The Delhi High Court has restrained 160 entities, including websites, cable operators and internet service providers, from illegally broadcasting or communicating to the public in any manner the 2018 FIFA World Cup, to be held in Russia from June 14, without a licence from Sony which has the exclusive right to broadcast the sporting event.
The interim direction by Justice Prathiba M Singh came on a plea moved by Sony Pictures Networks Distribution India Pvt Ltd (Sony) in the high court apprehending that the cable operators and websites may indulge in unauthorised transmission of the event.
Holding that Sony has made out a prima facie case for grant of an interim order, the court also directed the Department of Electronics and Information and Technology (DEIT) and the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) to ensure that the internet service providers block the websites, mentioned in the company's plea, that are likely to illegally broadcast the event.
"Upon receiving intimation that any other websites are also indulging in illegal transmission, Defendants No.161 (DEIT) and 162 (DoT) shall issue directions for blocking of the said websites," it said.
While granting the relief to Sony, the court said that since the Football World Cup is enormously popular in the regions where the company has exclusive rights, it is "entitled to protection against the illegal transmission, broadcasting, communication, telecast, and unauthorised distribution of any match, footage, clip, audio-video, audio only and/or any part of the Football World Cup, 2018."
According to Sony's plea, it has the right to broadcast the event, on a live, delayed and repeat basis within the territories of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as also the exclusive television rights, mobile transmission rights, broadband transmission rights, as also non-exclusive radio rights.
Taking note of the submission, the court observed that non-grant of an injunction would prejudice the Sony irreparably as illegal and unlicensed communication of the matches can dent its rights in the event which has a high visibility globally.
It issued summonses to all the 160 entities asking them to indicate their stand on Sony's plea and listed the matter for further hearing on September 4.
The court also appointed four local commissioners who on receiving intimation from Sony of any defaulting site or cable operator shall first ascertain whether there is any unauthorised distribution or transmission of the matches without a licence from the company.
The local commissioners have also been empowered by the court to inspect and seize the equipments being used for any unauthorised distribution/re-distribution as well as make a sample recording of the illegal transmission.
The court said that the local commissioners can seek the assistance of the police of the area concerned, if required.