File-sharing sites like, & others blockage sets off torrent of abuse

NEW DELHI: The battle against online piracy, for long an obsession of the music and film industries in the West, reached India on Thursday, triggering outrage in cyberspace after millions of Internet users found their favourite file-sharing websites blocked.

Popular websites such as,, and, which allow sharing of digital content such as music, games and films, were inaccessible for many users of Internet service providers (ISP) such as Airtel, MTNL and Reliance Communications.

The companies said they had barred access to the sites because of court orders. Protests broke out on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

SC, Congress sites defaced

Angry Internet users compared India to authoritarian regimes that strictly regulate the Internet. Reports circulating on the Internet said an anonymous hackers' group briefly took down the website of the Supreme Court and the Congress party in protest.

The outpouring of anger online occurred on a day the government was forced to review the provisions in proposed amendments to the IT Act.

After Opposition parties, including the BJP, supported an opposing motion by CPM Rajya Sabha member P Rajeeve, IT Minister Kapil Sibal assured the House the government would reconsider some provisions.

What was lost amid all the outrage was the fact that the blockade stemmed from a court order, rather than any government move.

The Madras High Court, under the Copyright Act, granted a specific injunction known as the 'John Doe' order, which is issued against an unknown person likely to commit an offence.

John Doe refers to the average person. In India, such orders are known as the 'Ashok Kumar' order.

Producers of two films - Telugu film Dammu and Tamil film Three - obtained the order to prevent the movies from being leaked online.

"The Telugu film industry loses Rs383 crore annually to online piracy. A big film might lose Rs4-5 crore in revenues to online piracy. It has now reached a point where before the evening show on the first day, an illegal copy is available online.

This is hitting even the weekend collections, which are critical for a producer. This is why we moved court to protect the copyright of our clients," said Harish Ram, CEO of Copyright Labs, a Chennai-based firm that represents the producers.

His company distributed Soundarya Rajnikant's 2010 film Goa and itself suffered losses due to piracy. Ram says he subsequently started Copyright Labs, which deploys a number of technical and legal measures, to protect copyright of content owners.

The film Three, which has been granted a John Doe order, stars Dhanush and Shruti Hassan, and is directed by Tamil superstar Rajnikant's younger daughter Aishwarya.