Internet users who visit torrent websites to download pirated content should brace for three years in prison and a penalty of Rs 3 lakh, a new warning on torrent websites reads.
Department of Telecommunications has asked major ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block the torrent sites and serve warnings to people visiting them.
As reported by the India Today, the 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 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.”
The warning message implies that the URL blocking is happening at the internet gateways as the message does not appear on all connections.
The language of the warning is very vague without any proper guidelines or announcement done by either Department of Telecommunications or the Government of India. No notification in this regard has been issued by the government. The warning that “viewing, downloading, exhibiting or duplicating an illicit copy of content under this URL" is punishable offence appears very vague without citation of any government order or notification.
It was also not clear if ‘viewing’ the website is punishable or ‘viewing’ the content available on the website. In case of former, every internet user who checks the website without downloading the content becomes a criminal.
When we accessed several of reportedly blocked torrent websites on our connection, a message appeared which read, “This URL has been blocked under Instructions of the Competent Goverment Authority or Incompliance to the orders of Hon'ble Court.” None of the websites showed the warning with jail term and monetary fine.