With the advent of technology, the broadcasting segment has seen a
significant increase in viewership, looking into specifically the sports
broadcasting segment we have seen a rise in subscribers due to an increase in
Digital Platforms and changing trends. Initially, people used to prefer
television broadcasting for watching sports but today the trend has seen a shift
to digital platforms. Today the audience of the 15-30 years age group prefers
watching live streaming of the matches on their smartphones or Tablets.
The increase in numerous ways to watch sports is beneficial for the fans,
broadcasters are facing potential threats from the issues arising in the sports
broadcasting sector. The contention behind the issue was the split of media
rights between multiple platforms i.e., OTT & Television. Most of these
platforms aren't free and require subscription fees.
The combined cost of taking subscriptions of different platforms for watching
sports becomes an expensive deal for the fans. At the same time, the increasing
valuation of media rights contributed to making the situation worse, and hence
as a result of increasing prices, sports fans have started to view illegally
sports streaming or pirated streams online.
Due to this serious issue of online piracy, some broadcasters have faced legal
risks & issues of being shut down due to financial losses. Finding pirate
streams online is not at all a difficult task but shutting it down is; it has
proved to be an impossible task to completely shut down pirated sports league
broadcasting. Several times legal actions have been taken in the past for
shutting it down but still many illegal streamers are fully operational.
In fact, the situation is this right now one stream is taken down several others
pop up at the moment. Younger fans use to watch sports online mostly due to lack
of affordability and this is also one of the major contributors to piracy due to
this broadcaster losing their money as well as the subscriber base.
An injunction was granted by Delhi High Court in the order dated 29/06/2022 in
Favour of Sony Entertainment network against the illegal telecasting of the
India-England Cricket Series 2022 by rogue websites. We will be discussing in
detail the Intellectual Property aspects of illegal broadcasting taking the
reference of the abovementioned case followed by the recommendations to curb
online piracy of sports broadcasting.
Background Of The Case Sony Pictures V. Mylivecricket- Delhi HC, 2022
SONY Pictures India Network Pvt. Ltd (Plaintiff), the Plaintiff in the present
case owns and operates "SONY TEN Network" of channels and has acquired from
England & Wales Cricket Board Limited (ECB) the broadcasting rights for the
India-England Cricket Match which is scheduled to take place from 1st July 2022
to 17th July 2022 in the territories of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri
Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar & Maldives.
Plaintiff has acquired the Exclusive Television Rights, Digital Rights &
Exclusive Radio Rights; Exclusive Clip Rights, Public Screening Rights, Audio
Rights & rights regarding making of programs related matches & highlights
programs; Lastly the exclusive right to create contemporary textual commentary
of matches on the mobile platforms. In the present case, the defendants are
habitual offenders who have indulged in infringing the exclusive broadcasting
rights of the plaintiff in the past.
Here Defendants No. 1-39 are rogue infringing websites who are indulged in the
business of uploading pirated content & prominent in illegal streaming of
various sporting events which ultimately leads to the loss to Plaintiff as well
as the Government in terms of revenue collected via tax which is irrecoverable.
The Delhi High Court granted the Ashok Kumar Order (Indigenous version of the
John Doe Order) in this case.
The plaintiff pleaded for the protection of the copyright in the said matches &
since it's not possible to identify the defendants specifically hence to save
the Plaintiff to suffer from irreparable loss and injury the court granted a
permanent injunction in the favour of Plaintiff.
The Interplay Of Copyright Law In Sports Broadcasting
The issues regarding the copyright of live telecasting of sports haven't been
decided by any of the Indian Courts so far, although Delhi High Court time and
again is on the affirmative side regarding this issue, a couple of times from
its judgments it has stressed on co-existence of copyright & neighboring rights
in the form of broadcasting rights separately in the telecast of a sporting
event. In the form of Broadcast Reproduction Rights, Broadcasting Organizations
have been granted neighboring rights protection under Section 37 of the Indian
Copyrights Act, 1957.
is nowhere defined under the Indian Copyrights
Act, 1957 and this is the main reason it's difficult to say whether Internet
broadcasters like Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Sony Live & other similar
platforms that solely broadcast content online would be able to exercise the
broadcasting reproduction right or not
Live Telecasts of sporting events can be protected as a cinematographic film
under the Section 13(b) of the Copyrights Act as the telecast of a live event is
nothing but an audio-visual recording.
Presently the biggest legal tool to tackle online piracy in the live telecast of
sports events is John Doe Order, in India, it is referred to as Ashok Kumar
Order. Ashok Kumar Order is used when the IP holder knows that his right is
being infringed but he is unable to identify who has infringed his IP rights;
via this order, an ex parte preliminary injunction can be sought by the owner to
immediately restrain anticipated IP infringements without waiting to identify
who is the exact infringer is before instituting the case.
The genesis of the Ashok Kumar order can be traced back to the year 2002 when
the Delhi High Court in the case of Taj Television & Anr. v. Rajan Mandal &
. awarded a John Doe order (Ashok Kumar Order) for the 1st time by
appointing a local commissioner to search & seize all equipment used for illegal
broadcasting from the premises of the cable operators who were illegally
broadcasting 2002 FIFA World Cup. In fact, in the present case of Sony
Entertainment, the Delhi High Court ordered Ashok Kumar Order and granted a
permanent injunction to Sony Entertainment.
The present case of Sony Networks is not the first time it came before the
Judiciary, the nexus can be drawn back to several cases held back in 2014-2016
in the case of Star India Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. v. Haneeth Ujwal
defendants infringed the exclusive broadcasting rights of the plaintiff by
illegally broadcasting the 2014 India-England Series footage & another case was
of 2016 Department of Electronics & Info Technology v. Star India Pvt. Ltd.
which was based on the same lines i.e., illegal streaming of the India-Australia
Test Match Series; in both cases, the Delhi High Court granted an ex parte
injunction to the plaintiff and asked the defendants to shut down the illegal
Conclusion & Way Forward
From the above discussion, it is evident that the detrimental effect of illegal
streaming and broadcasting will further extend in times to come, if not dealt
with stringently. With highly accessible technological means, it is next to
impossible to prevent pirated streaming just by taking down access points
(websites and URLs). The most effective measure must be a combination of an
effort to contain the existing access points and at the same time adopt the
deterrence theory of punishment, making the offense attract stringent and
Taking cues from the Australian court observation in the case Roadshow v.
Telstra, policies can be introduced to bring additions to the term 'limitations'
in the legislation and extend the ambit of liabilities to the search engines for
providing links to the illegal streaming and broadcasting websites.
Another effective measure against piracy can be the adoption of policies of
strict vigilance of reported or suspected URLs and links. Considering the
exponential rise in software-based platform creation for sharing illegal
content, even the counter effect has to be brought onto the level of an
automated system that could tackle the illegal content-creating platforms as
soon as it is formed. This could also be done by various social media platforms
by introducing the requisite algorithm as it is there for 'adult/disturbing
content' shared on such platforms. The efficiency of the step could be enhanced
by private agreements wherein the curbing of telecast of pirated content is
incentivized by the party that was to be at the losing end had there been no
Piracy has not just managed to exist but has also remained relevant when it
comes to entertainment The menace might not be viewed as anything alarming in
the public perspective since it provides quality content at almost no cost,
however, it must be noted that the discouragement and loss caused to the
industry are significant. Even in terms of economics, it stands as a threat to
the employment and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people.
- Manvee, 3rd Year Student of B.B.A LL.B at Chanakya National Law
University, Patna (2025 Batch)
- Piyush Raj, 2nd Year Student of B.A LL.B at Gujarat National Law
University, Gandhinagar (2026 Batch)