The Delhi High Court, vide its order dated 11 April 2023 and by way of a firm stand taken against online piracy, has restrained 40 websites from streaming content of entertainment companies.

In a significant move, major entertainment companies like Universal City Studios, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Columbia Picture Industries Inc., Disney Enterprises Inc., Paramount Pictures Corporation and Netflix Studios LLC, took a collective stand against online piracy and initiated suit against 40 rogue websites that were illegally indulging in unauthorised streaming, distribution and downloading of content. The Plaintiffs claimed that exclusive rights to communicate content to the public were with them and that the rogue websites were enabling users to view and download their content without authorisation and providing links to the location wherein the users could engage in such activities. It was also claimed that majority of the websites were anonymous in nature and that the information provided in the public domain concerning the details of the website is protected behind a veil of secrecy.

The Delhi High Court, in its single bench order, relied on UTV Software Communication Ltd. Judgment, observed that a ‘prima facie case’ was made in favour of the plaintiffs and that ‘irreparable harm or injury’ would be caused to them if the defendants are not stopped from continuing their activities. Accordingly, the High Court restrained the 40 defendants from hosting, streaming, reproducing, distributing, making available to the public and/or communicating to the public, or facilitating the same on their websites, through the internet in any manner whatsoever, any cinematograph work / content/ programme/ show in relation to which the plaintiffs have a copyright.

Also, to address the issue of anonymity of the websites, the High Court further directed the Internet Services Provider to block the 40 defendant websites including their URLs and IP addresses in compliance with the Order. The Department of Telecom and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology were directed to take immediate steps and issue requisite notifications thereof within five working days, calling upon various internet and telecom service providers registered under them to block the websites identified by the plaintiffs’ companies.

Further, with a view to lessen its burden, the Court also directed that in future if the Plaintiffs comes to know of website(s) which are associated with any of the defendants and provide additional means of accessing defendant’s websites and other domain(s) or have been engaging in infringing the plaintiffs exclusive rights, the plaintiff can file an Application under Order I Rule 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure for impleading of such websites along with an Affidavit backed up by sufficient supporting evidences confirming the aforesaid. Such application shall be listed before the Joint Registrar who, on being satisfied with the materials placed on record, shall issue appropriate directions to the Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The matter has been listed before the Court on 29 August 2023.

For the court order, click here.

Picture courtesy: Petter Lagson on Unsplash

Rommel Pandit

Trademark Attorney

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