#CaseSummary: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc v https://www.uwatchfree.st & Ors

Overview: –

Plaintiff claims itself to be a global entertainment company under the laws of the State of Delaware, the United States of America. It is engaged in the business of the creation, production, and distribution of motion pictures. Plaintiff contends that the motion pictures produced by them, being works of visual recordings including sound recordings, qualify to be ‘cinematograph film’ under Section 2(f) of the Copyright Act, 1957 (hereinafter, ‘the Act’).

There are numerous defendants in this suit where, Defendant Nos. 1 and 14 to 21 (hereinafter, ‘the rogue websites’) have a domain name ‘Uwatchfree’, and other URLs. Defendants 2 – 10 are various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Defendants 11 and 12 are the concerned departments of the Government of India.

Facts: –

In the present suit, the plaintiff alleged that Defendants 1 and 14 to 21 are rogue websites. The Plaintiff, vide an investigation conducted by an independent investigator, learned the extent of the infringement of the Plaintiff’s copyrights by rogue websites by illegal and unauthorized distribution, broadcasting, re-broadcasting, transmission, and streaming, and/or by facilitating the use of the rogue websites, inter alia by downloading and streaming the Plaintiff’s original cinematograph films in which copyright vests.

Though the Plaintiff served cease-and-desist notice to rogue websites calling upon them to cease from engaging in their infringing activities, the rogue websites continued to infringe the rights of the plaintiff. So, the plaintiff filed an application under Order XIIIA r/w Section 151 of the CPC, 1908 as applicable to commercial disputes, seeking summary judgment.

The grounds for filing such an application are that despite all the defendants having been duly served by Plaintiff only Defendants 7,9,11 and 12 appeared before the court and the rogue websites continued to stream Plaintiff’s content illegally. Defendants also have no real prospect of successfully defending the claim of copyright infringement under Section 51 of the Act. Additionally, as there is no challenge or opposition to the factual allegations made in the plaint, under Order VIII Rule 5 of the CPC, there is no occasion for the recording of oral evidence.

The prayers of the Plaintiff under this suit are as follows:

  1. Issue an order of permanent injunction restraining Defendant 1’s domain website and any other mirror/redirect/alphanumeric websites.
  2. Issue an order directing Defendants 2 – 10 to block access to Defendant 1’s websites.
  3. Issue an order directing Defendants 11 and 12 to issue a notification calling upon the various internet and telecom services providers registered under it to block access to Defendant 1’s websites.
  4. Issue an order directing the Domain Name Registrars of D’s website to disclose the contact details and other details about the owner of the said websites as relief.

Observation: –

The court considered UTV Software Communication Ltd & Ors v 1337X.to & Ors.[1] case, which has identified the factors to be considered in determining a particular website as a rogue website.

The court also observed the similar applications filed by Plaintiff under Order XIIIA of CPC being Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc v https://Otorrents.com & Ors[2], Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. v https://www2.Filmlinks4u & Ors[3], Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc v http://Mp4moviez.Io & Ors[4], Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc v https://www.TAMILROCKERMOVIES.COM & Ors[5], where the court relying on the UTV software has decreed the suits in favor of the Plaintiff.

Held: –

The suit is decreed in terms of prayers (i), (ii), and (iii) of the plaint.

  1. Court granted an ex-parte ad-interim injunction against Defendant 1 (and such other domains/ domain owners/websites operators/entities which discovered during the course of proceedings to have been engaging in infringing the Plaintiff’s exclusive rights), are restrained from hosting, streaming, reproducing, distributing, making available to the public and/or communicating to the public or facilitating the same, in any manner on their websites through the internet any cinematograph/work/content/programme/show in relation to which Plaintiff has copyright.
  2. Court directed the Defendants 2 – 10 (ISPs) to block the domain name ‘Uwatchfree’ and their URLs
  3. Court directed the Defendants 11 and 12 to suspend the registration of the above-mentioned domain name and issue requisite notifications calling upon various ISP providers registered under them to block the above-mentioned website.

Conclusion: –

The court also examined the issue of grant of dynamic injunctions and permitted the subsequent impleadment of Defendants 14 – 21 and the mirror/redirect/alphanumeric websites that provide access to rogue websites under Order I Rule 10 of CPC. Finally, the court decided that since the defendants did not appear despite the notice, the suit can be heard and decided summarily under Order XIIIA of CPC and the Defendants have no real prospect of successfully defending the claim of copyright infringement and have further not chosen to contest the said claim. The court heavily relied on UTV Software case and found that there is sufficient evidence to hold the defendants 1, 14-21 as rogue websites.

[1] 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8002.

[2] CS (COMM). 367 of 2019.

[3] CS (COMM). 368 of 2019.

[4] CS (COMM). 399 of 2019.

[5] CS (COMM). 419 of 2019.

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Submitted by : Dedeepya Saragula



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