A judge is now forcing changes to a scary anti-piracy warning in India, one that threatened stiff prison sentences for merely viewing an unauthorized torrent.
Saunter onto a ripped-down torrent site like ExtraTorrent or Kickasstorrents in the US, and you’ll get a semi-scary message with the logos of the FBI, US Department of Homeland Security, and some other stern messages. It’s enough to cause you to shut down the tab, and do something else.
But if you happened to surfing online in India last month, you’d be getting messages warning of three-year jail sentences for merely visiting a terminated torrent hub. It looked something like this:
After widespread dissemination of the above, freaked-out users have been worried about receiving multi-year jail times and fines they can’t afford. Some have been contacting the email address above to clear their names, while others shut down their computers in a fit of anxiety.
The most problematic (and scary) part of the warning is that ‘viewing… an illicit copy of the contents under the URL is punishable as an offense under the laws of India… which prescribe imprisonment for 3 years and also fine upto Rs. 3,00,000/-.”
Word spread, online and off, with a cooling effect dropping traffic to torrent sites. Indeed, the warning has been a great tactic for reducing illegal torrenting, though the only problem is that it isn’t true. Enter a Bombay High Court judge, who has ruled that neither viewing nor accessing content via a torrent hub is illegal, but distributing that content can subject users to serious penalties. “The offence is not in viewing, but in making a prejudicial distribution, a public exhibition or letting for sale or hire without appropriate permission copyright–protected material,” the judge clarified.
Tata Communications, which crafted and delivered the blocking message, was ordered to remove any reference to ‘viewing.’ According to Torrentfreak, the updated notice warns against “infringing or abetting infringement of copyright-protected content,” which includes distribution on torrent channels.
Prison image by Daily Sunny (CC by 2.0).