India has always been a free heaven for accessing torrent websites, but it would now appear that even accessing these comes with a warning: three-year jail, and a possible fine of Rs 3 lakh. In the past, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued orders for blocking of websites, over illegal and pirated content, but new ones keep popping up. Even so, accessing a torrents website was not a problem for most Indian users, and none of the blocked URLs ever flashed a warning sign with the possible consequences. That is until now.
In a story first reported by India Today, some torrents websites, which are blocked, flash a warning note telling users that logging on to such websites is a criminal offense and carries punishment.
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 of this URL is punishable as an offense 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 up to 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.”
We tried clicking on some torrents link on torrentz2.eu, and others and found that on being redirected, the warning would come up.
The government warning clearly states – viewing, downloading or duplicating copyright content will leave you in violation of Section 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act, 1957. For a first time offence you can be booked under Section 63 of the Act, which deals with “Offence of infringement of copyright or other rights conferred by the Act” and will lead to an imprisonment term of six months to three years, and a fine of Rs 50,000 – Rs 2 lakh ($745 – $30000). For a subsequent offense, you can book under Section 63-A of the Copyright Act, and can carry a punishment of not less than one year – that might extend to three years, and a fine between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 3 lakh.
Any person who is aggrieved by such a ban can approach the relevant High Court or authority. Even while we were using an Airtel broadband, the warning gave us a contact email of Tata Communication to provide details of a wrongful blocking. We were able to access a few torrent websites that have apparently not banned by the authorities yet.We found this warning on some of the torrent websites that we tried to access, like Torrenlinks.net, BitTorrent.cc, torrentdownloads.me, etc
Web sites like Torrenlinks.net, btstorrent.cc, torrentdownloads.me, limetorrents.cc, and more are all flashing this warning. When we tried to open these links again, the warning was replaced by an old caution warning that states, “This URL have been blocked under Instructions of the Competent Government Authority or In compliance with the orders of Hon’ble Court”. It is not clear which High Court has issued orders for the blocking of these websites.
There are many ways to access illegal websites through DNS servers and IP address masking via VPN, and there’s a good chance many might just prefer to use those in order to access these websites.
What about the legal content and open source software being shared using torrent?
This blocking is affecting the legal use of torrent that covers many independent artists and businesses. Talking about open source software, many Linux distros use torrent as a means to distribute their operating system. Thus, this move will make it illegal for you to access a torrent website and search for your favorite free and open source software.
There’s no official word from the DoT or the government on this crackdown on Torrents websites and its users.