Centre for Internet & Society

India puts onus of downloading and viewing pirated content on individuals.

The article by Alnoor Peermohammed was published in the Business Standard on August 22, 2016. Sunil Abraham was quoted.

The central government is putting the onus of downloading and viewing of copyrighted content from sites it has blocked (with the help of internet service providers) on users.
Visiting torrent (a particular type of files) websites while on Tata Communications’ network recently had users being shown a message that viewing or downloading content on those sites could land them in prison for up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 3 lakh.
“There is not enough room in our prisons to keep these infringers and enough time in our courts to try them. It might sound very exciting as a message to put out but, essentially, they’re trying to scare people into good behaviour,” said Sunil Abraham, executive director at research firm Centre for Internet and Society.
There has been no change to the Copyright Act of 1957 or the Information Technology Act of 2000 for the updated notice being shown to users upon visiting blocked sites. Under these provisions, visiting a site, which is blocked is not illegal, unless it is child pornography.

“Copyright infringement happens all the time and even in developed countries, the rates are very high. Crackdowns on individuals and consumers are never going to solve the problem,” added Abraham.
Experts say the most the government could do is prosecute a couple of people and make examples of them, to dissuade others. This practice is followed globally. There are no examples, though, in India of prosecution for copyright infringement of online content.

The recent alteration of the statement seen by users on Tata networks was done on the directives of the Bombay High Court, after the company appealed that showing individual messages for why each website was blocked was not feasible. The resulting message sparked media frenzy that visitors of blocked websites could now be imprisoned.
Other media reports revealed that the recent blocking of websites by internet service providers was prompted by court orders to prevent piracy of Dishoom, the Bollywood movie.

Globally, there’s been a move to clamp on torrent websites which host pirated content, aided by large information technology entities such as Apple or Facebook. Last month, the US authorities arrested Kickass Torrents’ founder, Arten Vaulin, and blocked all the domains of the website, only to have it resurface a day later.