BROADCASTING AND MEDIA RIGHTS IN SPORTS LAW

Introduction

Sports have always been a phenomenon of excitement and curiosity for millions across the globe. Every year, billions of people across the globe engage with sports virtually, which generates a large amount of profit for everyone involved in the sporting industry.

Through the years, the investments made in broadcasting sports have made the sporting industry one of the largest in the world. Advancements made in the fields of communication technology, industry, and media have made it very fiscally possible for organizations to broadcast different events and have allowed them to make a profit at a constant selling point. With the broadcasting industry booming, sports have now become a spectacle of excitement and glamor. Copyright and other rights related to that field that are related to broadcasting organizations talk about the relationship between sports and the television industry. Television and media houses are used to spending huge amounts of money in order to purchase rights that exclusively allow them to broadcast certain sporting events.

For example, the BCCI sold the IPL media rights for 2023–2027 for Rs 48,390. TV rights brought in Rs 23,575 crore and digital rights brought in Rs 23,758 crore for 410 matches.

For various organizations, revenue generated through the sale of broadcasting rights is the main source of income. People in charge of these organizations look for broadcasting deals that would fetch them the money to fund sporting events, rebuild and renovate stadiums, and also development of sports at the very grassroots level (investment for future generation of money). The broadcasters are able to invest in the pricey administrative and technological infrastructure necessary to broadcast sporting events to millions of fans across the world thanks to the royalties they receive from selling their exclusive material to other media outlets.


Broadcasting rights in India and the world

The three main purposes of broadcasting rights are as follows:


  1. Protect heavy investments that are made in the field of sports

  2. Broadcasting groups' entrepreneurial efforts should be commended

  3. Honor and praise them for their commitment to the spread of culture and learning.


As prescribed by the Rome Convention of 1961, broadcasters are to be granted unique rights for a period of twenty years so that they can broadcast, rebroadcast, remake, and notify the public about their broadcasts. In recent years, there have been discussions that feel that there should be a new aim set which would protect the rights given to broadcasters, as new developments in the field of communication technology make them vulnerable to exploitation.

There have been deliberations at the World Institute of Intellectual Property Rights to establish an international framework that would appropriately and smoothly protect broadcasters against exploitation through privacy violations and piracy.

Driven in great part by intellectual property rights and ever-closer collaboration here between broadcasters, sponsors, and sports authorities, competitive sport has grown into a global billion-dollar industry. Nevertheless, more advanced communications technologies that are widely available have not only made it possible for sports fans to follow live events wherever they may be, but they have also created new opportunities for signal theft. Sports broadcasts that are live have been particularly targeted for online unlawful rebroadcasts.

Transmission piracy not only poses a danger to the broadcasters' advertising and sales revenue from the exclusive rights to air live coverage of sporting events, but also poses a threat to the value of those rights and, consequently, the income of the sports organizations. Broadcasting organizations have pushed for stronger legal protection at the international level, even though national laws already offer a variety of methods for combating signal theft, including closing down illicit websites. By providing sports coverage in a variety of formats, broadcasters and sports organizations are simultaneously embracing digital media to connect with and engage their audiences, particularly younger viewers.


The issue of sponsorship and broadcasting has emerged as the Indian sports industry has grown. When a sport is broadcast or screened, the broadcasting rights are created, which is a very important right. A distinct set of rights is recognized by the 1957 Indian Copyright Act. Without the approval of a sports league or organization, no one has the right to broadcast or stream professional sporting events that are copyrighted and licensed.

The transmission corporations are the proprietors of the broadcasting rights and are free to rebroadcast them as often as they please once they acquire them. According to the Indian Copyright Act of 1957, anyone who broadcasts or publishes a work that has already been broadcast or published without the original owner's permission, reproduces the work without permission or reproduces the sound or reproduces it by visual recording, sells or hires it to the public, or advertises for such a sale or hire, is considered to have violated the distribution rights.

Section 51 of the 1957 Copyright Act defines broadcasting without the owner's consent as an infringement. Sporting activities are aired globally thanks to technological improvements. The rights of broadcasters and live performers were not initially protected by the Copyright Act. But in 1994, Sections 37 and 38 were removed, and a new part was introduced to cover the performer's rights and the broadcaster's reproduction rights. According to Section 3 of the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act of 2007, Prasar Bharti must receive broadcast signals of sporting events of national significance without advertisements from all content rights holders in order to rebroadcast them on their terrestrial and DTH networks.

The legislation was created to enable a sizable audience to view athletic events that are significant to the country. But the Act is unfair since it disadvantages private businesses by compelling them to spend billions of rupees to secure the exclusive broadcasting rights to games.


Landmark Judgment

ESPN Software Private India Ltd. v. Tudu Enterprise and Ors.

While using the plaintiff's broadcasting networking pathways to show events to its subscribers, the defendants violated broadcasting reproduction laws and did so without entering into any valid contracts, either with the distributor or the plaintiff. An appeal was preferred to ascertain whether the defendants' conduct while transmitting across the plaintiff's network channels was unlawful. Whether or not the defendant's illegal transmission of Plaintiff's network channels was justified was to be decided by the court. Decoders or decryption devices with specific numbers assigned to them by the Plaintiff were used by the licensed cable operators of the Plaintiff. In addition, unauthorized cable operators unlawfully capture the plaintiff's illegally transmitted sports feeds.

Broadcasting of these programs was not permitted under Section 37(3) of the Copyright Act because the defendants in the case had not entered into any licensing agreements with the distribution companies of the plaintiff and would not be authorized to distribute programs among their cable operators.


Conclusion

Based on the aforementioned study, it is clear that when it comes to the protection of rights in the sports broadcasting sector, rights related to the broadcasting of sporting events and the rights of broadcasters in the sports industry are of the utmost importance. The economic importance of live sporting events is so great that they cannot be disregarded or handled in a way that kills the entire genre of events. This is because no one would want to invest in a sporting event if they were unsure of how much of their rights they would be able to protect in the event that the broadcaster's rights were violated.


References

Wipo.int. 2022. Broadcasting & Media Rights in Sport. [online] Available at: <https://www.wipo.int/ip-sport/en/broadcasting.html#:~:text=Under%20the%20International%20Convention%20for,the%20public%20of%20their%20broadcasts.> [Accessed 10 July 2022].

Saraswat, A., 2021. Copyright in sports law in India-Highlight the major cases - iPleaders. [online] iPleaders. Available at: <https://blog.ipleaders.in/copyright-in-sports-law-in-india-highlight-the-major-cases/> [Accessed 10 July 2022].



This article is written by Partha Singh of Institute of Law, Nirma University.

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