Justice for Geo
The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that only Geo has the right to broadcast the cricket world cup via cable. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has agreed to comply with the order and has undertaken to revoke the licences of any cable operator in breach of the Supreme Court ruling. This is a landmark legal decision which may impact across the massive black economy of piracy and theft of intellectual property rights. At issue is the right of a private company to have legal redress in the event of an exclusive contract being violated by a third party — in this case many third parties including the state TV station. The judgement of the court is clear enough, but as was made clear in Monday’s hearing the superior bench has no doubt that its findings are being honoured in the breach rather than the observance.
Anybody having a cable connection — and that is many millions — will have seen that the Geo exclusivity was being violated by any number of channels, and that in some areas, the Geo signal quality was being degraded deliberately by cable operators under pressure from the government who wanted to maximise their own advertising revenues and minimise that of Geo. It is agreed that the state channel has the right to broadcast matches via antenna, but it cannot use satellite telecast rights which are contracted to Geo. The cable operators have hitherto chosen to ignore the law of the land as they do with very little by way of intervention by PEMRA, but the undertaking of compliance with the SC by PEMRA may change this cosy arrangement. By way of compromise, the contempt case brought against PEMRA by Geo has been held in abeyance pending PEMRA compliance in enforcement. If PEMRA fails to deliver on its undertaking, the contempt case will reactivate. It is of note that an Indian court has been hearing a similar case and that Indian judges have delivered a verdict very close to that of our own Supreme Court. The violation of intellectual property rights and copyright theft are a commonplace across the subcontinent. There are about 4000 cable TV operators across the country, and thus far 39 of them have been closed for making illegal broadcasts. If the law is implemented, in fact as well as spirit, then more could follow. The government cannot violate of itself the law of the land that it governs, and breach legally binding contracts — and encourage others to do the same — because of a feud with a media group that it finds difficult to give space to. The test now lies in compliance, and whether PEMRA has the guts to follow through on the SC ruling. We watch with interest.
Source: The News