Olympic footage copyright issues: HC asks news channels to abide by Copyright Act

News channels must abide by the laws of fair dealing as outlined in the Copyright Act, the Delhi high Court has ruled.

Disposing off the hearing on Prasar Bharti / Doordarshan objecting to private news channels using their footage of the Beijing Olympic Games 2008 yesterday, Delhi High Court Judge Rewa Khetrapal, said news channels would need to abide by the laws of fair dealing as outlined in the Copyright Act.

Arguments of the private news channels indefence of using Doordarshan's footage hinged primarily on two points. The first point put across by the private channels was that since the Olympic Games take place once in four years, it was in 'public interest' to show it to the larger public in India, specially when Indian sportsmen Abhinav Bindra and Sushil Kumar have won medals for the country in their respective sports fields of rifle shooting and wrestling, and with boxer Vijender having qualified the boxing semi-finals.

The second point was that the footage of the Olympic Games 2008 beamed by the private news channels clearly depicted Dordarshan's logo, which not only ensured that the footage did not pass off as their own, but actually helped moved eyeballs to Doordarshan's sports channel.

For its part, Doordarshan had argued in court that argued that it had paid around $3 million to acquire rights to be the sole broadcaster of the Beijing Olympic Games 2008, and footage used by the private news channels would hamper its commercial interests.

A week ago, Prasar Bharti was learnt to have sent letters to private news channels over the unauthorised use of Olympics footage from Doordarshan. Prasar Bharti had argued that it had paid substantial sums of money for the sole telecast rights for the Olympic Games, and for anyone to use footage from their telecast, necessary permissions needed to be sought. (See: Copyright issues for news channels over unauthorised use of Olympics footage)