Delhi High Court closes Hotstar’s lawsuit against rogue websites for unauthorized streaming of ‘The Big Bull Film’

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The Delhi High Court has ruled on a lawsuit brought by Novi Digital Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., operator of the online video streaming platform Hotstar, has filed a lawsuit against various rogue websites apprehending the illegal and unauthorized distribution of the movie “The Big Bull” before its release last year.

While the film was set to hit theaters on April 8, 2021, the lawsuit was filed on March 22, 2021 seeking an injunction blocking various rogue websites.

Judge Pratibha M Singh, who decreed the prosecution after finding that it had served the object, ordered thus:

“Given the nature of the current lawsuit, which sought to protect the plaintiff’s investment in the film ‘The Big Bull’ and to ensure that no unauthorized online dissemination of the film takes place, the lawsuit has reached its objective. All rogue websites have been blocked and domain names have also been disabled.”

Briefly, the facts of the case are that the plaintiff, Novi Digital Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., which operates the online video streaming platform Hotstar and the mobile application “Disney+ Hotstar”, has filed this action. According to the claimant, the platforms offer 80,000 hours of copyrighted content comprising dramas and movies in 8 languages, including every major sporting event covered live/recorded.

The lawsuit in question related to the motion picture “The Big Bull”, to which the plaintiff held the exclusive digital and theatrical rights. The said film is about stockbroker Harshad Mehta’s biographical plot and stock market scam in 1992.

The original copyright owner of the film under Section 17 of the Copyright Act 1957, Ajay Devgn Films LLP, has exclusively assigned the digital rights (internet, on demand), the rights cinema and ancillary rights to the plaintiff. The film was scheduled to be released in theaters on April 8, 2021. In order to protect against unlawful and unauthorized communication of the film, this action has been filed seeking an injunction blocking various rogue websites. As a result, rogue websites have been named as defendants in the lawsuit. Interim orders were sought for the blocking of rogue websites and also the blocking of domain names/websites that were apprehended for broadcasting the film without permission.

The court granted an ex parte ad interim injunction pursuant to prayer. In addition, the Department of Telecommunications and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology have been called upon to issue appropriate instructions to various internet service providers to block access to rogue websites.

As a result, none of the defendants, i.e. the rogue websites, appeared and the film was shown theatrically. Accordingly, the Joint Registrar has determined that the Defendants’ right to file a written statement/response to the Interim Application is terminated.

The court held that, given the nature of the current lawsuit which sought to protect the plaintiff’s investment in the film “The Big Bull” and to ensure that no unauthorized online distribution of the film takes place, the prosecution has achieved its goal. All malicious websites had been blocked and domain names had also been disabled. In these circumstances, the court declared that the action was likely to be pronounced. Accordingly, the prosecution was instituted.

CASE TITLE: NOVI DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT PVT. LTD. v.W1.123MOVIES11.COM&ORS.

Quote: 2022 LiveLaw (Deleted) 699

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