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Indian Music Industry supports draconian Internet rules, files Petition in High Court

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With censorship being the flavour of the internet for the past one year, Indian Music Industry (IMI) has decided to tame the internet. Fed up of websites offering free downloads of songs; the IMI has supported the Information Technology Rules, 2011.

The IMI has come out in support of a clause in the ITR 2011 which states that content which is reported must be taken down within 36 hours of the complaint. According to IMI websites are supposed take licenses from copyright society to host content, failing which the website in its entirety must be blocked. They also have mentioned in their PIL that the website must not be notified before being blocked, as they can shift the service to other website.

In countries which have ban on foreign websites (e.g. Iran, China), people from across the globe circumvent the ban and continue to enjoy a viewership in these countries. When www.songs.pk was blocked it surfaced later as www.songspk.pk. If this can be done, then does the ITR 2011 provide a foolproof mechanism?

The part of not informing the website regarding the block is infringement of freedom. The person has a right to know as to what part of the website lead to a criminal offense. Not just that, the whole site need not be blocked just because the site contains some objectionable / copyright material, in all fairness just the material’s download must be blocked.

Agreed that copyright infringement is something that causes grievous monetary hurt to the music producers out there, but they are too late and all the steps might be too little. Circumventing a block is not a big deal for anyone with a website out there.

In the recent twitter crackdown by the GOI, most of the accounts blocked weren’t anti-national in anyway. This caused a furore in the cyberspace; it was seen as a violation of free speech and it was. There are concerns that ITR 2011 may be used wrongly and hence a petition has been filed by Shojan Jacob, an IT lawyer which contains a few points which need to be added to the ruling.

PIL

– Declare the particular rules as arbitrary, unreasonable, illegal and unconstitutional.

– Issue guidelines to the Government to the effect that censoring activity shall be transparent, incorporating principles of natural justice.

– To issue guidelines to the Government to communicate to the owner of the content/ user concerned immediately after the blocking, banning or censoring the content a copy of the order stating reasons to enable them to resort to judicial remedies.

– To direct the Government to instruct the Internet Service Providers (ISP) to develop the technical competence to block only the specified webpages/websites which have been directed by the Courts/ orders of the government.

– To direct the Government to take away the deciding power and censoring power from the intermediaries and escalate such issues to a government appointed body like Computer Emergence Response Team (CERT-In), to ensure uniformity in the blockings.

[Download Shojan Jacob’s Writ Petition in the Kerala High Court [.PDF] / Download IMI’s Petition for Impleading [.PDF]]

1) The words are to be made clear so that there should not be any form of misuse due to a loophole based on wordings. The content’s infringement must be gauged and depending on that the further action must be planned.

2) If any action is taken then the cause must be clearly mentioned. To avoid any unwarranted action and speculation, just like in any real world case, the sections and infractions must be clearly spelled out.

3) The ISPs must block only those sites which are ordered to be blocked as per the court’s judgement and/or the government’s orders. For this the ISPs must equip themselves with the technology (software/hardware) to block the sites.

4) A centralized body appointed by the govt is essential to rule out any ambiguity. The problem is when too many intermediate bodies are present there are chances of misuse. A central body which is governed by a set of rules as prescribed by the govt and takes action according to the law will be apt.

This steps taken by the IMI seems like they have made themselves aware of the internet world now, a bit later than the rest of the world but they have nonetheless. But the technical ‘know-how’ and the ‘how to’ part is something they are still vague about.

I second the amendments as suggested by Shojan Jacob’s PIL.

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