The internet is the first thing people access in the morning as they get up for work; living without this entity seems akin to a lost limb to many of them. This was the feeling the Reliance Communications customers felt when they found themselves unable to access major file-hosting websites two days before Christmas.
As Indians across the country tried to use their broadband communication, they were faced with a message saying ‘this site has been blocked’ along with a copyright claim by the company. What makes this incident unprecedented is the fact that only the Department of Information Technology has the rightful authority to block websites in the country.
“Since Friday morning I can’t access any file-hosting websites. Not all web users are pirates. We share legitimate files through websites like Megaupload and Filesonic. Like photographs we have clicked. Blocking of websites is ridiculous,” said Gaurav Shukla, editor of AndroidOS.in and someone who has been a customer for the company for half a year now. However, using ISP networks, customers could access the same websites which were blocked by Reliance Communications.
According to a statement given by Reliance Entertainment, the blockage was initiated due to the release of the Don 2 movie. A John Doe order was taken from a Delhi court by the company in order to protect the flick from piracy. (A John Doe act refers to a court injunction provided to be used against hidden or unknown offenders).
Reliance Entertainment personnel were asked to clarify the reason for the blockage by the TOI via email and phone calls, both which have yet to be answered. According to Pranesh Prakash, (a senior official at Centre for Internet and Society), the act to block websites is an illegal move itself. Not only is it wrong for a number of reasons, but the websites can be blamed themselves:
“Yes, there is a John Doe order. But Reliance Communications seems to have misinterpreted it. If the judge, who gave the order, comes to know about how it has been used, I am sure he will disagree. So far, there is no evidence that members at the blocked file-hosting websites had indulged in piracy of Don 2. It’s purely speculative. It is like shutting down a public library just because someone may go there and leave a book about bomb making,” he said.