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Open letter to Justice Vasuki on blocking of file sharing sites

This is an open letter from Vidyut to Justice Vasuki in he matter of Censorship of file sharing sites in India following orders from the Madras High Court. The original letter is published at http://aamjanata.com/open-letter-to-justice-vasuki-of-madras-high-court/

Dear Justice Vasuki,

I am writing to you with concern about the recent developments after an order of yours was used by Copyright Labs as a tool to block access to large parts of the internet. I really appreciate your clarification issued to the ISPs that the order was intended to only block specific urls and not entire sites. However, I have some concerns, that I would like to share with you.

It is my view that the Madras High Court order from you was deliberately misused by Copyright Labs to block off entire areas of the internet. In your order, you have not mentioned any websites. These websites were added by the lawyer of Copyright Labs, Advocate L H Harish Ram in his notice to ISPs demanding entire websites be blocked. It also isn’t a minor request, but a huge list of 272 websites that Copyright Labs invented seemingly of their own accord.

Some of these websites have “tamil” in their name, which means their readership is significantly Indian, so they for all intents and purposes were supposed to be wiped out, because they “could” pirate the film. Other sites with large and diverse utilities were added to this list. VIMEO, for example is largely a site for independent filmmakers. To see pirated content, you are supposed to go to youtube, which (surprise!) isn’t on this list. Maybe because Google does have lawyers in India and a tendency to expose bullshit censorship attempts. VIMEO has a lot of documentaries, independent films, instruction videos for applications, portfolios of personal work and more. VIMEO also has paid subscriptions for people who want to post more video content than the free option. Indian users who may have paid for it got harmed by the actions of this notice, because their payment did not result in their clients seeing their videos and additionally gave them a bad name for being blocked by the laws of the country – for no fault of their own. And then the ridiculous. At least one website on that list is completely incapable of hosting video content at all – pastebin is strictly text. How can it possibly host their pirated content? As you see, this was an arbitrary misuse and misrepresentation of your words.

Legal jargon can be difficult to understand, and it is easy for a layman to be confused by it or misunderstand the meaning of an order. However, Copyright Labs is a business specifically for protecting copyrights. Unless they are spectacularly incompetent, it is unlikely they did not understand the difference between your order and how they used it. Additionally, when people protested the blocks, they issued statements directly lying about their actions and said that they had not asked for entire sites to be blocked. In my view, that totally demolishes any possibility that they did not know what they were doing. It is an alarming thing for a business to be built around protection of copyright that silences entire swathes of the internet countrywide.

Even if every single Tamil internet film watcher saw only internet-pirated versions of their films, how many would they be among total number of Indians impacted by this action? This is like killing everyone in a village so that any militants among them are dead too or worse, killing all kids in a school, because they *could* grow up to be militants.

The question here is what will you do? Will there be any action taken against entities that use court orders as weapons against the fundamental rights of citizens for the sake of profit? Or will they enjoy impunity and be free to take such gambles knowing that it is a business profit if it works, and no loss if it fails? If so, why wouldn’t people with money to burn continue to try to pervert our justice system for fun and profit?  Merely restoring access to the sites in question – as the situation currently stands, in my view is like being ok with a thief simply returning stolen goods if caught.

I have some suggestions.

  • Why make protections for specific films? Is it ok to pirate the others?
  • When such protections are provided that impact millions of lay people, a layman’s version should be provided, which may not be legally binding without the very specific legal jargon, but helps the common man understand what the court really means from a trustworthy source in normal language so there is no possibility for crooks to invent their own interpretations. Anyone interested in details or legal aspects can study the actual order document for the legally accountable version.
  • Deliberate misrepresentation of the court’s words, particularly against the rights of citizens should be punishable.

I have the common man’s idealistic vision of our courts. I want to see the hero put the bad guys in jail at the end of the film, not merely recover the loot and set them free to bully the bastiwalahs again.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Vidyut

AamJanata

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