Delhi High Court tackles online piracy in landmark cyber-locker case

Fuelled by increasing consumer demand for quick and easy access to entertainment, the Indian over-the-top market is expected to exhibit a compounded annual growth rate of 25.07% between 2022 and 2027. Unfortunately, this is being accompanied by a sharp uptick in efforts from pirates and copyright infringers.

While Indian courts have sought to quell rogue websites through so-called ‘dynamic injunctions’, Universal City Studios LLC v (CS (COMM) 633/2022) – the first case of its kind – saw the Delhi High Court tackle online piracy by passing an injunction against cyber-lockers. Access to such lockers and their contents is typically not inhibited by locally enforceable censorship or IP laws unless a specific court order blocks access to them.

The plaintiff, Universal City Studios, is a global entertainment giant. It approached the Delhi High Court alleging that defendants one to four are cyber-lockers: online storage and sophisticated uploading and streaming platforms that disseminate unauthorised copies of copyright content (eg, motion pictures, television programmes or other audio-visual content) to and from its servers on devices connected to the Internet.

The fifth defendant was said to provide a storage and hosting platform for files uploaded by various users of these defendants’ facilities. The next set of defendants (six to 13) were referral websites – specifically designed to enable pirated-content streaming and grant access to infringing content, of which the plaintiff was the copyright owner.

With regard to these referral websites, the Delhi High Court did not hesitate to grant an ad-interim injunction. For the cyber-locker and server defendants, the court gave them the opportunity to better explain their business before it issued an injunction. However, the court did then direct them to block access to the referral websites – including rogue, mirror, redirect and alphanumeric versions (akin to a dynamic injunction) – that facilitated the dissemination of infringing content uploaded on the cyber-lockers until the next hearing. The defendants did not appear at the next hearing, so the injunction was confirmed.

The court referenced a February 2022 decision passed by the High Court of Justice, Business and Property Courts of England and Wales (claim no IL-2021-000092). The facts were similar and involved some of the same parties. UK websites operated by one of the defendants in the Indian case – – were infringing the copyright of Universal City Studios, among others. In this matter, the court directed internet service providers to block access to the “target (infringing) websites, their domains and sub domains and any other IP address notified by the plaintiffs”.

While the Delhi High Court order has resulted in some relief to the plaintiffs, it will be interesting to see how the case develops and whether blocking the root source of infringing content (ie, cyber-locker websites) would be a better alternative to blocking only the referral websites that provide access to them.

This is an Insight article, written by a selected partner as part of IAM's co-published content. Read more on Insight

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