Pirated films: India

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Viewing pirated films online not an offence: Bombay HC

The Times of India

Swati Deshpande | TNN | Sep 5, 2016

The Bombay high court has said it is inaccurate to suggest that merely viewing an illicit copy of a film is a punishable offence under the Copyright Act.

"The offence is not in viewing, but in making a prejudicial distribution, a public exhibition or letting for sale or hire without appropriate permission copyright-protected material," Justice Gautam Patel said. He asked Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to drop the line "'viewing, downloading, exhibiting or duplicating' a particular film is a penal offence" from the 'error message' and directed them to display a more generic message on URLS to be blocked for infringement of copyright.

He made the observation in an order last month when it was pointed out that an ISP had displayed a message that had sent viewers in a tizzy.

The HC had recently directed ISPs to block several URLs on a plea by producers of the film Dishoom+ against piracy. The court also directed ISPs to place an 'error message' on the blocked sites as a measure to ensure genuine e-commerce sites are not affected.

"Omprakash Dharmani from Tata Communications is present in court. He says the firewall being used by Tata Communications and almost all other ISPs has an inbuilt software limitation: it does not allow the display of a file in excess of 32 kb. This is an absurdly small size, Justice Patel said, expressing concern that the message must give enough details.

After hearing advocate Nikhil Rodrigues for the producer and senior counsel V Tulzapurkar for the ISP, Justice Patel said, "The basic purpose must be kept in mind, so that a person who is inadvertently adversely affected by a blocking order is made aware of his remedies and about which court he or she can approach for corrective or remedial action." The court directed the ISPs to add a generic "error message to these blocked URLs to state that the site was blocked pursuant to an order of the court and that anyone with a grievance could contact the nodal officer of the ISP.

The message must also say, "Infringing or abetting infringement of copyright-protected content including under this URL is an offence in law. Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act, 1957, read with Section 51, prescribe penalties of a prison term of up to 3 years and a fine of up to Rs 3 lakh." The judge said the ISP must appoint a nodal officer with a dedicated email address and respond to complaints within two working days. The order must be followed by all ISPs including Vodafone and MTNL, said the HC.

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