Win for Anonymous: Indian courts backtrack on website blocking

The Madras High Court has clarified its stand on John Doe orders blocking file sharing websites in India. The courts want specific URLs to be blocked, not entire websites.
Written by Manan Kakkar, Contributor on

India's struggle with free speech and piracy has been at a crossroad. Despite being completely different issues, on the Internet in India, they have received a similar response from the people in power—let's ban the websites. The courts have been as hasty and harsh in their initial decisions only to refine them after the rationality was questioned. From a High Court judge threatening China-like blocks for social media websites to blocking of Vimeo (popular video catalogue website), the interwebs in India are going through their adolescence.

While technology enthusiasts spared no punches on Twitter, the rebel group—Anonymous—took matters into their hands. Following their usual MO the group overwhelmed several government websites with so much traffic that they stopped responding. In addition to this, Anonymous orchestrated peaceful street protests across India. The turn out was not like Libya's movement but it wasn't meant to be either. The point was to make people aware not only of the problem but also to tell policy makers that there are those who will oppose such harsh rulings.

In the user vs anti-pirate corporate struggle, the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are caught in the cross-fire. (Anonymous successfully hacked Reliance's Internet filtering servers.) The production houses and distributors obtain John Doe orders that force ISPs to block access to several websites and the ISP has to deal with the user's anger. A group of these ISPs decided to ask the courts to find a better solution to the problem arising out of John Doe orders. As it turns out, the Madras High Court that has issued such orders found a way to address the concerns of the corporations and the ISPs. The court said there will be no more blanket website bans based on John Doe orders but producers and distributors can get specific URLs to infringing content banned. Here's what the court order said:

The order of interim injunction dated 25/04/2012 is hereby clarified that the interim injunction is granted only in respect of a particular URL where the infringing movie is kept and not in respect of the entire website. Further, the applicant is directed to inform about the particulars of URL where the interim movie is kept within 48 hours.

Good work Anonymous.

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