Five cricketers move Delhi High Court to stop unauthorised use of their names and pictures on NFTs

Five cricketers move Delhi High Court to stop unauthorised use of their names and pictures on NFTs

Digital cricket collectible platform Rario and five Indian cricketers have approached the Delhi High Court to stop online fantasy sports (OFS) platforms Striker and MPL from minting and distributing Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) with their images and names on it.

Cricketers Mohammed Siraj, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik, Shivam Mavi along with Rario filed appeals before the Division Bench against the single-judge’s order of April 26.

The single-judge had rejected their plea for interim injunction against Striker and MPL.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve appeared for Rario today before a division bench of Justices Manmohan and Saurabh Banerjee and argued that there is a common misconception about where fair use ends and confidentiality begins.

He said that an NFT containing images of players is nothing but the personality of a player and the players have the absolute right over their persona.

Salve submitted that the OFS platforms can use information of a player for building teams on their platforms but if they create an NFT, then that becomes a piece of property over which the player has the right and these platforms cannot trade those NFTs and earn profit without the consent of the player.

“By creating tradable cards, you (other OFS) have crossed a line. Because a tradable card is not based on a player’s performance, it is based on their persona,” he submitted.

The senior counsel argued that in the present case, the players are asserting exclusivity over their persona.

Rario has recognised their rights, paid substantial sums of money, and acquired rights to use that personality, he submitted.

“You can take the example of Sunil Gavaskar. If somebody today says that this is a Gavaskar signed bat and through digital means they take his signature, you are violating his privacy and it may also amount to passing off,” Salve added.  

Meanwhile, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared for some of the players and cited an example of a bat signed by Sachin Tendulkar.

“I am giving an example of a bat signed by Sachin. That bat has value because of Sachin Tendulkar’s autograph. Similarly, my photograph which is for somebody cannot be pirated by somebody else for trading. They cannot trade it without my consent,” he said.

Rohatgi also referred to cricketer Rinku Singh and his performance in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

“There is a cricketer named Rinku Singh. He has become famous for hitting five sixes to win the match. Now, he is entitled to earn the money. He is entitled to use his persona.”

The Court also briefly heard the defendants (Striker and MPL) and the intervenors (All India Gaming Federation).

The bench directed both the sides to file their written submissions within one week and listed the case for further consideration on May 23.

On that day, the bench will deal with the appellants’ plea for interim injunction against the use of players’ NFTs.

The petition on behalf of Harshal Patel and Umran Malik was filed by Karanjawala & Co. They were represented by Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Sajan Poovayya along with a team led by Ruby Singh Ahuja, Hancy Maini, Varun Khanna, and Akshay Aggarwal.

The petition on behalf of Rario and Arshdeep Singh was filed by Fidus Law Chambers and they were represented by Senior Advocates Harish N Salve and Raj Shekhar Rao. They were assisted by a team led by Shwetasree Majumder, Prithvi Singh, Aditya Verma and Rohan Seth.

The petition on behalf of Mohammed Siraj and Shivam Mavi was filed by TAS LAW and they were represented by Senior Advocate Sandeep Sethi and led by a team of Utsav Trivedi, Shivani Bhushan, Chaitali Jugran and Piyush Tiwari.