While the world celebrated World Internet Day on Thursday, netizens in India woke up to popular file sharing sites blocked by Internet Service Providers. This was following a recent John Doe order by the Madras High Court, on a suit filed by the city-based Copyright Labs for preventing piracy of Tamil Film 3 and a Telugu movie Dammu. Major video-sharing websites, including Daily motion, torrent and piratebay remained inaccessible to users.

While ISPs including Reliance and BSNL had blocked these sites earlier this week, Airtel got into the act on Thursday blocking as many as 26 websites. Users who try to access these sites got to see the message, “Access to this site has been blocked as per Court Orders.” The Madras High Court had issued an interim injunction on March 29 wherein 3the ISPs including MTNL, Bharti Airtel, Aircel Cellular, Hathway Cable and Datacom, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications and TATA Teleservices were directed against allowing infringement of copyright through the communication, duplication, downloading and uploading of content without a proper licence.

Harish Ram, CEO, Copyright Labs, hired by producers of the movie 3, R K Productions Private Limited, for the online anti-piracy management of the movie, said that the ISPs had misinterpreted the order. “Instead of blocking specific URLs that were screening the movie, they blocked the whole sites,” he said. . “Anyway, enough damage has been done since the action was taken only 45 days after the movie got released,” he added. “While Sites such as You Tube provide specific tools to remove content, thereby respecting the copyright order, others such as Daily Motion don't even reply to mails,” he said.

While film producers allege there is a loss of almost Rs 3 -5 crore on every high budget movie because of online piracy, users of such websites are upset at the developments. “Torrent files of even rare movies are easily accessible and good prints are downloaded in just about thirty minutes. Besides, if the movie is really good, we watch it in the theatre too,” said Justin George, who uses movie-sharing avenues on the internet.

“With rising costs, theatres are increasingly out of reach. Producers can tap such sites and charge us minimal rates, instead of blocking them,” says G.K. Mevin., a user.

Internet activists across the country are enraged too. “It is infuriating that movie, whose claim to fame (‘Why this kolaveri') was because of the power of the internet, is seeking to restrict it,” said Anivar Aravind, a Bangalore-based internet activist. Activists point out that ISPs have chosen to overreact owing to fear of being charged with ‘contempt of court.' Besides, blocking a particular page is more difficult and so ISPs chose to implement a blanked ban on the site, say activists.

Incidentally, official websites of the Indian Supreme Court, the All India Congress Committee and the Department of Telecommunications experienced Denial of Service attacks on Thursday. The internet hacktivist group ‘Anonymous's opIndia' (opindia_revenge) claimed responsibility for the act as also that of the attack on Copyright Labs's website. However, Mr .Harish said, that they had taken off the site themselves, responding to attacks. “We took a preventive measure to safeguard our site,” he added.

This copy has been corrected for spelling and format errors

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Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012

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