TOI: How can facts be anybody’s property?

The Times of India has carried a very good article explaining the issue. Here are some interesting bits:

In short, the court’s order rested on two crucial pillars — that the public cannot be denied access to facts so casually, and that the very question of whether there are any exclusive rights here to be sold is extremely debatable. 

In the meantime, Sony, which has the rights for the ongoing series in New Zealand, got an ex-parte stay from the Delhi high court in late January this year on Cricinfo, Cricbuzz and RadioOne giving live updates of scores. It is as a result of this that these online portals are providing updates with a 15-minute lag. In fact, as became apparent on Thursday, even Yahoo Cricket, which is not directly a party to the dispute, has started providing updates with a lag.

This case illustrates the point made by Justices Bhat and Waziri about how the public could be denied information in an “insidious” and “creeping” manner. Unlike in the earlier dispute, where Star was objecting to websites monetizing or commercially exploiting what it saw as its property, here the objection is even to free dissemination of scores.

This is also why many observers feel the Supreme Court’s ruling could have a very important bearing on the public’s right to real-time information not just in cricket but across the spectrum. Could, for example, the live telecast of a political rally or event be sold exclusively to one media platform?

The article goes on to quote a couple of interesting verdicts in similar disputes that arose outside India. (Think this is a 21st century problem? Check the year on the Victoria Park Racing dispute below!)

LISTEN TO THE REST OF WORLD NBA VS MOTOROLA (1997, US) | National Basketball Assn claimed Motorola and STATS infringed on NBA’s copyright by distributing scores to users with a “SportsTrax Pager”. Court ruled that sports events are not ‘authored’ and therefore cannot be copyrighted. It did state that ‘broadcast of event’ is different from ‘facts of the event’, and that the broadcast could be protected by copyright. It added that “defendants provide purely factual information which any patron of an NBA game could acquire from the arena without any involvement from the director, cameramen, or others who contribute to the originality of the broadcast”

VICTORIA PARK RACING AND RECREATION GROUNDS CO. LTD VS TAYLOR (1937, AUSTRALIA) | Court rejected the notion of ‘quasiproperty’, which claims that ownership of the property entitles you to ownership of the facts of the event of the property.


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