The Delhi High Court ordered for blocking of 34 illegal streaming websites providing access to pirated movies and shows in a plea by six international movie production giants, including Netflix and Disney.
The suit is for permanent injunction, rendition of accounts, damages IPR, copyright etc. filed by six plaintiffs, namely, Universal City Studios LLC., Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Netflix Studios, LLC, Paramount Pictures Corporation and Disney Enterprises, Inc. The defendants are described as rogue websites indulging in online piracy by permitting access to illegal downloads of the movies of the plaintiffs. Defendants are Internet Service Providers (‘ISPs’), other defendants are the Department of Telecommunications (‘DoT’) and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (‘MEITY’).
Advocate Saikrishna Rajagopal, appearing for the plaintiffs, contended that the suit is maintainable in the present form, as the plaintiffs have been affected by these rogue websites on account of the unlawful streaming of their creative and original work and thus, there were common facts and questions of law involved.
He argued that since the plaintiffs were aggrieved by the same act or series of acts, on the basis of which the copyrights in their works were being infringed by the rogue websites, the suit was maintainable also in terms of Order I Rule 1(a) CPC and that in any case, bringing separate suits would only add to the burden of the court and which could be avoided as common questions of law as well as facts would arise.
The single judge bench of Justice Asha Menon stated that there is no identity of copyright, the work, the infringement of each work of the plaintiffs by each one of the defendants. Thus, the requirements of Order I Rule 1(a) & (b) CPC are not met in the present suit and all of the plaintiffs could not join in one suit, even against a similar set of defendants.
The court said that even though it is clear that the suit does not fall within the prescription of Order Rule 1(a) or/and (b) CPC, there is no doubt that the court cannot reject the suit on the ground of this “procedural objection”.
The court added that the court also has power to consolidate suits in appropriate cases. The purpose of such consolidation is not just for deciding common questions of law or fact but also for “other reasons” including convenience in decision making.
The court directed the consolidation of suits since the reliefs claimed are against the same set of defendants, namely, of injunction against them, restraining them from violating the copyrights of each of the plaintiffs, in their various creative works.
The court further directed the defendants to block access to these websites. They shall do so within 24 hours of the receipt of the order.
The court added that the defendants are directed to issue notifications calling upon the telecom service providers registered under them to disable access into India of the websites of defendants No.1 to 34 within 36 hours of the receipt of the order.
Case title: Universal City Studios LLC. & Ors v/s 123Movieshub.TC & Ors.
Citation: CS(COMM) 116/2022