Prasar Bharti to sue channels for copyright violations over telecast of Beijing Olympics

New Delhi: Following the Delhi High Court's judgement that asked private news channels to follow the provision of the Copyright Act, public sector broadcaster Prasar Bharati would now pursue a course of action to claim damages of around Rs5 crore from private news channels.

Following the medal-winning games, a number of private news channels had carried extensive footage from Doordarshan's exclusive coverage of the Olympic Games. This coverage increased when it came to games involving Indian wrestler Sushil Kumar, boxer Vijender Kumar, shooter Abhinav Bindra, badminton player Saina Nehwal and athlete Anju Bobby George.

The Business Standard newspaper quoted unnamed sources at Doordarshan as saying that the public sector broadcaster would approach the Delhi High Court next week to claim damages from news channels, which could be in the range of Rs5 crore. Doordarshan reportedly plans to charge the news channels basis the duration of footage that was used by them.

Disposing off the hearing on Prasar Bharti / Doordarshan objections to private news channels using their exclusive footage of the Beijing Olympic Games 2008, 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. (See: Olympic footage copyright issues: HC asks news channels to abide by Copyright Act)

Copyright norms stipulate that news channel are allowed to show not more than 10 seconds of exclusive footage from a broadcaster on their channel at one go, subject to a maximum of 120 seconds (two minutes) of such footage in a 24-hour period.

A week ago, Prasar Bharti had sent letters to private news channels over the unauthorised use of Olympics footage from Doordarshan.

Prasar Bharti argues that it 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)

The public sector broadcaster's rate card for the use of footage from the Beijing Olympics stipulates a payment of Rs5,000 for every 10 seconds of ''any exclusive footage from Doordarshan'', both archival and live.

Prasar Bharti paid around $3 million for the exclusive broadcast rights to the Beijing Olympics, and argues footage beamed by other channels damages its commercial interests. It says the only ways for it to recover its investment is the sale of advertising spots, and the sale of footage to other broadcasters.

Prasar Bharti has obtained an order from the Delhi High Court that restrains all private news channels from sharing Doordarshan's footage of the Beijing Olympics, unless they enter into a commercial agreement with Prasar Bharati and the Indian Olympics Association.