes a separate set of rights for the same. it ensures that no one gets the authority to stream or air any copyright-protected and licensed professional sporting event without prior permission from the sporting league, association, or organization.

In this case, the broadcasting companies enjoy the exclusive rights to broadcast an event and once they get the rights for the same they act as owners of the broadcast and can rebroadcast a sporting event according to their wishes and demands. now if any person or group of persons tries to broadcast or publish any such copyrighted work which has already been broadcasted or published or tries to sell or heir to the public, or even tries to offer such sale or hire is considered to have infringed the broadcasting rights of the owner. This is considered to be an offense under Section 51 of The Indian Copyright Act, 1957.

This happens because of the day-to-day advancement of technological advancements in the sporting event concerning it being televised or streamed worldwide. However, it is noteworthy that the copyright cat in the Indian subcontinent did not consider safeguarding the board casting and performance aspect of an event first but later on in the year 1994 it was seen that Sections 37 and 38 were repelled and new section was added entirely dedicated to providing broadcasting and reproduction rights which also included the aspects of performance.

Hereafter the replacement it can be seen that Section 3 of the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing With Prasar Bharti) Act 2007 makes it important for all content rights owners to share the broadcast signals of events of national importance in sports domain without including any advertisement with the Prasar Bharti so that it can be re-transmitted into their own DTH and Terrestrial networks.

The law was passed so that games and sports that hold national importance can be accessible easily by the majority population of India however it is more than discriminatory and places private enterprises at a disadvantageous position who spend billions together to gain exclusive rights to a match, sporting event, games, etc.

With the changing times and the restricted life that each individual enjoys on a social platform or cyberspace these new emerging social media platforms have entirely transfigured the way sports enthusiasts and fans receive these sports content. owners of these exclusive broadcasting rights and their partner businesses are facing multiple challenges due to the evergrowing and evolving times of social media GIFs, Background vines, live streaming, and piracy pose grave threats and are a reason for monetary loss suffered by the mentioned right owners.

Test Of Practicality Of Copyright In The Sports Industry

Now owing to the above explanation and discussion of broadcasting rights let's deal with a very practical aspect of broadcasting such matches and how copyright comes to its rescue. The issue surfaces when an individual who is watching any sports match or is witnessing any sports event etc via a valid ticket starts photographing and making videos of the event and then using them to pristine money out of it by either selling them or uploading it on the internet or even by going live on their own website.

Now, here the question of whether or not the act committed by this individual is an infringement of the broadcasting rights of the authorized owners or not is highlighted. if we stick to the definition of the word broadcast which is given in Section 2(dd) of the Indian Copyright Act 1957 simply means communication established to the public by:
  1. Any means of wireless dispersion, which can be in any one or even more forms of signs, visual images, sounds or
  2. Use of any wire, and also includes a re-broadcasting.

Adhering to the above-mentioned definition of broadcasting we can simplify the term communication to the public which means making any work available for being seen or head or also enjoyed by the public at large directly or indirectly by any means of display or diffusion of other than issuing copies of these works even though any public witnesses it or not.

And so, it can be conclusively said that uploading any such videos etc by an individual or group of individuals who is sitting and witnessing the sports event is infringing the broadcasting rights of the actual owners. this results in the exploration of a gray area as to how to stop these individuals from photographing and also recording in the location of the event.

Secondly, it also opens doors to speculation as to who actually will have copyright over the photographs and the videos taken. Owing to the definition of copyright it becomes very clear that the person who has taken the pictures and the videos possesses the rights over them but the question of the act being justifiable or not still lingers which can be understood by the fact that the price paid by the individual or the group etc to purchase the tickets is explicitly for watching the match and not to record, photograph or use the material for their commercial interest.

Moving on we can see that if a person is involved in the act of downloading the videos that have been uploaded by the original broadcasting owners on their website and the involved person or group of persons are seen sharing the file or uploading it on his or their website then will it account to infringement also keeping in mind that some websites are paid or get paid based on the number of hits or clicks per day . lastly the question about whether the streaming of a live match in pubs, bars or even restaurants on the big screen without adequate permission for disseminating the live broadcast will in any way amount to an infringement or not.

The key to understanding this set of questions is that the subscriptions obtained by these bars, pubs, etc are for their personal use and not for commercial consumption, and so by showing the match that is streaming live and inviting the fans of that particular sport to their commercial place of business generates a commercial interest but sadly enough the current copyright laws in India is not catering to such questions and thus leading to a dead end.

Another major setback in the Indian copyright laws dealing with the sports industry is that the Broadcasters' rights don't protect copyright in the work. rights of a broadcaster as per the act are a set of exclusive rules that are provided to the broadcaster which essentially include neighbouring rights and this does not protect the copyright in the work but the broadcast itself.

In the case of Espn Star Sports v. Global Broadcast News Ltd and Ors it was held that Sections 13 and 14 of the Indian Copyright Act make it very clear that copyright will exist only in work and work here does not include the word broadcast 6 . due to this there only exists a broadcaster right in the telecast of a live event or events that are communicated to the public as per under Section 37 of the Act and is entirely distinct and separated from copyright all together.

7 Consequently, the Broadcast Reproduction Right which stands different from that of copyright is with the Broadcasting Organization which causes the broadcast to be effectively communicated to the public under the name and logo as per the definition of the term Broadcast under section 2(dd) and the term communication to the public under the given Section 2 (ff) of the Act.

If we do a comparison, we can see that the Broadcasters of any sports events in the UK enjoy copyright protection in transmitted programming as broadcast works. any fan making videos, editing, uploading or for the record even found distributing clips related to the live sporting event may be infringing the Broadcasters copyright however we can clearly see that's not the case here in India.

The Indian copyright law is still not equipped with or rather has no scope for live events that are aired throughout India as it does not fall under Section 13 . to adjudicate this major issue in India Section 13(b) of the Act needs to be interpreted.8 the infringement of rights in association with sports events is yet a subject matter pending for settlement in the precinct of Indian Judiciary as the matter has been raided but not satisfactorily addressed in the Indian Courts.

The loophole lies in the definition of cinematography films as per Section 2(f) of the Act which refers to any work that has been recorded on tapes, video cassettes, or any fixed medium such as compact discs but a Live Broadcast of any sporting event cannot be recorded until it has been saved in one of the fixed means as discussed above cause they are aired when they are happening at present.

Adhering to the above statistics and analysis it can be said that copyright in the broadcasting of these sports events and the due right of performance in the sports industry holds very high significance when the question of protection of rights is concerned.

These live sports events involve a hefty amount of finances and hold a very important economic value and thus it shouldn't be blatantly ignored in a nation as big as India. the Indian Courts to date are trying to Provide recognition to the Copyright on Live streaming events but still haven't been able to back up sufficient matters for the same.

It would be critically wrong to say that the Indian Copyright laws have failed to provide justice at all to the sports industry but there certainly is a long way to go which must be reached as soon as possible so that people can keenly invest in these live streams without missing out on their rights.

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