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ESPN Software India File FIR Against Varnam Cable Network (Kerala)

ESPN Software India, the sole licensee of TV channels ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket in India, has filed an FIR against Mr. Pradeep.P, representing Varnam Cable Network (a franchise of Asianet Satellite Communications Ltd.) in Konni, Kerala under the Indian Copyright Act 1957.

The cable network was alleged to be illegally broadcasting unauthorized feeds of ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket since 21 July 2011 (most likely in view of the increasing customers’ demands for coverage of the then ongoing England v India Test series), using a personal direct to home (DTH) set-top box without authorized agreement or copyright, leading to huge financial loss for ESPN Software India Pvt. Ltd.

The FIR was filed under Sections 37, 51, 63, and 65 of the Indian Copyright Act. Let us have a look at what all these sections say:

The Broadcast reproduction right has been conferred by Section 37. Every broadcasting organization has a special right known as ‘broadcast reproduction right” in respect of its broadcasts. The broadcast reproduction right shall subsist until twenty-five years from the beginning of the calendar year next following the year in which the broadcast is made.

Section 51 deals with the infringement of the copyright. The Section says that a copyright in a work is deemed to be infringed when any person, without a license granted by the owner of the copyright, does anything, which is the exclusive right to do so conferred by the Act upon the owner of the copyright.

Section 63 deals with the offense of infringement of copyright. The Section says that any person who knowingly infringes or abets the infringement of the copyright in a work or any other right concerned by this Act, ) shall be punishable with imprisonment of 6 months to 3 years and with a minimum fine of fifty thousand rupees which may extend to two lakh rupees.

Section 65 deals with the possession of plates for purpose of making infringing copies. The Section says that any person who knowingly makes, or has in his possession, any plate for the purpose of making infringing copies of any work in which copyright subsists shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.

This case, along with multiple other recently filed FIR’s and copyright infringement suits in 2011 itself, marks a new era of enforcement of copyrights in the unorganized sector with large business establishments willing to go the time consuming and high investment way to ensure that their rights including broadcasting, music, software rights are secured.

About the Author: Ms. Gopanjali Singh, Patent Associate at Khurana & Khurana and can be reached at [email protected]

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