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[UPDATE: you won’t land in prison] Downloading the next new movie using torrent may now land you in prison

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UPDATE:

Debunking the whole hullabaloo and shining light on the fact, The Times of India now reports that merely accessing a torrent website or a blocked URL won’t land you in prison.

Experts, including advocate Apar Gupta says,

Certain news reports indicate that people may be prosecuted for mere access to websites due to the notice by Tata Telecommunications not being phrased properly. The sections which are referred in the notice do not criminalise mere access in isolation.

Further reports suggest that the core discussion arose due to a John Doe order, which refers to an unidentified entity, and orders content owners to shut down entire websites in order to prevent them from allowing piracy, without needing to go to court, for each time. And it is being called John Doe because the email id related to the block doesn’t actually exist. Also some reports are also saying that this particular blockade on TCL is to stop the piracy of movie Dishoom and is applicable only until 16th September 2016.

In short, you have nothing to worry about. Though accessing pirated content is against laws and illegal, you won’t allegedly be incrimated for downloading movies from torrent.

PREVIOUSLY:

So every time the next new movie is out, a vast majority of the tech-savvy Indian populace makes a beeline for one of the all too readily available torrent websites, rather than spend money and time by catching it up in the theaters. I mean why spend perfectly good money on a movie when you can watch it for free from the comfort of your home, right? Wrong.

Thanks to a series of stringent new measures, trying to access content from websites banned by the Indian courts may get you a three-year jail term along with a fine of up to INR 3 lakh.

The Indian judiciary and regulatory bodies have blocked thousands of websites over the course of the years. Many of these have been pegged down for displaying inappropriate content while many others have been blocked because of copyright or royalty infringement issues.

Issues involving movie and music leakages are prevalent pretty much everywhere but Indians have of late been taking it to another level, sometimes informally releasing movies on the web, mostly via torrent even before it actually hit the theaters.

Meanwhile,there has been a global crackdown on torrent that recently saw some of the major bastions of free — and illegal — content knocked down, thanks to a concerted efforts by state governments and various corporations. India is catching up and the laws pertaining to accessing and viewing content hosted on websites blocked by the government, have been tightened many times over. While many of the websites that are blocked can still be accessed by using means like VPN, the penalties for being caught doing something of the nature are pretty damn severe now.

The government is also making sure that users can’t claim to have visited these URLs inadvertently or by mistake. A statutory warning that will inform visitors of the dire consequences that may follow, will be prominently displayed whenever you attempt to visit a website that has been banned by the courts.

This URL has been blocked under the instructions of the Competent Government Authority or in compliance with the orders of a Court of competent jurisdiction.

Viewing, downloading, exhibiting or duplicating an illicit copy of the contents under this URL is punishable as an offence under the laws of India, including but not limited to under Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act, 1957 which prescribe imprisonment for 3 years and also fine of upto Rs. 3,00,000/-. Any person aggrieved by any such blocking of this URL may contact at [email protected] who will, within 48 hours, provide you the details of relevant proceedings under which you can approach the relevant High Court or Authority for redressal of your grievance.

The mechanisms for blocking are also being strengthened. Up until now, Internet service providers worked hand in glove with Indian government to block websites using DNS filtering techniques. As the names implies, the government hands ISPs a revised list that consists of the DNS addresses of all the websites that are to be banned in a particular demographic region. However, bypassing DNS filters are turning out to be child’s play — literally — thanks to all the third-party services around that offer to take you beyond all the barriers thrown up.

While getting past the DNS filtering has its advantages, particularly in regions that are censored, here it has been causing the government plenty of headaches. The Indian government has finally partnered up with telecommunication majors such as Tata, in order to ensure that what is blocked, stays blocked. Meanwhile, it is very uncertain how these policies will be enforced at his point.

I mean sure, content has been being blocked in the country since years however, the rules have never been enforced particularly strictly — unlike many other countries we know of, such as China, North Korea etc. That said though, the government appears to be more serious about enforcing its policies this time around. Royalty and copyright losses have been growing rapidly thanks to the antics of these torrent websites and the so called “free content distributors” and various media houses — including Bollywood production houses — have been knocking the doors of the telecommunications ministry.

So yeah, its not like we are going to have SWAT teams breaking down doors for downloading movies through torrent any time soon — or are we? However, this is certainly the beginning of darker ages for banned websites in India as the government finally appears to be making attempts to enforce its policies with regards to banned content in the country.


A bibliophile and a business enthusiast.

[email protected]


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