After banning hundreds of porn websites, the Government of India is setting its eyes on torrent websites. The Department of Telecommunications, with the help of internet service providers, is issuing a stern warning to those who are visiting a torrent website or a blocked URL, let alone downloading or distributing a torrent file.
As per the notice served to those who are visiting the blocked websites, users could face a 3-year- jail time and a hefty fine for up to Rs. 3,00,000, even for viewing the information, a torrent file or an image on a file host like Imagebam. There are serious consequences even before users get to download a torrent file, copyrighted video or other files, from blocked URLs.
The Indian government had blocked several hundred URLs earlier and displayed a notice, which would simply state that the site has been blocked by the DoT. But there was no warning of a fine or jail time. Some of the blocked URLs failed to display any notice and simply displayed unreachable error.
But now the government bodies have come up with a standard message for all blocked URLs across India. Users visiting these sites will now be welcomed by the message displayed below:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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."
India Today reported the news and explained how the URLs and websites are blocked in India. According to the report, most of the sites and URLs were earlier blocked using DNS-filtering, which means the DNS of a particular site is added to a list maintained by the internet service provider and blocks any user requests to access that site. This method was not effective for HTTPS sites, and could easily be by-passed using the right tools.
But the government bodies have adopted latest techniques, such as blocking URLs at the internet gateways, which are managed by giants like Tata Communications and Airtel. While the new warning message seems legit and effective, there are certain challenges linked to it.
As the warning states, "viewing, downloading, exhibiting or duplicating" copyrighted content will be punishable under the law, but it is hypothetical to monitor the whole World Wide Web. There is also no clarification on the process of how the violators will be prosecuted. It is also unclear how the government will tackle situations, where torrent is used by businesses to distribute content like Ubuntu distribution.
Given the current situation of the torrent world, the legal bodies are prevailing in the fight against piracy. Two of the biggest torrent sites, Kickass Torrents and Torrentz, were shut down recently and users are left with only a few legit options for their torrent sources around the world. Taking advantage of Torrentz and KAT's demise, a lot of impostor sites started appearing online with an aim to fool netizens into scams.