On January 21 2014, Sony MSM (the plaintiff) contested ESPNcricinfo’s (the defendant) right to provide “live and contemporaneous text commentary” during India’s tour of New Zealand. The case file for the interim order that the court issued can be accessed from this link to the Delhi High Court’s website. This is the gist:
Learned counsel for the plaintiff contends that on 19.1.2014, during the live broadcast of the first match in India-New Zealand Cricket series, the plaintiff learnt that defendants, without any authorization from the plaintiff, on its website i.e. http://www.espncricinfo.com are providing live and contemporaneous text commentary and live contemporaneous audio commentary of the said first match in Hindi and English languages. In the first match, which was played on 19.1.2014, the defendant had given ball-to-ball commentary on their website. Print outs of the impugned website, in this context, have been placed by the plaintiff at pages 23 to 60 of the documents. Counsel further contends that since the plaintiff has exclusive media rights, the defendants cannot be permitted to invade into the rights of the plaintiff and provide ball-to-ball commentary on their websites. It is further contended that the defendant seeks to reap profits without making any investment and without obtaining any license thereby making illegal gains at the cost of the plaintiff. Counsel, in these circumstances, prays for ex parte ad interim injunction against the defendant.
Cricbuzz have been known to carry audio commentary on their mobile applications, while Radio One provide live score commentary over FM in India, presumably in Hindi.
Cricinfo’s coverage for the 3rd ODI of the New Zealand v India series was affected by this ruling. The site was forced to delay their live match coverage by 15 minutes. The game ended in a tie following Ravindra Jadeja’s last-over heroics, but Cricinfo’s commentary lagged the action by over 2 overs, rendering the service practically useless to cricket fans. Services that weren’t named in the case carried on with business as usual.
On 27th January, ESPN Digital Media filed for a vacation of the interim order (which is legalese for “they responded”).
In order to continue business activities, the defendants undertake that for the remaining two one day matches, which are scheduled for 28.1.2014 and 31.1.2014, defendants shall deposit a sum of Rs.10.00 lakhs in terms of interim order passed by the Supreme Court of India in SLP No.29629/2013, without prejudice to the rights and contentions of both the parties. The amount of Rs.10.00 lakhs, shall be deposited by the defendant within one week from today, as prayed, with the Registrar General of this Court in the form of Fixed Deposit Receipt, which shall be renewed periodically till further orders from this Court. This arrangement is without prejudice to the rights and contentions of both the parties.