New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea filed by Rario, a subsidiary of Dream11, against MPL and Striker. Rario had alleged that MPL and Striker were creating and distributing NFTs featuring images of players with whom Rario had exclusive licensing agreements.
NFTs are digital assets that use blockchain technology to verify ownership and authenticity, and they have gained popularity in the sports industry as a way for fans to own a piece of their favourite player’s career highlights. However, the use of player images in NFTs can be subject to licensing agreements and intellectual property rights.
These exclusive licence agreements, it was claimed, entitle Rario alone to mint the NFTs and distribute and allow those NFTs to be collected, traded, and licenced, to the exclusion of anyone else.
As a result, Rario claimed that MPL and Striker’s action in launching this business of NFTs for those players, despite the fact that the images were independently created caricatures, was an act of infringement, passing off, breach of the right of publicity, and unfair competition.
While MPL and Striker filed their responses, WinZo and the AIGF intervened in these proceedings, specifically stating that an order in this matter may have ramifications for the entire industry that is engaged in or proposes to engage in the business of creating digital collectibles and NFTs of cricketers and players, including for the purposes of fantasy gaming.
The order denying Rario an interim injunction was issued by Justice Amit Bansal of the Delhi High Court.
TMT Law Practice Managing Partner Abhishek Malhotra comments on the latest developments in the case, “I welcome the Honourable Delhi High Court’s order, which is beneficial to the industry.” The court ruled that the use of player images does not constitute endorsement, especially since the information contained in the NFTs is public and cannot be monopolised by Rario. While the right to publicity exists in the United States, it has yet to emerge as a legal right in India. There is no legislation that addresses this ostensible right. Even if the “right of publicity” can be said to exist as a common law tort right, it cannot trump the right to free expression.”