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11 April 2024

Curbing Online Piracy; Delhi HC Grants Ex-Parte Injunction In Favour Of Universal Studios

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The Delhi High Court recently granted an ex-parte dynamic plus injunction in favor of Universal Studios against 28 defendants hosting rogue websites engaged in large-scale piracy.
India Intellectual Property
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The Delhi High Court recently granted an ex-parte dynamic plus injunction in favor of Universal Studios against 28 defendants hosting rogue websites engaged in large-scale piracy. The injunction targets unauthorized reproduction, distribution, and communication of copyrighted cinematographic films. Recognizing the agility of rogue websites in evading legal measures, the Court extends the injunction to future iterations and new sites, emphasizing its commitment to combat online piracy effectively.

Factual Background

In the case of Universal City Studios Llc & Ors Vs Fzkidd.Net & Ors, the plaintiffs, renowned creators and proprietors of copyrighted cinematographic films and audio-visual content, have taken legal action against multiple defendants operating rogue websites. These rogue websites serve as platforms for the unauthorized streaming and viewing of the plaintiffs' copyrighted content over the internet. The Court, acknowledging the agile nature of rogue websites in evading legal measures, extended its injunction to encompass future iterations and new sites based on various factors like hosting, identity, and content. The injunction applies to forthcoming versions and newly emerging rogue websites, allowing for their inclusion through an application process.

Moreover, recognizing the persistent piracy concerning Universal City Studios' content, the Court affirmed the injunction's applicability to future works. To enforce the injunction effectively, the Court directed the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block these websites and domain name registrars to block domain names, providing ownership details and contact information.

Plaintiff's Contentions

The plaintiff contended that there was a widespread dissemination of unauthorized, unlicensed, and pirated content belonging to the defendants across numerous online platforms, with defendants No. 1 to 28 actively contributing to this proliferation. These rogue websites served as conduits for users to access pirated content, providing directories or indexes of hyperlinks redirecting users to host sites where the content can be streamed or downloaded, often accompanied by sophisticated search options. Despite legal notices demanding removal, defendants had persisted in their infringing activities, concealing their identities or providing false registration details to evade enforcement.

Referring to the precedent set forth in Universal City Studios LLC (Supra), the plaintiff sought a dynamic+ injunction. The plaintiff also recommended evasion tactics such as VPN usage, impacting access to defendant websites in various jurisdictions. The plaintiff further argued that findings from a private investigator had revealed deceptive practices by defendant websites, including the creation of mirroring websites to attract traffic post-takedown orders. The plaintiff asserted that such actions constituted a clear violations of copyright laws and highlighted the defendants' infringement of Section 51(a)(i) and (ii) and Section 51(b) of the Copyright Act, 1957.

Court's Observations

The court acknowledged the screenshots provided by the plaintiffs, which revealed that defendants No. 1 to 28 were offering copyrighted content produced by the plaintiffs without consent or a valid license. Recognizing the need to combat online piracy, the court granted an ex-parte ad-interim injunction in favor of the plaintiffs. The injunction passed by the Court restrains the defendants from streaming, reproducing, distributing, or communicating copyrighted content of the plaintiffs through their websites or any associated mirror/redirect websites. The plaintiffs were directed to file an application for impleading domains associated with infringing activities. The Court instructed the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block the defendants and relevant government departments were ordered to issue blocking orders within a week. Court further instructed Domain Name Registrars to lock and suspend the domain names associated with the defendants and provide registrant details to the plaintiff upon intimation.

Analysis

In this pivotal ruling, the court meticulously examined the evidence provided by the plaintiffs, highlighting a flagrant infringement of copyright through unauthorized sharing of movies and TV shows on certain websites. By granting an ex-parte ad-interim injunction, the court underscored the urgency in curbing online piracy, recognizing its detrimental impact on content creators' financial interests. The injunction, restraining the identified websites from disseminating copyrighted content, reflects the court's proactive stance in safeguarding intellectual property rights. The court's insistence on cooperation from relevant government departments further underscores the collaborative effort required to combat such illicit activities. The order to suspend and disclose details of domain registrants demonstrates a stringent stance against piracy facilitators, aiming to dismantle their operations and hold them accountable. This landmark judgment thus sets a significant precedent in the ongoing battle against online piracy, reaffirming the judiciary's commitment to upholding copyright protections in the digital age.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

ARTICLE
11 April 2024

Curbing Online Piracy; Delhi HC Grants Ex-Parte Injunction In Favour Of Universal Studios

India Intellectual Property

Contributor

Established in 2004, Naik Naik & Co. started out as a niche media practice which has metamorphosed into a full-service law firm. Headquartered in Mumbai with a pan-India presence, we advise and perform across all aspects of corporate, disputes, banking and finance, and intellectual property law. Our sectoral focus is our differentiator and we can boast of strong industry sector expertise for over two decades. Our practice is anchored in quality service, professionalism, and integrity.
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