Several internet service providers in India have recently been seen cracking down on downloading copyrighted content on torrents and warez websites, as part of a new government order. The messages on blocked websites state that doing so could result in a fine of Rs. 300,000 ($4,480), as well as three years in prison.
One ISP, Gigatel, now displays warnings on illegal file-sharing websites, stating that “viewing, downloading, exhibiting, or duplicating an illicit copy of the content" on such websites, is prohibited by law, 'including but not limited to' under Sections 63, 63-A, 65, and 65-A of the Copyright Act 1957 of the Competent Government Authority.
The full warning reads:
"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 [sic] 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"
With this in consideration, many media reports in the country have also been stating that merely visiting the blocked illegal websites is already tantamount to a penalty. However, the message only states that 'viewing, downloading, or exhibiting, or duplicating an illicit copy of the contents' is punishable as an offence.
So, is visiting these torrent and other illegal websites already illegal? Definitely not. According to a report by SpicyIP, the message was intended to let people know why such websites are blocked, hence the warning. It would be understandable that the poor wording on the government's end, which includes 'viewing' could create some confusion among the affected audience.
It remains unclear how the order will exactly be enforced. According to India Today, there is no proper mechanism in place to prosecute someone in the country. Lastly, it is still not known how many websites have been blocked by the directive.
This is not the first time that India made a move towards combating piracy. Back in 2012, the Indian government blocked The Pirate Bay and Vimeo, while also displaying a similar message to users.