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Several ISPs in India including Tata Communications, MTNL, BSNL, etc are now displaying a static legal notice on torrent sites and other file-sharing sites warning users not to even ‘view’, ‘download’, ‘exhibit’ or ‘duplicate’ content hosted on such websites. Doing so will either land users in prison for up to 3 years and fines up to Rs 3 lakh under Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act, 1957.

Interestingly, the notice asks users to approach Tata Communications at urlblock@tatacommunications.com for clarifications or in case they are affected by the block and further promises to address such queries within 48 hours. A copy of the notice is attached below the story.

But the problem is the email address specified by the notice does not work or isn’t active. We sent a mail to the address only to receive an error. An IndiaToday report suggests that since the same notice, asking users to get back with Tata Communications is being displayed on multiple ISPs, the block could be different from DNS level or DNS filtering blockade that ISPs usually use.

The report suggests that since Tata owns multiple Internet gateways in India, the block could have been placed at gateway level or network level, directly affecting most ISPs whose connections might travel through Tata’s gateways. MediaNama has written to Tata to clarify these claims, and we are yet to hear back from them.

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There is another catch:  the notice does not mention which court or competent Indian authority awarded the power to block torrent sites to Tata, which further raises several questions on the transparency of such proceedings.

John Doe order for Dishoom

The current block in reality is a Jon Doe order awarded to makers of Bollywood movie Dishoom. Eros International was initially denied a John Doe order by the Bombay HC in July, since makers were requesting blockade for entire websites. The Bombay HC on August 9th instead served Jon Doe orders only to specific URLs or sub sections of a website that might infringe or already have infringed copyrights in the past, as indicated by a SpicyIP report. The John Doe order is however is valid until September 19th 2016, and will be revisited by the court, according to the report.

The report added that the court mentioned that all individual pages being blocked by ISPs must have an explicit notice denoting:

i) Relevant provision of law that allows the blockade and penalties in case of violation.
ii)The suit number or judgment number and details of the suit (including date) that awarded the blockade.
iii) A statement that provides a kind of relief to third parties or users who might get affected by the block. The statement would mention which court, and address of plaintiffs to be contacted in case a user needs clarifications or appeal against the order.

Another SpicyIP report said that Tata however challenged this in court, and requested for a modification removing suit no or judgment no, address of plaintiffs, and relevant court that awarded the blockade. It instead suggested providing a contact detail of the Nodal Officer of Tata Communications. But as we mentioned earlier, Tata has provided a non-working email ID instead. Tata mentioned in court that the above notice cannot be displayed pertaining to specific URLs since its “technically not feasible”.

The court initially denied the request made by Tata and asked it to comply and blamed it for “even daring to make this suggestion” as the pointed out by SpicyIP. The court added that the blockade notice was being served to several other ISPs and Tata was the only ISP to denote “technical feasibility” issues. “A competent 17-year-old would be able to do this,” added the court. However on August 17th, Bombay HC headed by Justice Patel awarded the modification to the notice, as reported by Spicy IP. The court said: “if it allows for greater efficiency and speed in implementation, I am willing to consider it, given that such matters are extremely time-sensitive, and speed of deployment is of the essence.”

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Message being displayed on torrent sites

“This URL has been blocked under the instructions of the Competent Government Authority or in compliance with the orders of a Court of competent jurisdiction. Viewing, downloading, exhibiting or duplicating an illicit copy of the contents under this URL is punishable as an offence under the laws of India, including but not limited to under Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act, 1957 which prescribe imprisonment for 3 years and also fine of upto Rs. 3,00,000/-. Any person aggrieved by any such blocking of this URL may contact at urlblock@tatacommunications.com who will, within 48 hours, provide you the details of relevant proceedings under which you can approach the relevant High Court or Authority for redressal of your grievance”