In a landmark order, a Division Bench of High Court has ordered blocking of 73“pirate” websites and directed the Department of Electronics And Information Technology, Government of India, to assist in the enforcement of orders passed by the Court in online piracy issues.
This order was issued in a review petition filed by Department of Electronics And Information Technology, Government of India, contending that that they cannot be made parties in a purely private dispute between copyright owners and infringers.
The Single Bench of the High Court on a plea by Star India Pvt. Ltd. had directed the internet service providers to block the websites of 73 ‘pirate’ websites along with a direction to the Department Of Electronics And Information Technology, Government of India to ensure compliance with the injunction order. The Division Bench on appeal, had modified the direction issued by the Single Bench to the effect that the specified URLs identified by the aggrieved persons would be blocked and not the entire website.
Reviewing its order, the Division Bench comprising of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and A.K.Pathak observed:” The respondent has placed enough material in the suit to show that the rogue websites are indulging in rank piracy and thus prima-facie the stringent measure to block the website as a whole is justified because blocking a URL may not suffice due to the ease with which a URL can be changed, and as noted above, the number of URLs of the rogue websites range between 2 to 2026 and cumulatively would be approximately 20,000. It would be a gargantuan task for the respondent to keep on identifying each offending URL and especially keeping in view that as and when the respondent identifies the URL and it is blocked by the ISP, the rogue website, within seconds can change the URL thereby frustrating the very act of blocking the URL.”
Illustrating it further, the Court explained why blocking of websites which indulge in piracy is more feasible than blocking URL as follows: “a rogue website www.abc.com whose URL is www.abc.com/india-v-pakistan, can simply log into the website source code and insert the letter ‘s’ after the letter ‘v’ and change the URL to www.abc.com/india-vs-pakistan. Thus, if the URL www.abc.com/india-v-pakistan is blocked, the infringer can start operating on the URL www.abc.com/india-vs-pakistan within a few seconds. But, if a domain name itself is blocked, to continue with the infringing activity becomes a cumbersome, time consuming and money spending exercise. A new domain name has to be created and purchased apart from purchase of a fresh hosting server space. The entire exercise of creating a website has to be undertaken.”
The Court added: “On the issue of whether the appellant could be directed to ensure compliance with the blocking order directed against the service providers, suffice it to state that it is the duty of the Government, its instrumentalities and agencies to assist in the enforcement of orders passed by the Courts.”
The Court also observed that if any of the above websites could show that its dominant activity is lawful and makes out a case for vacating the ex-parte ad-interim injunction, they could approach the Trial Judge who would would consider modification thereof to block a URL.
Read the Judgment here.