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The Delhi High Court was seized of an interesting issue last week pertaining to copyright infringement in the sphere of Direct-To-Home (DTH) / pay-television industry.
U.A.E. based Plaintiff, Gulf DTH FZ LLC (OSN) filed a suit for permanent injunction against DishTV (one of the largest DTH operators in India) alleging copyright infringement by violation of copyrights and consequently, accused DishTV India of orchestrating an ‘elaborate scheme to earn illegal monies’.
The main issues pertain to the alleged commercial exploitation of the satellite spillover signals by DishTV in the MENA region resulting in copyright infringement. OSN’s suit highlights that it has signed exclusive contracts /licenses to transmit channels, movies television programs, sporting events such as IPL, ICC Cricket World Cup and other copyrighted content to viewers in the MENA region which includes countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen i.e. OSN Territory.
It further states that DishTV is transmitting the same channels and programming from India to subscribers in the OSN Territory without the consent of OSN or thethe copyright holders. Additionally, OSN’s contentions are that DishTV is also stated to be exporting to and selling Set Top Boxes and paired smartcards , activating and recharging the DishTV subscriptions through the B2B system in the OSN Territory enabling the access of its services in the OSN Territory.
Invoking the provisions of the Copyright Act, OSN has stated that its exclusive rights in hundreds of works and channels has been infringed and the said act of DishTV is in contravention of not only its licence with owners/studios but also in contravention of the OSN’s licences with the relevant content licensors.
Interestingly, another facet of the allegation relates to the involvement of the enforcement authorities across the U.A.E. who purportedly conducted numerous raids on shops, commercial premises, labour camps, etc and ordered closure of unauthorized DishTV dealer shops, after imposing fines besides deportation of the shop managers. OSN’s suit highlights this aspect and states that the aforesaid action was initiated due to the numerous complaints made by the company regarding infringement by DishTV.
Last week when the case came up for hearing before a Single Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi, the Bench issued certain directions to the Directors of DishTV which were:
a) Full disclosure on whether DishTVIndia either on its own or through any of its associates or business relations is engaged in distribution of set top box and smart cards and is re-charging subscriptions in the MENA territory as defined in para A of the plaint;
b) If yes, the revenues earned from the said activity by DishTV India or its associates and business relations for the last three years.
The Bench has granted a time of three weeks for DishTV India to file its reply over the said issues. The case, which broaches the topic of extraterritorial nature of copyright infringement under the Copyright Act, 1957, will now be heard on July 22, 2016.
While (OSN was represented by Senior Advocate Amit Sibal and briefed by Tatva Legal, DishTV India was represented by Senior Advocate Pratibha M Singh and briefed by Singh & Singh Lall & Sethi.