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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.

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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.

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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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