Court ban on telcos giving live cricket updates

The Delhi High Court has prohibited telecom operators and mobile value added service (VAS) providers from giving live updates of cricket matches and said the Star India TV channel has the "exclusive media rights" over cricket matches organised by the Indian cricket board till 2018.

The court asked telecom operators and mobile VAS providers to either disseminate score updates that were deferred by 15-minutes or pay a fair share of revenue generated through broadcast of live scores to Star India by procuring a licence.
It allowed the plea of Star India Pvt Ltd seeking restraining order against the telecom operators and others.

Justice M.L. Mehta, in an interim order, said: "A limited interim injunction is ordered restraining the defendants(telecom operators and others) from disseminating contemporaneous match information in the form of ball-by-ball or minute-by-minute score updates/match alerts for a premium, without obtaining a license from the plaintiff."

Star India has the exclusive media rights to cricket matches organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) till 2018.

The channel Aug 10, 2012 spent Rs.3,581 crore and won the bid for the media rights agreement with the BCCI, which had assigned exclusive media rights to the Star channel over the cricket matches, organised by it, till 2018.

The court said that the telecom operators and others can report "noteworthy information" or "news" after a "time gap of 15 minutes" after the telecast of the match.

"There shall be no restriction upon the defendants to report noteworthy information or news from cricket matches, as and when they arise, because stale news is no news. There shall be no requirement for the licence if the defendants do it gratuitously or after a time lag of 15 minutes."

Star India had moved court in September last year against Cricbuzz, Idea Cellular and OnMobile stating that their ball-by-ball accounts of cricket matches were violating the exclusive rights procured by Star India.

The court in the order observed that the "contemporaneous dissemination of score updates/match alerts, without payment, but encashing the labour and expenditure of the plaintiff would amount to unjust commercial enrichment, which would not be fair on the part of the defendants".

Star India CEO Uday Shankar in Mumbai told the reporters that not only the monetisation of Star India had suffered due to ball by ball updates by small shops and fly-by-night service providers, the sport itself had suffered due to the poor quality of content.

"This, I feel, is a landmark order. The lack of clarity was severely compromising the ability of rights owners to invest to create great experiences for sports fans. This decisive verdict finally creates clarity on who owns the rights and a mechanism for monetisation and fair revenue share," Shankar told reporters on the sidelines of Ficci Frames 2013 conference in Mumbai.

Shankar said that since the India-New Zealand series in August last year, Star India has paid Rs.50 lakh per match to the cricket board for its broadcasting rights.

However, Shankar said that Star India will support the news flow and will not object to news items that give an account of scores or fall of wickets or any other details about the match.

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