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While the giants of the industry lobbied hard and pushed back the SOPA in US, Indian court didn't leave any room for debate before passing ordinance to block websites and prevent the interest of content owners. In separate rulings, Calcutta High Court and Delhi High Court have asked or allowed Indian Internet Service Providers (ISP) to block more than a hundred notorious sites. And rightly so – with India ranking among the top countries to download pirated content, Indians haven't shown much of social maturity to have a moral right to debate about the decision.

While most of the sites that have been blocked so far are notoriously famous for hosting pirated versions of movies and music, two names raise eyebrows - vimeo.com and dailymotion.com, both being user generated video sharing platform, and not torrents. In their case, court passed an order in favour of Reliance Entertainment allowing them to get blocked video sharing websites on the eve of release of any big budget film. Soon after the order, Indian ISPs namely Reliance Broadband, Airtel and others blocked down vimeo.com and dailymotion.com. While it cannot be denied that these sites are not clean of copyright violations, they are not actually among the top choices of the people who download movies illegally on internet. In fact, dailymotion is used regularly by IANS, Reuters, Eros etc. to publish videos. Rather youtube (owned by Google) is a more popular for being home to pirated videos. The pirated version of Anjan Dutta's National Award winning film
Ranjana ami aar ashbo na
blatantly plays on youtube along with hundreds of other pirated movies while court blocks two others, raises my concern – is it only ignorance that is playing a trick here?

So let us ask the magic question – if video sharing sites were the target, then why was vimeo and dailymotion blocked and youtube not? Was Reliance Entertainment not concerned about their movies getting leaked on youtube – a site has reportedly triggered a loss of $308 million in Hong Kong film industry since they could not react on time to piracy related content? Assuming that nobody was naïve to understand that vimeo, dailymotion and youtube work in the same industry, exercising the court order to block two and leave out one indicates either somebody powerful in the system has special interest in the interest of Google, or they are just scared to act against the company that enjoys a greater mass appeal. In either case, the actual motive of curbing piracy takes a back seat – and that is exactly what Delhi High Court failed to understand. Though both sites have come back after a few media reports but it only proves leaving it to the Indian ISPs in future to decide on which site to block and which not will only lead to further ambiguity, unfair treatments and customers will end up suffering.

In comparison, Calcutta High Court's order to block a list of 100+ websites was much more fair but once again very ineffective. Reacting to a petition filed by the Indian Music Industry, court has given permission to get the list of sites blocked by Indian ISPs. Though the court reportedly mentioned that it only went by the sites mentioned in the petition and didn't pass any further instruction to the government to deal with the ones missed in the list, the order keeps a lingering doubt– are we actually trying to stop piracy or just acting for the heck of it? Also what was aimed to be achieved by such an order remains mystery because within a day of the ban one of the famous music piracy site – songs.pk that just moved itself to a separate domain- songspk.pk and is now available over all ISPs. The cunning move clearly shows the middle finger to Indian legal system and it will now take another round of court battle to pass another ruling to block the same site once more and this can continue. Worst still, this is not happening for the first time. Nobody took any lesson from savitabhabhi.com which was blocked by Indian government a few years ago but is available till date from a different domain name. It also creates precedence for other sites that are also set to return through different domain name and thereby proves the fact that controlling online piracy requires a different approach than banning sites.

Nevertheless, it had been a positive step towards anti-piracy movement. Though a very short sighted temporary move, I take heart from the fact that something has been done to curb piracy. But a lot is yet to be done. Personally, I feel that piracy is a social disease and the users are as much responsible as the providers. Hence having strict law against companies who advertise on the piracy sites, who download from the piracy sites or who host the piracy sites will probably create a greater sense of boycotting the malpractice. Also the authorities must also look at ethical hacking as an option to fight back against the offending sites. Offline piracy outlets should be raided nearly at regular intervals – else users will just stop downloading songs and movies and pick up pirated CDs from the local market. All these cannot happen in a jiffy but require a concentrated all round effort. More than that required are knowledgeable authorities handling the matter and many responsible citizens.  

Sudipta Sengupta is General Manager with citizen journalism news portal merinews.com. He can be reached at sengupta.sudipta@gmail.com.
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