Gulf DTH FC, a Dubai based company had exclusive broadcasting rights for certain channels in certain foreign territories filed a suit in the Delhi High Court, alleging copyright infringement by Dish TV India and accused Dish TV India of orchestrating an elaborate scheme to earn illegal monies.
The main issues pertain to the alleged commercial exploitation of the satellite spillover signals by Dish TV in the MENA region resulting in copyright infringement. OSN’s suit highlights that it has signed exclusive contracts /licenses to transmit channels, movies television programs, sporting events such as IPL, ICC Cricket World Cup and other copyrighted content to viewers in the MENA region which includes countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen i.e. OSN Territory. It further states that Dish TV is transmitting the same channels and programming from India to subscribers in the OSN Territory without the consent of OSN or the copyright holders. Additionally, OSN’s contentions are that Dish TV is also stated to be exporting to and selling Set Top Boxes and paired smartcards, activating and recharging the Dish TV subscriptions through the B2B system in the OSN Territory enabling the access of its services in the OSN Territory. Apparently, as per the plaintiffs, Dish TV India was actively marketing its STBs in several of these OSN territories and processing payments through a subsidiary in Singapore called Dish TV Singapore Pvt. Ltd. The scale of this operation appears to be massive and runs into hundreds of thousands of STBs. As per the plaintiffs, one of the dealers of STB boxes raided in the OSN territories had 22,000 customers and another operator had over 61,483 requests for activation pending. Dish TV earned revenues of Rs. 157 crores through Dish TV Singapore Pvt. Ltd.
Invoking the provisions of the Copyright Act, OSN has stated that its exclusive rights in hundreds of works and channels has been infringed and the said act of Dish TV is in contravention of not only its licence with owners/studios but also in contravention of the OSN’s licences with the relevant content licensors. Interestingly, another facet of the allegation relates to the involvement of the enforcement authorities across the U.A.E. who purportedly conducted numerous raids on shops, commercial premises, labour camps, etc. and ordered closure of unauthorized Dish TV dealer shops, after imposing fines besides deportation of the shop managers. OSN’s suit highlights this aspect and states that the aforesaid action was initiated due to the numerous complaints made by the company regarding infringement by Dish TV.
Keywords: Copyright infringement, piracy, DTH India, Broadcasting, Dish TV.