The Delhi High Court dismissed on Wednesday a plea filed by Rario, a non-fungible token (NFT) platform backed by Dream11, to prevent rivals Striker and Mobile Premier League (MPL) from using images of cricketers.
Rario had sought an interim injunction in a rare court case in India relating to NFTs. Dream11 and Striker, which is backed by MPL, are internet fantasy games companies.
NFTs are digital assets in the form of art, music, in-game items, and videos, among other formats. Rario and Striker allow users to collect NFTs by way of player cards.
The High Court said that Rario and Dream11 cannot claim to have exclusive right over the use of an NFT technology. “NFT is a technology that is freely available,” it said.
The court held that NFT player cards are in ‘in-game’ assets to be used for enhancing the experience of playing the game. “There is no difference between online fantasy sports (OFS) with NFT-Enabled player cards and ordinary OFS Game in so far as the use of the name or artistic impression/photograph of a player is concerned,” it said.
Rario had filed a petition against the two back in February alleging that MPL and Striker are minting and distributing NFTs which capture images of players with whom Rario has entered into exclusive license agreements. These exclusive license agreements, it claimed, entitled Rario alone to mint and distribute such NFTs, as well as allow said NFTs to be collected, traded, and licensed, to the exclusion of anyone else.
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The petition was joined by cricketers like Harshal Patel, Shivam Dube and Umran Malik, who are among scores of other big ticket cricket players who have signed NFT deals with Rario.
Striker was joined in its petition by All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and Winzo. In its intervention, AIGF had said that "not being able to use specific identifiers for players could impact growth of smaller companies," thereby placing the Indian gaming industry at a disadvantageous position with respect to other countries.
“This is a victory for thousands of indie game developers who are working tirelessly for building a vibrant Indian gaming industry,” said Roland Landers, CEO of AIGF.
WinZO co-founder, Saumya Singh Rathore, said that this was a landmark judgement that will protect the interest of entrepreneurs in years to come as it permits the usage of publicly available information including scores in sports matches and pictures.
“The court has heard our prayers and held that the use of the player’s images especially as it is in the context of representing to the users and the statistics of that player, is permitted fair use and is protected free speech which does not amount to endorsement,” she said.
Dream11 declined to comment on the issue.