It’s worrying how court orders to prevent copyright violation are being issued and executed in India: Mint reports that Reliance Entertainment has now got a John Doe order from the Delhi High Court directing all Internet Service Providers to block video-sharing websites, not just for one film this time, but most big budget films. This explains why many of our readers have reported that they can’t access torrenting site The Pirate Bay, but more worryingly, sites like Vimeo and PasteBin.

Given that this is a John Doe order, and is for multiple films, it means that Reliance Entertainment now can wield it to repeatedly block access to websites it deems might infringe their copyright. Keep in mind that Pastebin is an anonymous information and code sharing platform and cannot be used for hosting videos, while Vimeo is also used for personal videos – for example, @gkjohn’s wedding video.

Given that this John Doe order is going to be applicable for multiple films, there are a few points I’d like to highlight:

1. ISPs overcompensate: This is an issue that we feel also applies to IT Rules, which should be recalled or modified (sign this petition). ISPs over-react and overcompensate, and in order to ensure that they don’t violate either DoT orders or Court Orders, they end up infringing upon consumer rights by blocking access en masse. We cannot expect ISPs to protect user rights to access the web, neither can they be dependent on for protection of freedom of speech. Someone identify for me an Indian ISP in India that isn’t spineless in this regard.

2. Types of Notices & Misrepresentation by ISPs: ISPs have often put up notices that the sites are blocked on order from India’s Department of Telecom (DoT). In the past, when we have filed RTIs, these sites have not been in the list. Even now, even though the blocks are on the basis of a court order, ISPs have put up notices that the site has been blocked on order from DoT, thus representing the status to their customers. We need detailed clarifications to consumers from ISPs as to what content is being blocked, who has issued the order, and information on how to get the blocks removed. That is only fair.

3. Impacts freedom of expression: Certain groups use PasteBin to express their points of view anonymously, and this is a dangerous precedent to set because it impacts freedom of express. The same is applicable to videos on Vimeo. This is, like in case of SOPA and PIPA, an instance of freedom of expression coming under threat by companies lobbying for protection of copyright.

4. No John Doe orders: I think we need to be careful about the nature of orders that are issued – they cannot be generic John Doe orders, with content being blocked enmasse, because then the rights of users to access and share legitimate content gets impinged upon. At the same time, I do understand the need of content owners to protect their copyright. We need specificity in the rulings from courts, and not John Doe orders. The orders which the Indian Music Industry got for blocking 104 alleged music piracy sites is perhaps a better example, although a perpetual ban is perhaps not justifiable.

John Doe orders on File sharing websites
– Reliance Entertainment Gets Order To Block Piracy Of “Bodyguard” On File Sharing Sites
– Files Sharing Sites Blocked In India Because Reliance BIG Pictures Got A Court Order
– Producers Of Tamil Film ’3′ Get Court Order Making ISPs Responsible For Checking Piracy