India: High Court orders ISPs to block torrent trackers-Times of India

May 23, 2012

Internet Service Providers block torrent sites on HC order

Times of India: May 18, 2012


If you’ve been unable to watch several videos online or access any top torrent file-sharing websites over the last few days, blame it on kolaveri.

All of India’s major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have blocked access to all leading torrent websites like The Pirate Bay and Torrent Reactor, and even video and link sharing ones like Vimeo, Dailymotion, Pastebin and Xmarks. This is based on a ‘John Doe’ injunction from the Madras High Court obtained by a film industry outfit in Chennai seeking protection against copyright violations of the Tamil film ‘3’. The film, somewhat ironically, came to national attention with its internet viral hit ‘Why This Kolaveri Di’.

But the blocking of websites in India is overseen and handled by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology. Its CERT-IN wing, headed by Gulshan Rai, is tasked with working out the modalities of such action based on specific instructions. When contacted, Rai categorically told TOI that CERT-IN had not issued any directive to any ISP to block these websites based on the Madras High Court order.

The court order names all 15 of India’s major ISPs but does not mention the websites. Airtel, one of India’s largest ISPs, has stated to TOI that “access to certain sites has been blocked, pursuant to and in compliance with court orders”, while officials at another major one, Reliance, refused to comment. But a source in the company confirmed a similar response. Last year, Reliance Entertainment had obtained a similar John Doe order when its films Don 2 and Singham were released, and its ISP had blocked several file-sharing websites for several days after.

Harish Ram of the Chennai-based Copyright Labs, which brought this case to court, said the list was drawn up to target “specific links and URLs on these sites that had violated copyright, not entire websites”. He added that the move to get a John Doe injunction came after ISPs were seen to be taking too long to respond to producers’ earlier ‘takedown’ requests. Some video sites, which refused to respond to requests, have also “been a big problem,” said Ram, which is why they were also targeted.

Besides ‘3’, Ram’s organization also represents ‘Dhammu’, a big Telugu release, and maintains that up to 30% of such a film’s revenues may be gobbled up by piracy in the first two weeks of release.

The blocking of such websites has proven to be a highly contentious issue in other democracies. The US’s controversial Stop Online Piracy Act had listed provisions to block websites without court approval in case of similar copyright infringement. But these proposals were deemed so damaging to the very existence and structure of the internet — and to freedom of expression — that the White House threatened to veto the bill in case lawmakers approved it. Besides, in many Western countries, when courts issue blocking orders they specifically mention the websites concerned. A recent court ruling in the UK asked ISPs to specifically block only The Pirate Bay, for instance.

Indian online forums were filled with much kolaveri of their own by the evening, with users raging that such moves are akin to net usage restrictions imposed by nations with more tyrannical regimes in place. “Not just China, we’re apparently no different from Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Taliban,” says one such irate user, who goes by the handle ‘culdivsac’.


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