Bombay Velvet

The Delhi High Court has granted a John Doe order to Fox Star Studio and Phantom Films, aimed at stopping the pirating of its movie ‘Bombay Velvet’, reports NDTV. The court has not yet uploaded the order to its website.

The order will allow blocking of known defendants and unknown defendants (John Doe) that are “hosting, streaming, making available for viewing, downloading, providing access to… or sharing without authorisation on their website, in any manner, the film Bombay Velvet.” According to the High Court, the studios made a convincing case that without such an injunction, ‘irreparable’ financial damages would be caused to the studios. The DoT and DeitY were also notified by the court to ensure compliance by ISPs.

The Delhi High court had issued a similar order (pdf) earlier this month, granting a John Doe order to Multi Screen Media for its film Piku. The suit listed various defendants including Vimeo, a website not known for hosting pirated content. As torrentfreak points out, there are several other issues with the order. For example, it lists Pirate Bay’s .org domain even though the site is currently operating from a .se domain. Similarly, the domain name of KickassTorrents is both outdated and misspelled as kickasstoreents.com.

John Doe orders allow movie studios to push ISPs to indiscriminately block access to video sharing, filesharing and torrenting sites. As we mentioned before when a John Doe order was issued for Gangs of Wasseypur, courts need to take into consideration the misuse of John Doe orders by movie studios and ISPs to block legitimate access to websites, instead of getting specific links taken down.

For example, the John Doe order in case of the order received from the Madras High Court, for the films 3 and Dammu, led to the blocking of several websites including Dailymotion, Vimeo and The Pirate Bay (a complete list here). Other than this, the Delhi High Court, the Mumbai High court and the Madras High Court have all granted John Doe orders for blocking websites in the past.

A timeline of the John Doe orders issued in India:

– In March, Shemaroo got a John Doe order from the Bombay High Court, for stopping the piracy of its movie Hunterrr. Shemaroo had named five multi-system-operators as defendants, along with other ‘unknown persons that are likely to infringe the copyright’ or John Does.

– In September last year, Fox Star Studios got a John Doe order for the movie Bang Bang, which got 72 websites blocked.

– Back in 2012, Viacom18 had received a “John Doe” order for the film Gangs Of Wasseypur from the Bombay High Court.

– The same year, an order received from the Madras High Court, for the films 3 and Dammu, led to the blocking of several websites including Dailymotion, Vimeo and The Pirate Bay (a complete list here).

– Again in 2012,  Tamil film ‘3’ (also made in Telugu and Hindi) received a John Doe order. The film’s producers R K Productions Private Limited filed a civil suit in the Madras High Court, to prevent copyright infringement, and were granted an interim injunction, directing ISPs from infringing copyright of the Producer in the film by communicating or duplicating or downloading and uploading it in any manner without a proper licence.

– The Indian Music Industry (IMI), an industry consortium of 142 music companies, had obtained orders from the Calcutta High Court directing all Internet Service Providers (387 ISPs) to block 104 music sites which offered pirated music, starting with Songs.pk, the same year. Fifteen days after the order, 68 of the sites were reportedly blocked on MTNL Delhi.

– In July 2011, several ISPs including Airtel had blocked access to file sharing sites Mediafire.com, Megaupload.com, Rapidshare.com, Sendspace.com, Megavideo.com etc. Initially, the reason for the block was suggested as an order from the Department of Telecommunication (DoT), however it was later revealed that the block was instituted because of a John Doe order from the Delhi High Court, allowing Reliance Big Pictures to prevent piracy of its movie Singham.

– The same year, Reliance Entertainment got yet another John Doe order from the Delhi High Court to prevent piracy of its movie Bodyguard.

Our take:

Ideally, blocking should be an exception, and not the norm that it has become. Even if blocks are instituted, here’s how it should be done. Visitors to a blocked website should be informed about the fact that the website has been blocked, who has asked for the site to be blocked, who has issued an order for the site to be blocked, why the website has been blocked, how a block can be removed and a link with a public listing of all the blocks. More on this here.

Image credit: Fox Star