In a significant legal battle for the entertainment industry, six major companies, including Universal City Studios, Warner Bros, Netflix Studios, and Disney Enterprises, have taken a stand against online piracy in a recent lawsuit filed at the Delhi High Court. The case, titled Universal City Studios LLC & Ors. vs. Fzmovies.net & Ors. [CS(COMM) 202/2023], sees these entertainment giants seeking justice against 40 rogue websites accused of unauthorized distribution, streaming, and downloading of copyrighted content. Despite previous legal notices and disabling actions in other jurisdictions, the defendants continue to engage in these infringing activities. In an effort to protect their exclusive rights under the Copyright Act of 1957, the plaintiffs are demanding a permanent injunction, rendition of accounts, and damages. This blog post will delve into the specifics of the case, the evidence presented, and the judgment delivered by Hon’ble Justice Amit Bansal.
Universal City Studios LLC & Ors. vs. Fzmovies.net & Ors. [CS(COMM) 202/2023]
This is a legal case where six leading entertainment companies, including Universal City Studios, Warner Bros, Netflix Studios, and Disney Enterprises, have filed a lawsuit at Delhi High Court against 40 rogue websites that engage in online piracy by making original content available for streaming and download without authorization. The plaintiffs claim they have exclusive rights to communicate their content to the public and that the defendants’ websites enable users to view and download their cinematograph films, television programs, and other audio-visual content without permission. The defendants also provide links to online locations where users can engage in these activities. The plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction, rendition of accounts, and damages for the infringement of their exclusive rights in their original content, protected under the Copyright Act of 1957.
The plaintiffs gathered evidence of the defendants’ infringing activities, including “pirate branding” to indicate that their websites are new versions of previously blocked sites. Despite legal notices to stop their activities, the defendants continue to infringe on the plaintiffs’ copyrights. Many of the defendants’ websites have also been disabled in other jurisdictions. Thus, the plaintiffs argued that the defendants are liable under Sections 51(a)(ii), 51(b), and 51(a)(i) of the Copyright Act for making copies of the original content, storing it electronically, communicating it to the public, and facilitating streaming and downloading without authorization from the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs’ counsel brought to the notice of the Court that the majority of the defendants’ webpages are anonymized, and the information available in the public domain about the website’s proprietors are either insufficient, erroneous, or hidden behind a veil of secrecy. To address this issue, the plaintiffs have named different internet and telecom service providers and the Department of Telecommunication also as defendants.
Hon’ble Justice Amit Bansal placed reliance on the UTV Software Communication Ltd. judgment and held that the plaintiffs had made a prima facie case and the balance of convenience lies in favour of the plaintiffs. The Court passed an interim order restraining the forty defendants from hosting, streaming, reproducing, distributing, making available to the public, or communicating any work on which the plaintiffs have a copyright. The order also directed the internet and telecom providers to block the defendants’ websites, URLs, and IP addresses.
Furthermore, to lessen the Court’s burden, it directed that when plaintiffs file an application under Order I Rule 10 of the CPC for the impleading of such websites, they must file an affidavit confirming that the newly impleaded website is associated with any of the defendants and that such application shall be listed before the Joint Registrar, who will issue appropriate directions to the ISPs based on the material placed.
Authored by: Ipshita Bhattacharyya (Associate, BananaIP Counsels) and Shuchita S (Intern)
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