Update: Kumar, in a round-about manner, has denied to torrent site BitSnoop that AiPlex resorts to denial of service attacks, reports TorrentFreak. However, TorrentFreak also quotes an admin of ICtorrent, a desi torrent tracker, as saying that AiPlex doesn’t send them proper Copyright Infringement Notices, and has tried to launch denial of service attacks several times, usually between Thursday night and Sunday. Our take remains the same – the end doesn’t justify the means.

September 9th: In order to prevent online piracy – a crime by itself, Bollywood Studios appear to be turning to crime. DNA reports that Bollywood Studios have hired “Cyber Hitmen” to take down websites that offer illegal movie downloads. The report specifically mentions a Bangalore based company called Aiplex Software, which, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, has tied up with 30 production houses in Bollywood, including Fox STAR Studios. Hat Tip: Gautam John for the headsup.

DNA quotes Aiplex Managing Director Girish Kumar as saying “At times, we have to go an extra mile and attack the site and destroy the data to stop the movie from circulating further.” Aiplex had the “contract” for a recently released Bollywood, called Peepli Live. The company, which provides ‘Net Vigilance services‘, also does follow due process, filing DMCA takedown notices, and rates per movie range between Rs. 2-4 lakh ($4300-8600) for a four week period.

Our Take

– The Legal System Doesn’t Support Copyright Owners: It’s symptomatic of the sad state of the online content ecosystem, when legitimate content creators and distributors have to hire these companies to send takedown notices en masse.

Takedown notices are notices sent under the US’ Digital Millenium Copyright Act, asking infringing sites to remove content that is someone elses copyright. They are a quick-fix, given the scale of piracy online, and there are no punitive costs for copyright infringement, unless they’re taken to court. This puts the onus and the cost entirely on the copyright owner – of locating infringement and piracy, sending a takedown notice, and following up. Not many would want to get stuck in court, especially given how long it takes for Indian courts to deliver a verdict.

It’s is probably easier for content owners to monetize piracy onYouTube (via New York Times), instead of  fighting the might of Google in court.

– You Can’t Fight Crime With Crime: Due process needs to be followed. If Aiplex is resorting to attacks on infringing sites, destruction of data, and Distributed Denial of Service (denial of service) attacks by flooding sites with millions of requests, to bring it down, that may by itself be an illegal means.

Section 43 of the IT Act 2000, and Section 66 of the IT Act (Amendment) 2008 cover denial of service. According to Offences listed on the website of the Department of Information Technology:

66. Hacking with computer system.

  • Whoever with the intent to cause or knowing that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person destroys or deletes or alters any information residing in a computer resource or diminishes its value or utility or affects it injuriously by any means, commits hack:
  • Whoever commits hacking shall be punished with imprisonment up to three years, or with fine which may extend upto two lakh rupees, or with both.

Hat Tip: Tarun Dua of E2E Networks * for sharing this with us.

While we can sympathise with the film industry and its fight against online piracy, there are legal alternatives available. This is the use of brute force when there are legal alternatives available, however tedious they may be, and cannot be condoned. Question is, who would complain against them?

*Disclosure: MediaNama is hosted on E2E servers

Related:

Bollywood, Piracy & Online Content
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– Execs Of Sequoia Funded Guruji.com Arrested Over Alleged Copyright Violation In India
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Copywrong: Media Companies & Indian Blogs; Google & Image-Search Previews
PatentWatch: Google Files For India Patent For Detecting Copyright Content
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Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2010
IAMAI’s Comments To Standing Committee On The Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2010
MediaNama’s Comments On Changes Proposed In India’s Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2010
– The Centre For Internet & Society: Technological Protection Measures in the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010
– The Centre For Internet & Society: Analysis of the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010
Copyright Act: Rational Assumption Of Ownership Of Music Rights?

IT Act (Amendment) 2008
T-Series Argues IT Act Doesn’t Prevent Courts From Terminating Copyright Infringement
– The Centre For Internet & Society: Short note on IT Amendment Act, 2008
– The Centre For Internet & Society: IT Act and Commerce