Home > Business & Investment > The File Sharing Ban Is Anti-Public

The File Sharing Ban Is Anti-Public

Monday, May 28, 2012

In other nations, such website blocking has proved to be highly contentious. The United States’ Stop Online Piracy Act had, very controversially, listed provisions to block websites without prior court approval in case of similar copyright infringement. As the proposals were perceived to be detrimental to the very existence of the web and to freedom of expression, the White House went on to threaten to veto the bill in case lawmakers approved it.

Banning an entire website just because a link could be violation of a copyright is like suspecting an entire community to be a seditious lot, because a sole terrorist caught turned out to a member of that particular religion.

Almost similarly, since last fortnight, access to top torrent file-sharing websites as well as certain videos online sites were blocked much to the surprise of millions of internet users all over.

Apparently, it was learned, a Chennai-based Copyright Labs had drawn up a list of “specific links and URLs on these sites that had violated copyright, not entire websites” and moved to get a John Doe order from the Madras High Court. The ISPs had, in a spirited move, decided to ban the websites in toto heedless of affecting the overwhelming public interest at stake.

Incidentally, Internet Service Providers have been notorious when it comes to ignoring film producers’ takedown requests following patent copyright violations that occur randomly. Video sites, which refuse to consider pleas to delete videos or films purporting to prima facie create copyright issues, too are hit this time as always.

Industry sources maintain that a John Doe order, an injunction issued against unknown persons, ensures that it prevents 30 per cent of a film’s revenues from being lost due to piracy in the first fortnight of release. Blocking the sites through a court order ensures that some of the returns are ensured.

In other nations, such website blocking has proved to be highly contentious. The United States’ Stop Online Piracy Act had, very controversially, listed provisions to block websites without prior court approval in case of similar copyright infringement.

As the proposals were perceived to be detrimental to the very existence of the web and to freedom of expression, the White House went on to threaten to veto the bill in case lawmakers approved it.

It’s only when there are specific websites to be banned that foreign courts issue blocking orders. Look at the more recent court ruling in the United Kingdom asking ISPs to block just The Pirate Bay for instance.

This time, following a John Doe injunction from the Madras High Court seeking protection against copyright violations of the Tamil film ‘3’, where all 15 India’s major Internet Service Providers were listed, despite even the websites not being detailed, almost all the ISPs blocked access to all leading torrent websites as well as video and link-sharing ones.

A service provider maintains that “access to certain sites has been blocked, pursuant to and in compliance with court orders”. The move to ban the sites is being perceived as a violation of freedom of speech and expression and is being compared to net usage restrictions imposed by nations with tyrannical and autocratic regimes in place.

While it may, on the face of it, seem unfair, to filmmakers who find their works online and for free distribution through torrent sites, blocking an entire site itself is almost draconian.

In the protection of one’s rights, it makes little sense to trample over another’s and in that, such outright blocking of all torrent sites as a knee-jerk reaction to a court’s John Doe order instead of the links in question, is ill placed to say the least.

This brings into sharp focus the need to legislate on the issue and fill in the lacuna in an Act which permits violations of this nature.

A preventive measure should surely not lead to distress or a legal loss to others not guilty of any violation whatsoever. A torrent permits sharing and not all data or content that’s shared as torrent is protected by copyright or concurrently violative of an intellectual property law of the land in question.

Blocking an entire website is like dropping a bomb on an entire locality just to kill one dangerous terrorist.

The extent of collateral damage caused is way too overwhelming to be brushed off as collateral and dismissed as running parallel to ‘necessary action.’

 

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