Stop With The Worry! Nobody Is Going To Jail For Just Visiting A Blocked website

There have been varying reports in the last 24 hours on the consequences

All one has been seeing in the last 24 hours or so has been the worried and exasperated voices of protest and shock at media reports that visiting a blocked website could leave you facing a fine of rs. 3 lakh and/or even land you in jail!

So, before you start planning for the time you will be spending in jail for the indiscriminate use of a proxy site or a VPN to open a torrent site, there are a few things one should get to know about. “Visiting any website, even if it is a blocked site is not illegal either under the provisions of the Copyright Act,1957 or the Information Technology Act, 2000,”  says Prasanth Sugathan, Counsel at the Software Freedom Law Centre India, a registered society that works on the intersections of law and technology. “The only exception could be if a person views child pornography.”

torrentmsg

So, why the reports you ask? Well, certain websites are being blocked under the John Doe orders from a court to prevent copyright infringement. This law is something that most movie studios employ at the time of a major release, but there was this particular ruling that involved IP law publication SpiceIP on behalf of Hindi Film Dhishoom, in which the court ruled that instead of the standard message,  ISPs should deliver a special message with information about the provisions of the copyright act, and the order in question, with the suit number.

This was done to facilitate knowledge on the part of the users as to why pages or websites are being blocked. However, Tata responded to the court saying that individual messaging would not be technologically feasible and they were the only ISP to do so. As a result of this, the court agreed to a compromise with Tata with the text of the message (displayed in the above image), which led to the reports in the media. This is also why only Tata ISP is the one displaying the message.

In that context, looking at the message again, the warning is about illegal viewing of the copyrighted materials – simply viewing the URL where the pirated content is hosted should not send you to jail. Will it if you downloaded a movie from there? Maybe Yes.

“Torrent sites are often used to share free and open source software and literary and artistic work licensed under Creative Commons licenses,” Sugathan adds.The law with regards to downloading/streaming something has been illegal in India for a long time now, though it’s a law that’s rarely, if ever, enforced.

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