New Delhi: Indian movie producers continue to use wide-spectrum court orders to curb piracy, although the consequent, and often indiscriminate, blocking of file-sharing websites by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have seen protests from activists and Internet users.
According to Legallyindia.com, a legal news portal with which Mint has a content-sharing arrangement, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures is the latest production house to get a so-called John Doe order from the Bombay high court, ahead of the release of its film Gangs of Wasseypur. A John Doe order is directed against someone whose identity isn’t known at the time it is issued.
Earlier last month, Reliance Entertainment Pvt. Ltd got court orders to block some torrent and file and video-sharing websites, including popular ones such as Pirate Bay and Vimeo. The producers of Tamil film 3 (of the Kolaveri song fame) and Dammu had also got similar orders issued.
Anurag Kashyap , producer , Gangs of Wasseypur
The blocks prompted Internet activist group Anonymous to attack websites of the government, some production houses such as Reliance and also ISPs in a mark of protest. The group also coordinated protests against Internet censorship across several cities on 9 June. Anonymous is a secretive Internet group that originated in 2003 to fight any move it deems is against free speech on the Internet.
In a related move, the department of electronics and information technology is considering reaching out to producers to sort out various issues with the implementation of John Doe orders. A government official who did not want to be identified said blocking of file sharing sites by court orders is being misconstrued as an attempt by the government to censor the Internet.
“The government is planning to hold talks with all stakeholders on the issue,” the official said, adding that the problem lies at all levels, including that of the producers getting the order as well as the ISPs implementing it. “We can’t direct the courts to not issue such orders but can work with companies towards their better implementation.”
Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet and Society, said John Doe orders are not a proportionate remedy. “It is the same as shutting a library because there is copyright infringement taking place.”
He added that torrent websites and other people-to-people platforms are used to share public domain works and openly licensed works such as free/open source software. “The courts are impoverishing the public domain, censoring openly licensed works and undermining fair use of proprietary works with their disproportionate orders.”
According to experts, the need of the entertainment industry to curtail piracy is genuine but the mechanism of carrying out these orders needs to be refined. Uday Singh, managing director of the Motion Pictures Association, said while the industry needs to guard against copyright infringement, “we can’t throw the baby out with the bath water”. He added that ISPs need to find a was to filter out content that violates copyright. “There has to be a technological solution. There are studies that show that every day of delay in the piracy of a film adds to its box office revenues.”
Viacom officials did not respond to queries sent by Mint.