New Delhi: Internet activists and users of video-sharing sites can look forward to some respite from the indiscriminate blocking of such sites by Internet service providers (ISPs), with the Madras high court clarifying that only specific URLs carrying the pirated content can be blocked, and not the entire website.
The court’s order came on 15 June and was first reported by digital media website MediaNama on Wednesday.
ISPs blocked the sites following so-called John Doe orders issued by courts at the request of movie producers who wanted to protect their new releases from the menace of piracy. A John Doe order is directed against someone whose identity isn’t known at the time it is issued.
A consortium of almost 40 ISPs, which included all the key ones operating in the country, contested one such order in the Madras court on the grounds that it was resulting in the blocking of legitimate content as well. In response, the court issued an order that said its previous “interim injunction” was only in respect of a particular URL where the infringing movie is kept and not in respect of the entire website.” It also added that entertainment companies have to inform ISPs within 48 hours “about the particulars of the URL where the interim movie is kept.”
The court’s order has been welcomed by Internet users and activists. According to S.P. Jerath, secretary of the Internet Service Providers Association of India, blanket bans on websites were creating issues such as unavailability of non-pirated content. “Specific URLs have to be given by somebody for this to function properly,” he said.
Over the past year, it had become the norm for Indian movie producers such as Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Reliance Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, to get wide-spectrum court orders to curb piracy, although the consequent, and often indiscriminate, blocking of file-sharing websites by ISPs has seen protests from activists.
Last month, the blocks prompted Internet activist group Anonymous to attack websites of the government, some production houses such as Reliance Entertainment 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.