Live Mint: The tussle over live cricket scores

Live Mint have reported quite comprehensively on the issue. Scroll down to the bottom of the article for the comment posted by Nikhil Pahwa (founder of Medianama), which is as instructive as the article itself. Excerpts from the piece:

“It really is a legal question. However, it will define how these rights will be viewed in this country. Especially now, considering that the battle (between content providers) is being fought across devices, especially on mobile. As broadband speeds improve, consumption of content will move to different devices. Lines are also blurring between broadband and broadcast. So while it is still early days, people are trying to establish boundaries. The judgement will define how certain fortunes change over the next 10 years,” said Jehil Thakkar, partner and head of media and entertainment practice, KPMG India. 

Experts say the devil lies in the detail.

“The real test of the matter is, does this information have character of copyright?” said Ramesh Vaidyanathan, managing partner at Advaya Legal, a corporate law firm, pointing to an example of weather forecasts by government broadcasters. “Are you in violation of the copyright if you put that information up on your site or use it in any way? The answer is no. As this information was not intended to be protected, it was meant to be shared with everyone. However, in the case of the BCCI, where the information in question is related to a private event such as a match, whose rights have been licensed to someone, it is arguable that that information is copyrightable.”

“So, at least in this case, it is arguable that the unique copyrightable work product is the instantaneous score update which has a commercial value. To be sure, the commercial value is not in the score, but in the time you deliver it at. If you were to carry it a day late, like the newspapers, it would amount into less hits on your sites, less visitors and therefore less advertising and subscription revenues,” explained Vaidyanathan.

“When I have rights that I have validly acquired by investing a lot of money, even I would naturally want to monetize it. Whether it is a website, a mobile service provider, broadcaster or otherwise, we are all in this business to generate value for our shareholders,” said Ashok Nambissan, general counsel, Multi Screen Media.

“And no one is talking about someone posting updates on Facebook; that is irrelevant. But contemporaneous accounts of live action (by the said websites) being described under the garb of public service—that is a serious issue,” said Nambissan. “Having said that, it doesn’t mean that we don’t want to share. If we can arrive at a commercial understanding then we are happy to licence them (rights).”

——-

Nikhil Pahwa’s comment:

Bizarre that Ramesh Vaidyanathan says “However, in the case of the BCCI, where the information in question is related to a private event such as a match, whose rights have been licensed to someone, it is arguable that that information is copyrightable.”

Two issues with this:

1. Just because the BCCI sells these rights doesn’t mean that they exist in the first place. The Division bench of the Delhi High Court, which ruled against STAR, said as much. 

2. Facts aren’t copyrightable, which is why STAR isn’t even arguing for copyright in case against Idea Cellular, Onmobile and Cricbuzz: they’re trying to create quasi property rights, saying that the dissemination of scores and ball by ball information for money is an unfair trade practice.Perhaps Mr Vaidyanathan should explain how exactly he believes facts can be brought under copyright, just because it is related to a private event whose rights have been licensed to someone. Unbelievable.

The implications of these cases for media businesses are immense, because it will allow event organizers to control the dissemination of important time-sensitive information. Tomorrow, they can say that you can’t report on an event because it’s unfair that you sell advertising on your TV channel, and we’ve given exclusive rights to another TV channel which is willing to pay us.

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