We have always enjoyed our freedom when it comes to accessing Internet. Perhaps, it is short lived now. We have been getting warning while visiting few torrent and blocked sites for past couple of years. The verbiage was very vague and it was not termed as incrimination back then. It seems to have changed for past couple of days. We are witnessing a clear messaging of committing an offence by just visiting a blocked site or URL.
You will see the message which reads as:
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.
Who Blocked Sites?
Torrent sites are notorious for distributing copyright content eg. videos, music and books etc. Copyright owner of the content, for instance bollywood film studios or their lawyers approach court with a list of sites ahead of a movie release to prevent distribution of their content via these unauthorized medium. Sometimes, these lists include unnecessary URLs which are not associated with file sharing or movie downloads.
Once the order is issued by court against an unnamed entity, it is sent along with the list of blocked site URLs to DoT (Department of Telecommunication). It is further forwarded to ISPs (Internet Service Providers) who block any request to these sites at their servers resulting into such warning pop ups in your browser window.
Is Punishment For Real?
These warning pop-ups are not new but the warning verbiage is definitely strict and it is clear that you will be incriminating by visiting any blocked site. As a first time offender you can be booked under Section 63 of the aforementioned act, which deals with “Offence of infringement of copyright or other rights conferred in the Act” and you may end up in jail for six months to three years, and a fine of Rs 50,000 – Rs 2 lakh. For a subsequent offense, you can be booked under Section 63-A of the Copyright Act, and it can carry a punishment of not less than one year and it might extend to three years and a fine between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 3 lakh.
It is not clear how one can be prosecuted. It could be that ISPs submit the list of offenders and the “competent authority” or cops can follow through the process under the Copyright Act. In my opinion, it seems more like an education by ISPs to end users that they are trying to access a blocked site and they are committing a punishable offence. Recently Bombay High Court re-iterated to ISPs that blocking site is not the end of their responsibility, they need to inform users that it is an offense to access someone’s copyright work without permission. I suggest you all to be law abiding citizens, no matter this warning is followed through by the Government or not.
Is It Possible To Access Blocked Site?
Yes, it is possible to access blocked sites by using VPN or Proxy. There are different variants of Proxy Servers but a simple explanation is that a proxy server fetches the site or file on your behalf from a particular site (blocked site), so you do not interact with the blocked site directly rather you go to proxy and ask to fetch the web page and proxy provides the web page on your browser screen.
You may also conceal your IP address and browse internet anonymously by using VPN service. These technologies were developed to serve a greater purpose but this is the greatest.
This is the golden age for piracy cops when pirates are not finding any place to hide. The whole torrent world is falling apart. Not only pirates but subscribers of their services are also facing difficult times. Future does not look very kickass for this dark side of internet but there may be few surprises around. Please share your thoughts in comments.