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Update: Files Sharing Sites Blocked In India Because Reliance BIG Pictures Got A Court Order

Update (August 1st 2011): Torrentfreak reports that Reliance Entertainment has also sent an email to Bittorrent site BitSnoop, asking it to comply with the court order (via @apar), requesting BitSnoop to also put a notice on its homepage, notifying its users to not download or upload the movie Singham. BitSnoop’s owners have said that they’re not governed by Indian law, and don’t need to adhere to the court order. A copy of the John Doe order is also available online, here (hat tip: Apar Gupta). The Singham torrent, apparently, is “doing well“.

MediaNama readers should bear in mind that sites received or accessed in a country could well be governed by its laws, because the content is consumed there. However, this situation explains why Reliance Entertainment contacted ISPs, because they control user access to web sites.

July 21st, 2011: File sharing websites have been blocked in India since yesterday on some ISPs because Reliance BIG Pictures got a “John Doe” order allowing them to service cease and desist notices on movie pirates pirating the film Singham, Mahesh Rangathantan, COO at Reliance Entertainment, told MediaNama. Singham is releasing in theatres tomorrow. What is unique about this order through, according to Big Pictures VP (Music and Anti Piracy) Sanjay Tandon, is that it also covers Internet Service Providers, and not just people selling pirated DVDs or cable operators. “A John Doe order is given against unidentified people, because the copyright owner doesn’t know who is going to infringe. We anticipate that certain entities are going to infringe, and the Delhi High Court has granted us a John Doe order,” Tandon said.

Yesterday, Airtel Broadband users reported that several file sharing websites like MediaFire had been inaccessible,and a notice was displayed, stating that the site has been blocked on request of Department of Telecom. A traceroute search suggested that the block was instituted at Flag Telecom. Our readers also indicated that with certain other ISPs – Zylog and MTNL Triband – the file sharing sites were not accessible.

Tandon said that the order doesn’t necessitate blocking an entire website, but only that ISPs should not make the film Singham accessible: the order only pertains to the access of the film. “Our only appeal with this order is that you cannot make the film available through your network. It’s a matter for the ISPs to look into,because it becomes their liabiltiy.”

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Our Take: What About The Rights Of The Customer?

So here is what appears to have happened: the court order apparently allows Reliance Big Pictures to ask ISPs to ensure that Singham isn’t pirated, and since the only the ISPs cannot ensure or monitor individual instances of piracy, they appear to have gone ahead and blocked the filesharing sites, probably deciding that it’s better to be safe than sorry, and ended up throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

This reminds me of the 2006 blogger block, wherein instead of blocking sub-domain pages, on orders of DoT, the ISPs completely blocked blogger, typepad etc.

In this case, by blocking access to these sites, the ISPs appear to have ensured blocking of legitimate file sharing as well.

What can be done about it? Frankly, I don’t know. The question that you have to ask yourself is – as a customer of an ISP, what are your rights, and is the ISP liable for preventing your access to the world wide web? The court order in this case apparently doesn’t direct ISPs to block filesharing sites in their entirety. By going beyond the apparent mandate of the court order, aren’t your rights being infringed upon? What gives an ISP the freedom to do that?

Unfortunately, unless someone takes an ISP to court, I suppose we will never know.

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Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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