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No More John Doe Orders? Indian ISPs Get Court Order For Specificity In URL Blocks

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The Madras High Court has granted some relief to Internet users in India, courtesy an appeal filed by a consortium of Internet Service Providers asking for specificity in complaints of infringing content, instead of a John Doe/Ashok Kumar order. The order, issued on the 15th of June 2012, of which MediaNama has a copy, states:

“The order of interim injunction dated 25/04/2012 is hereby clarified that the interim injunction is granted only in respect of a particular URL where the infringing movie is kept and not in respect of the entire website. Further, the applicant is directed to inform about the particulars of URL where the interim movie is kept within 48 hours.”

Readers might have noticed that, over the weekend, Indian ISPs enabled access to sites like Vimeo, The Pirate Bay, among others. These sites had been previously blocked because of a John Doe order granted to Copyright Labs (for the movie Dhammu). The John Doe order, against a nameless entity, which allowed studios to tell ISPs to block user access to many video sharing and torrent websites pre-emptively, to prevent uploading of content.

The clarification from the Madras High Court came following a representation to the court by a consortium of ISPs, pointing out the John Doe order has also led to legitimate content being disabled, and they can still block access to infringing content when informed by the studios. Copyright Labs had also given to the ISPs, a list of several URLs with pirated content.

On condition of anonymity, an ISP representative told MediaNama that they felt that ISPs were being wrongfully vilified on the Internet, when it was never really their fault, and that they were only complying with the court orders. They felt that it was adversely going to impact their business if video streaming is disabled for users.


Starting with the movie Singham, for which Reliance Entertainment had taken a John Doe order last year, movie studios have been consistently getting John Doe orders blocking access to file sharing, video sharing and torrenting websites.

What This Means

Readers might recall that a John Doe order has recently been granted to Viacom18 for the film the Gangs Of Wasseypur. Following the Madras High Court order, which sets a precedent in terms of demands of specificity, ISPs may not comply with requests for blocking of entire websites, and use the Madras High Court order to get the courts to instead ask studios to be specific. Just like the John Doe orders issued in the past set a precedent for more, this order might just set a welcome precedent for specificity. Note that this is the way it should have been, in any case: under the IT Rules (2011), all studios had to do was ask ISPs to block access to specific URLs.

It doesn’t mean that John Doe orders will not be granted, but it does suggest that they will be contested.

I’m quite surprised that the ISPs went and contested these orders: one notion was that with a reduction in video-watching online, their costs would have reduced. However, revenues for mobile operators might also have been impacted, since many of their users choose pay-as-you-go plans, and video streaming would contribute significant revenues.


Additional Reading

Our Take

Jun 6th 2012: Anonymous India’s Takedowns Could Be Counterproductive
May 27th 2012: John Doe Orders: What Needs To Be Done
May 19th 2012: Need Specificity In Court Orders On Online Copyright Violation In India, Transparency From ISPs

John Doe Orders

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 Action

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

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  • Meet John Doe.

  • Guest

    Do you think ISPs will save cost for blocking video sites? What illogical business sense is that? More data consumption = more money. 90% of broadband users in India are on limited plans. Plus in that context, blocking Youtube makes more sense – what say. You will be surprised to understand the difference between the TB cost ISPs incur vs they make frm it – there is 700% markup. So please stop making uninformed statements. I think these blocks were impacting ISPs more than general public – firstly in terms of consumption and secondly their image getting battered. 

    • That’s one view. The other is that most users consuming video content are on “unlimited+FUP” plans, so despite the fact that access might be blocked, they’ll continue to pay the same amount, while cost reduces. 

      Not denying that you have a point, but I’d be surprised if 90% of broadband users are on limited plans and hence paying for usage beyond the limits.

      Agree on the YouTube bit – if Vimeo can be blocked, then why not YouTube?

      • Guest

        Pls check with Airtel and they will tell u the split – unlimited plans across all ISPs are no less than 1000 bucks/month and thats not cheap and thats the reason for low adoption. Users will limited plans gets jacked even if they exceed by 100MB as they end up paying Rs.100 more for that whereas 100MB cost at ISP level is less than 5 paisa. In this case this is pure profit for ISP because there is no additional setup or infra cost for this particular user. 

        • Anurag

          However, I doubt how many people on limited data plans eagerly watch videos online.

      • Vedanth

        YouTube has a reputation of being rather “copyright owner friendly”. With “Contact ID” in place, copyright owners are convinced that YouTube is doing a responsible job of filtering infringing material. Besides, some of the biggest music and motion picture producers have partnered with YouTube under Contact ID to attempt and stop piracy of their material. 

        The block on entire websites was ludicrous. Its a good sign that the Madras High Court has brought about some clarity to its earlier decision. In the interest of internet users and the freedom they are entitled to within the expanse of cyberspace, one certainly hopes that John Doe alias Ashok Kumar fades away for good!

        • Dailymotion also has tie-ups with copyright owners. They were blocked too.

        • Xxxx

          What wud u say to this – Full Vicky Donor movie on Youtube 
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbpizsopM0E + 100 other such movies hosted there illegaly. Infact Vimeo has almost zero copyright infringing content

  • Well, some thing got their attention…..

    I am not going to agree that it was the loss of revenue … if that was the case, they would have contested long back ….

    So certainly, it was the protests and the internet revolution …

    “On condition of anonymity, an ISP representative told MediaNama that
    they felt that ISPs were being wrongfully vilified on the Internet, when
    it was never really their fault, and that they were only complying with
    the court orders.”

    The above statement is a clear indication, they reacted to the protests…

    However, in the end, ALL is WELL….

  • This is good news. But Pirate Bay is still blocked by Airtel.

    • Anonymous

       ya.. though u can access it through https version.

  • Anonymous

    “Ashok Kumar” orders? Seriously? Why not Amit Aggarwal or Ankit Aggarwal?

    •  Because Amit Aggarwal or Ankit Aggarwal is too mainstream

    • Anurag

      Did you mis-spell Ankit Fadia?

    • Years ago  case was filed related to trademark infringement issue of ray ban glasses. One of the party was Ashok Kumar. Hence the name. Same holds true for John Doe.

  • Who downloads these shitty movies anyways- especially at a time when mechanical hard drives have a sudden hike in prices? :P

  • Props to Medianama for this comprehensive and relentless coverage of the issue.

  • Mayankshah1

     Hi can you provide the copy of the said judgment