Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Prasar Bharati asked to settle footage dispute

PTI news item via Outlook:
Settle footage dispute with TV channels: HC to Prasar Bharti

I had written earlier about the dispute between Prasar Bharati and private news channels regarding using cricket footage from Prasar Bharati. Prasar Bharati went to Delhi High Court to restrain private TV channels from taking the dirty feed from Prasar Bharati live broadcasts and building a program around it. The court gave a temporary restraining order, but seems to have told Prasar Bharati today to attempt an out of court settlement with the private channels.

Private channels contend (rather unjustifiably) that they should be allowed to use as many minutes as they want from the Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati's footage. Some have pulled as much 15 minutes of footage in a day. India TV's counsel Pratibha M Singh seems to have argued that "the use of excerpts of cricket matches by India TV in its news bulletins did not amount to copyright infringement as it was a bonafide act of fair dealing." This seems to me to be a very strange argument. How this is a bonafide act of fair dealing is unclear to me. It is straightforward stealing of the feed.

She also seems to have questioned Prasar Bharati's claim of exclusive ownership by saying "there was no material on record to establish that Prasar Bharti had exclusive rights of the cricketing event." This is quite a bit of nonsense, since BCCI owns the event and has signed an agreement of exclusivity with Prasar Bharati.

I think she should read up her law book again before arguing cases like this in a High Court. She seems to have argued further:
Terming the conditions imposed by Prasar Bharti on the quantity of footage that could be used by private TV channels in their news bulletins as illegal, Singh had said "it does not have any sanction of law".
A feed owner can very well determine how others can use the feed. Why the lawyer thinks such conditions are illegal is unclear to me.

However, the situation in India is slightly different. The Government has just notified that all cricket events in India must be shared with the public broadcaster. Since the Government has cared very little for private enterprises, investment by third parties etc., it is now left to the private channels (non-sports) to lobby to allow for any amount of feed stealing by private channels as well.

After all, in the socialistic system we are trying to build, the overall public good (even if it comes at the cost of massive losses to private individuals and organizations) is paramount. Why allow only the public broadcaster to make all the money? Let all websites carry snippets of video - for free. Let all TV channels show programs built around the dirty feed. Let us have a 'free for all' new deal.

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