Category Archives: Updates from the case

“The Indian T20 League”, and the story continues…

You might have noticed that ESPNcricinfo is branding the IPL as “The Indian T20 League”. If you were slightly, surprised, don’t be. It is the continuation of the same saga, as on behalf of BCCI a legal notice regarding the proprietary content of IPL 2014 was sent out to media organizations on April 15th. The notice restricted what is published and distributed on the Internet. As always, Medianama, has the story covered. The relevant portion of the notice that defines “Proprietary Content” is the following:

Proprietary Content definition

– for “publish, provide or disseminate for a charge, fee or other premium, to profit in any other way (including through advertising) from or to otherwise sell or license to any person or entity”, IPL Proprietary Content is:

“ball-by-ball or other score or incident updates or alerts within 15 minutes from the moment that such updates or alerts have been broadcast by the Pepsi IPL official broadcaster; or – live or near-live match scorecards or match score feeds of any nature.”

Read on at Medianama for full coverage of the legal notice. At what point will “non-profit” organizations like BCCI stop or will they take full ownership of every aspect of the sport?

“The arrogance of it is breath-taking”

I am returning home after a long journey. The airport from which I am leaving is spacious, air conditioned and new. There are power outlets and free WiFi to use, whilst the security checks I have just been through were as thorough as any European or US airport.

I am leaving India.

At CricInfo, we centred much of our operations in Chennai and I was a frequent visitor to India in the 1990s. Back then it was not uncommon to see cycle rickshaws, beggars with literally no clothing at all and streets that had more foot, bicycle and animal traffic than cars. Western–style hotels were few and far between, extremely expensive and a challenge to operate in conditions in which the normal amenities one found in the developed world were scarce.

Fifteen years later, top-class hotels are plentiful. The prices have halved and the road to the airport is a smooth 6 lane divided highway with reflective lane markings. As we drive, I see ATMs, late model cars, smart phones… Much of India has left the third world behind. Sustained and strong economic growth for more than a decade has yielded visible and obvious dividends.

Most importantly, the clientele in the Indian-owned, top-class hotels used to be almost entirely white European. Not any more. Now there is a burgeoning Indian middle class who also can afford to have a drink by the poolside and are not content to be treated as if they were still in the third-world. It is now the foreigners who are in the minority.

The largest democracy in the world, India, has moved on as a country, and yet the BCCI runs cricket like a dictator of a third-world banana republic.

For those who haven’t been following, and I thank Vishal Misra for alerting me, the BCCI is threatening the live scorecard. It is supporting a law suit targeted directly at CricInfo aimed at preventing Indian live coverage. Perhaps that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but it should be. The live scorecard is the core of cricket on the internet and the internet is vital to all of our futures, whether we are shopping for groceries, or finding the best school for our kids. It is vital to any business, sport or past-time which wants to survive in the 21st century. Using the internet to attract and satisfy current and new fans is vital to cricket.

The law suit is aimed directly at CricInfo, preventing it from bringing you live coverage whilst other sites are not restricted. The dispute is over so-called “data rights’, a fabrication that appears dubious at best and Machiavellian at worst. Its clear intent is to disable CricInfo and fragment internet cricket into small and powerless warring tribes.

If that sounds familiar, it should. It is known as divide and rule and is how a small Northern European country ruled India for generations.

At the risk of rambling, let me tell you a little bit about CricInfo.

CricInfo was born as a collaborative venture. Its central tenet was inclusiveness. I would implore, invite, enable, motivate, cajole the many who commented anything along the lines of “I wish you had [info on]…” to do it themselves and contribute to the whole. My often-heard refrain was “if you don’t do it, who do you expect to?” When I saw a spark out there, I reached out and tried to include it, not squash it, because there was a cricket fan who’s love of the game spilled over into trying to create something.

That is the heart of CricInfo. Collaborate, encourage, provide in order to bring us, the fans, the information we crave as quickly, as completely and as well as we possibly could. Over 20 years, that adds up to quite some expertise from an organization focused on nothing else than the game we love.

And yet the BCCI is trying to squash CricInfo (and in due course other sites), even to the extent of trying to “own” the score. That is the opposite of CricInfo and the opposite of the interests of the cricket fans.

CricInfo today is a phenomenal resource and asset to the game of cricket. It is the combined effort of literally thousands of fans in almost every country in the world, as well as, at various times, the ICC and most of the world’s cricket boards. As CricInfo’s founder, I am proud of it and eternally grateful to those who helped build it. Much more importantly as a cricket fan, I am proud that my sport has a resource that other sports can only dream of.

Let’s take a look at these “data rights”. The BCCI contend that a live score is proprietary, meaning that only those it licenses can convey the current score.

Stock market data is proprietary. When you subscribe to live stock market data, you sign an agreement stating that you agree to it being proprietary. This allows you access to a direct live feed either from a reseller or from the exchange itself. However once a price is broadcast, it is in the public domain. I could sit on the end of a phone commenting on share prices which I read off a TV screen, or scrape it off a web page anytime and anywhere I like. The drawback to that is that subscribers to stock market data for the public domain typically delay it for anything up to 20 minutes; the price is not live. In this world of high frequency trading, that is a problem for many fund managers who pay hefty fees for the fastest feed available. Trade time frames can be in microseconds and soon nanoseconds.

Perhaps the BCCI wants every one of the hundreds of millions of people watching in India and worldwide to sign a “Cricket watching contract” in which every cricket spectator agrees not to provide any live information about the game to anyone? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t signed any such contract and I can and will read and comment on anything that is in public domain anytime and anywhere I like. That includes the weather report, the price of Disney shares, Wikileaks and, oh yes, the cricket.

What I cannot do is do it from the ground (equivalent to hooking into the live stock market feed). The BCCI does indeed have a right to restrict access to the ground and also to restrict what happens inside the ground. For that, broadcasters pay a hefty fee. (By the way, I recently discovered that CricInfo – the largest cricket media organization in the world – is denied press accreditation by the BCCI. How crazy is that?)

Instead of a “cricket watching contract”, perhaps the BCCI could require broadcasters to delay the television and radio feeds by, say, 20 minutes and sell individual bookmakers and billionaires the right to live data just like the stock market. The BCCI would be totally within its rights to do so. You’d be happy then, right? I suspect the broadcasters might have some choice words about it too. It’s absurd.

Oh, and don’t ask your mother what the score is when you phone home. The NSA might report her to the BCCI if she responds.

In the developed world, this lawsuit would be classed as frivolous and lead to counter-claims for punitive damages. Much of India has left the third world, but unfortunately not all and the BCCI is un-ashamedly using heavy-handed colonial-era methods to squash the creations of fans and damage the game. Of course, those who think they are the rulers in a third-world banana-republic couldn’t care less and will make up the rules as they go along. Rules like “data rights”, for example.

Did the British rule India because they loved India, or was it to make itself rich on the proceeds? The arrogance of it is breath-taking. It’s not about helping Indian cricket fans, or cricket itself. Just ownership and power.

Threatening the live scorecard threatens cricket’s popularity, reach and future.

And without fans, where is the BCCI?

Perhaps we should be asking: Without the BCCI, where are the fans?

Because without cricket, where are we all?

If you think the cricket score can not be “owned” (by the BCCI or anyone), sign Vishal’s petition. Talk to your congressman. Get involved. This issue is bigger than vultures wanting to kill innovation so they can pick at the corpse. Wake Up India! And refuse to be treated like this.

Unless you’d rather have cricket’s live scorecard – internet cricket’s life blood – at the mercy of Generalissimos with delusions of ability?

Because if that is the case, “Faster punkawallah! The BCCI is by the pool side and their martinis are getting warm.”

Dr. Simon King

Founder, CricInfo

Allowing access versus control of facts

BCCI provides access and accreditation to media entities that seek to cover cricket matches. Cricinfo and other websites are routinely denied media accreditation for India’s home series (it’s another matter that all other boards and the ICC invite Cricinfo into the media box and appreciate the role they it plays in the game’s global coverage). BCCI are within their right to do this, and Cricinfo’s reporters often cover such games from the stands.

But does BCCI als0 have control over the facts that emerge from a match they organise? Medianama’s Nikhil Pahwa asks some uncomfortable questions in an informative editorial that appeared on the Times of India today. The full article, with additional informative links, is also available on the Medianama website.

The ‘‘Hot News” doctrine says an event organiser has complete ownership of any news related to that event while it is hot and fresh. Because of that, only an entity that has been sold the rights can report it live. This is different from broadcast and images, because a video clip or photograph belong to the entity creating it. Copyright exists in what you create, not in the event that it is based on. Because copyright cannot exist in facts, anyone can report them.

While the organiser of an event (say, the BCCI, a company, or even a political party) has rights to allow access to an event, it doesn’t have control over facts from it. Today a journalist can be prevented from attending a rally, but can’t be prevented from reporting live, perched on top a building overlooking the rally. ”Hot News” gives control to an organiser to force a media publication, dependent on him for access to information, to play nice and not be critical.

“BCCI holds the entire, absolute rights”

The legal strategy that was employed by the STAR lawyers in a case against IDEA cellular last year used a concept called “Quasi Property Rights” and the critical point of argument was the following, which should disturb every fan:

“Quasi Property Rights” are held by the entity that organizes an event: that BCCI holds the entire, absolute rights for the event.

and

 score is relevant for 5-10 min, and it has all the attributes of a commercial property…..Time sensitive information has the capability of becoming commercially viable for exploitation,

In other words, information related to the sport is now commercial property, and the rights to it are completely held by BCCI (a “non-profit”), ready to be exploited. This is likely the same strategy that will be employed by the STAR lawyers in the new case against Cricinfo and Cricbuzz. More reporting on this issue by MediaNama from last year is here.

STAR India files fresh case against CricInfo and Cricbuzz

According to media reports Star India has filed a case against CricInfo and Cricbuzz. Note that this is a separate case from the one that Sony filed that we reported earlier and is scheduled to come up for hearing on March 13th.

The Delhi High Court website lists cases CS (OS) 611/2014 as filed against ESPN Digital Media (India), which is ESPN Cricinfo, and CS (OS) 612/2014 as filed against Akuate Internet Services, which is Cricbuzz. The case comes up for hearing next on the 13th of March 2013.

Full report on the developments by MediaNama can be read here

A precedent from the USA: NBA vs Motorola

In 1996, the National Basketball Association filed a case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit against Motorola inc., claiming Motorola infringed on NBA’s copyright of the broadcast of the game by providing live updates on the SportsTrax pager. The court ruling did not favor the NBA.

The Second Circuit appellate court struck down the NBA’s assertion that the games are copyrighted. “Sports events are not ‘authored’ in any common sense of the word”(21), arguing that if copyright was open to sporting events, “the inventor of the T-formation in football” would be able to control all uses of the T-formation and could cause problems with the prosperity of the sport.
 

The ruling further said that

Motorola and STATS did not infringe NBA’s copyright because only facts from the broadcasts, not the broadcasts themselves were transmitted. The Second Circuit Court agreed with the district court’s argument that the “[d]efendants 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”
 

More details are available here

Case files: Sony MSM v ESPNcricinfo

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.

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