Viacom18 has received a “John Doe” order for the film Gangs Of Wasseypur from the Bombay High Court, reports LegallyIndia. This is the first instance of the Bombay High Court granting a John Doe order in the recent past, but it is a continuation of an unfortunate trend of movie studios filing for John Doe orders, and courts granting them. The Delhi High Court and the Madras High Court have both granted John Doe orders for blocking websites in the past.

John Doe orders allow movie studios to push ISPs to indiscriminately block access to video sharing, filesharing and torrenting sites, apart from (bizarrely) code sharing sites like PasteBin. The maximum impact that we’ve seen of the John Doe order was in case of the recent order received from the Madras High Court, for the films 3 and Dammu, which led to the blocking of several websites, including Dailymotion, Vimeo and The Pirate Bay (a complete list here). The blocks have resulted in attacks on Reliance Communications, which was the first ISP to block the sites.

A few things:

– We don’t quite know how long the order for 3 and Dammu will be in operation, but if movie studios are coordinating amongst themselves for these John Doe orders, then it is likely that the movie studios will keep some sites blocked indefinitely unless a Court refuses to grant a John Doe order, or an ISP refuses to comply. ISPs are unlikely to refuse to comply because they’re spineless. New movies are released every week, or every other week, so there is a possibility that some sites might be blocked indefinitely.

– Courts need to take into consideration the misuse of John Doe orders by movie studios and ISPs to block legitimate access to websites. It’s surprising that these generic orders are still being issued.

– Someone needs to challenge the John Doe orders in court – these are issued ex parte (without the opposing party present), and under the guise of preventing piracy, they also restrict user access to information.

– Customers need to hold their ISPs accountable – file complaints, threaten to change their ISP. The ISPs are not taking access rights issues into consideration before blocking, and if customers complain, they may begin to take these issues more seriously.

Additional Reading

May 17th, 2012: ISP Wise List Of Blocked Sites
May 17th 2012: Airtel Blocks Vimeo, DailyMotion & All Major Torrent Sites In India Following John Doe Order
May 11th 2012: DailyMotion Blocked In India On RCOM; Airtel & RCOM Block Bookmarking Site Xmarks
May 4th 2012: Reliance Communications Blocks The Pirate Bay & Vimeo
Mar 30th 2012: Producers Of Tamil Film ’3′ Get Court Order Making ISPs Responsible For Checking Piracy
Aug 30th 2011: Reliance Entertainment Gets Order To Block Piracy Of “Bodyguard” On File Sharing Sites
Jul 21st 2011:  Files Sharing Sites Blocked In India Because Reliance BIG Pictures Got A Court Order

Anonymous India

Jun 14th 2012: Anonymous India To File RTIs Seeking Information Against Internet Censorship
Jun 11th 2012: Anonymous India’s June 9th Protests In 18 Cities: What Happened Where
May 30th 2012: Anonymous Defaces More Indian Websites
May 26th 2012: Anonymous Hacks Into Reliance Servers; Redirects Users To Warning Page
May 25th 2012: Anonymous India Releases Reliance’s Site Block List; Calls For On-Ground Protest On June 9th 2012

Our Take

Jun 6th 2012: Anonymous India’s Takedowns Could Be Counterproductive
May 19th 2012: Need Specificity In Court Orders On Online Copyright Violation In India, Transparency From ISPs