JW Player was born around 2005 as an open source project, taking its name from the initials of main developer, Jeroen Wijering.
During the mid to late 2,000s, most people who consumed video online encountered JW Player at least once; before Google bought YouTube, JW Player was YouTube’s video player of choice.
According to the GitHub repo for the non-commercial version of JW Player, it can now be found on two million sites with a combined 1.3 billion plays per month.
On the commercial side, the New York-based company says it works with over 40,000 broadcasters, publishers, and other video-driven brands, which together generate 8 billion video impressions/month and 5 billion minutes of video watched/month.
The company’s clients include the likes of Fox, Sky, and Eurosport but thanks to a blunder that never should’ve happened, JW Player was labeled a “rogue site” last September and 2,700 Indian ISPs were ordered to immediately block it.
ISP Blocking Requested to Protect Cricket Tournament
Star India, Novi Digital Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, Hotstar, and Disney+ Hotstar, are affiliated companies with a joint interest in broadcasts of major cricket tournament, World Cup 2023. The event ran from October 5 to November 19, 2023, but before it even began, preparations were being made to deal with the inevitable – rampant piracy.
Saying that courts have developed an understanding of the companies’ plight would significantly underplay the power made available to them under so-called dynamic+ injunctions. That includes the ex parte injunction issued by the Delhi High Court on September 27, 2023, to protect World Cup 2023.
The application listed nine pirate site defendants, and the subsequent order described them as “various rogue websites which are stated to be primarily hosting illegal and pirated content.” However, the plaintiffs have experience dating back years which shows that since pirates are happy to switch domains at any given moment, injunctions need to be flexible enough to allow new domains to be blocked extremely quickly.
Dynamic+ Injunction Issued
Several injunctions obtained by the plaintiffs in 2021, 2022, and 2023, began life listing between 7 and 20 domains. At their conclusion, one outlier blocked a total of 87 domains while the others blocked between 120 and 164.
More recently, dynamic injunctions are now giving way to dynamic+ injunctions, which are not just dynamic in respect of the targets to be blocked, but also in respect of the plaintiffs’ content, whether existing or yet to be made. To get things rolling the Delhi High Court tackled the named platforms before moving on to then-unknown domains with the potential to appear later.
– Defendant Nos.1 to 9 are restrained by an ad-interim order from communicating, screening, making available or disseminating any part of the ICC World Cup Cricket matches on any electronic or digital platform in any manner whatsoever.
– Domain Name Registrars are directed to lock and suspend the said websites within 72 hours after being communicated a copy of this order….
– [I]f any further websites are discovered which are illegally streaming and communicating content over which the Plaintiffs have rights, the Plaintiffs are given liberty to communicate the details of these websites to both DoT and MeitY for issuance of blocking orders and simultaneously to the ISPs for blocking the said websites so as to ensure that these websites can be blocked on a real time basis [so] there is no considerable delay.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong
On November 5, 2023, the plaintiffs emailed various government departments, domain entities, and sundry other recipients, to announce the discovery of new domains that according to the injunction, must be immediately blocked. The title of the email suggests that this notification was one of many.
URGENT | Forty Fourth List of Additional Websites for Real – Time Blocking of in Compliance of the Order dated 27.09.2023 passed by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Star India Private Limited & Anr. v. jiolive.tv & Ors. CS(COMM)- 688/2023.
The images below represent the main evidence supplied in support of the blocking instruction. The first, a screenshot of a cricket match playing in a browser with a JW Player URL in the address bar, suggests that a match was being streamed via the platform, presumably by a JW Player user. The second screenshot shows the domain names to be blocked in this particular request, while indicating that someone researched the JWPlayer.com domain on SimilarWeb.
The third screenshot shows that the plaintiffs looked up contact information for JW Player’s official DMCA agent, something that pirate sites tend not to have, but then submitted the domain for blocking regardless.
Traffic to JW Player’s Website From India Plummets
There’s no way to show whether any of the recipients of the blocking notification email did anything with the paperwork, much less double-checked to ensure there were no obvious blunders. At least three recipients of the notification had email addresses ending @disney.com but whether they could’ve done much at this stage is unclear. The judge’s orders are extremely clear.
The instructions appear to have considered that an innocent third-party might find its online business blocked in India but on balance, the rightsholders’ interests appear to take priority. Since the application and order was issued without the defendants being present, it’s unclear how or even if JW Player was notified that its domain had been blocked.
Without that information to hand, being permitted by the court to file a request to have the injunction modified means almost nothing. Given that JW Player is not a rogue site, processes DMCA takedown notices, and has no relationship with any of the domains listed in the injunction, it’s arguable that it should never have been blocked in the first place.
Regardless, the image above suggests that it was some time before any action was taken to remedy the situation. According to SimilarWeb data, between October 2023 and December 2023, traffic to JWPlayer.com from India tanked by 53%. That the domain continued to be blocked after the tournament ended last November suggests that this type of thing could happen to almost any business. The only plus is that the company didn’t have its domain suspended.
After months of blocking, the Indian government’s Ministry of Communications issued instructions for the country’s ISPs to stop blocking jwplayer.com on January 9, 2024. The text suggests that the subdomain cdn.jwplayer.com may have been subjected to blocking instructions, although may or indeed may not have been actually blocked.
The additional documents referenced in the notice above were not attached. If we obtain them, we’ll post an update here.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.