Copyright issues for news channels over unauthorised use of Olympics footage

Copyright issues have come to the fore over the telecasting of footage from the Beijing Olympic Games 2008, with Prasar Bharti having taken a strong objection to private news channels using Doordarshan footage of the games.

Prasar Bharti has not sent letters to private news channels over the unauthorised use of Olympics footage from Doordarshan, which brings back memories of times when private channels were asked to cough up for covering Parliamentary proceedings during the last Budget Session of Parliament in February-March 2008. Those proceedings had been exclusively covered by Lok Sabha TV.

Doordarshan sources say that they have the sole telecast rights for the Olympic Games, and for anyone to use footage from their telecast, necessary permissions need to be sought. Doordarshan argues that it has invested substantially to acquire the telecast rights.

The letter issues to the private channels states that Prasar Bharti has the sole rights over the telecast of the Olympic Games, and anyone desirous of showing it on their channel needs to follow 'proper channel' by coming to an agreement, or pay as per the rate card.

The move is rather ironic of the opposite situation two years ago in 2006, when Doordarshan used its clout with the ministry for information and broadcasting, which made it mandatory for private television channels to share their live feed of the official one day international (ODI) matches and the Twenty20 ties and some other test matches, citing public interest abroad. On the contrary, private television channels had paid substantial amounts of cash to secure telecast rights to all of those matches.

Television industry sources say that typically, coverage of sporting events on news channels do not post any conflict of interests with the telecasting sports channel, and on the contrary, help building the popularity of the sport and the channel.

News channels are most probably looking to take a united stand on the issue, as none of the channels to whom the letter was sent has responded yet.