In Universal City Studios LLC and Ors. v. and Ors.1 (Suit), the Delhi High Court (Court) in an order dated 21 February 2022 (Order) interpreted the provisions of Order I, Rule 1(a) and 1(b) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) on the issue of maintainability of a single consolidated suit filed by separate owners of different and distinct works in which copyrights subsist, against common rogue websites that indulged in unlawful streaming of respective works of  the six plaintiffs, namely Universal City Studios LLC, Warner Bros Entertainment Inc, Columbia Pictures Industries Netflix Studios, LLC, Paramount Pictures Corporation and Disney Enterprises, Inc. (Plaintiffs).

Factual background

The Suit has been filed by the Plaintiffs against and others, (being defendant nos. 1 to 34) (Rogue Websites) for indulging in online piracy by permitting access to illegal downloads of separate copyrights works belonging to each of the Plaintiffs in the form of movies and TV series. Internet service providers (ISPs), Department of Telecommunication (DoT) and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) were also impleaded as defendants in this case.

The Plaintiffs sought interim directions from the Court to direct the DoT and MEITY to block access to the Rogue Websites as identified in the Suit to restrain infringement of copyrights in their content including movies such as Mulan, Lego, Batman, Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, San Andreas, Joker, etc. and television series such as Mob Psycho, Friends, Stranger Things, Sacred Games, Jojo's Bizarre Adventures and Arrow.

Plaintiffs' Contentions

The Plaintiffs contended that a single consolidated Suit is maintainable, as the Plaintiffs have been aggrieved by identical acts by the Rogue Websites of unlawful streaming of their creative and original work. They contended that there were common facts and questions of law involved as well. The Plaintiffs also placed reliance upon a decision of the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court in Microsoft Corporation vs. Sujan Kumar2 and argued that if separate court fee is paid as was done in the present case, the consolidated Suit by different plaintiffs was maintainable against a common set of defendants. The Plaintiffs also referred to a catena of matters in which similar suits were filed and interim protection was also granted to the plaintiffs therein.

In support of their contentions, the Plaintiffs relied upon the provisions of Order I, Rule 1 of the CPC and laid emphasis on the fact that since the Plaintiffs were aggrieved by the same act or series of acts, on the basis of which copyrights were being infringed, the Suit was maintainable in terms of Order I, Rule 1(a) of the CPC and bringing separate suits would only add to the burden of the court and the same could be avoided as common questions of law as well as facts would arise.

It was also submitted that the identities of the Rogue Websites were veiled and were anonymous and the Plaintiffs had satisfied the parameters laid down by the Court in UTV Software Communication Ltd. vs. 1337X.to3 for identifying a rogue website.

Findings and Decision

The Court, upon examining the facts of the case, held that the requirements of Order I, Rules 1(a) and 1(b) of the CPC were not satisfied by the plaintiffs and all of the plaintiffs could not join in one suit even against a similar set of defendants, since the works being the subject matter of copyright owned by each of the plaintiffs were different and the plaintiffs' claim of infringement in respect of each of such copyrighted works gave rise to independent and distinct causes of action.  There is no identity in the creative work or the copyright of each Plaintiff and what is identical is only the allegation that copyright has been infringed. The Court ruled that since different works of different Plaintiffs were being infringed, they did not constitute the “same” act or transaction as contemplated under Order I, Rules 1(a) and 1(b) and that merely for the reason that the plaintiffs may have a common grievance against the defendants and the acts complained of by the Plaintiffs similar / identical – they would not be the “same”. The Court distinguished the decision in Microsoft Corporation (supra) on facts to state that payment of separate court fees cannot validate something that is not in the procedure.

However, Court held that the misjoinder of parties was a procedural objection, and that rejection of the suit was not the appropriate remedy for the same. The Court observed that the provisions of Order I, Rule 2 stipulated that where it appears to the court that any joinder of the plaintiffs may embarrass or delay the trial of the suit, the court has the discretion to require the plaintiffs to elect or order separate trials or make such other order as may be expedient. The Court, in exercise of its discretion, went on to permit the joinder of the copyright owners as plaintiffs in the Suit without requiring the Plaintiffs to split them – on of the considerations was that court fees had already been paid by each Plaintiff for their respective causes of action. However, whilst doing so the Court added a caveat that same is not a practice that can be encouraged.

The Court thereafter proceeded to consider the Plaintiffs' application for interim direction and after observing that the Rogue Websites are anonymous in nature and are actively streaming motion pictures and television content of the Plaintiffs through illegal means, was accordingly pleased to direct the ISPs to block access to the Rogue Websites within 24 hours of the receipt of the order and also directed DoT and MEITY to issue notification calling upon the telecom service providers registered under them to disable access into India of the Rogue Websites within 36 hours of the receipt of the order.


The Order seeks to underline the fact that when causes of action arise out of separate and distinct acts or series of acts committed against the independent rights owned by different parties, such parties cannot club their causes of action and come together to file a single action, even if separate court fee is paid by each of the Plaintiffs in respect of the same. It is not often that the Court, despite enunciating the position of law and holding that there is a defect in a suit, proceeds with the suit in its discretion as an exception and proceeds to grant reliefs. The practice of multiple Plaintiffs having independent rights and/or common grievances filing a consolidated suit against a common set of defendants ought not to be followed going forward even though similar or common question of facts or law arise.  


1 C.S. (COMM) 116/2022 & I.A. 2717/2022

2 Order dated 04 February 2016 in RFA(OS)(COMM) 1/2016

3 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8002

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