Digital Legal

Indian court limits web-block injunction

By | Published on Wednesday 27 June 2012


An appeal court ruling in India last week reduced the impact of an earlier web-block ruling, and might result in a slow down of the number of wide-ranging web-block injunctions being issued in the country, of which there have been quite a number in the last year or so.

Most legal efforts in India to force internet service providers to block websites that host or link to copyright infringing materials have been led by the country’s film industry, particularly when movies arrive online before they have been released in the cinemas.

Back in April, an Indian film company successfully won a web-block injunction, and provided a list of the websites illegally hosting its films to ISPs. However, the ambiguous wording of the injunction meant that many net firms blocked outright the websites that had been hosting the plaintiff’s content without permission. While many of those sites were probably prolific copyright infringers, some were sites that had credible claims to be, in the main, legitimate operations, with Vimeo being amongst those affected.

In last week’s appeal hearing, judges ruled that – while site-wide web block orders have been issued in the Indian courts (such as those recently issued against Newzbin and The Pirate Bay in the UK) – in the case of the April injunction, only specific URLs linking to the plaintiff’s content needed to be blocked, not entire websites.

Or, in the words of the court itself: “The interim injunction is granted only in respect of a particular URL where the infringing movie is kept and not in respect of the entire website. Further, the applicant is directed to inform about the particulars of URL where the interim movie is kept within 48 hours”.

As a result, many of those sites that had been blocked outright by some Indian ISPs last month are now accessible again.

Of course some rights owners have complained of late about takedown or web-block systems where only specific URLs can be targeted, arguing that because infringing content is posted at new locations all the time, it puts an unnecessary burden on the rights owner to have to constantly monitor and report new infringements.

In the US, the Recording Industry Association Of America recently said it wished the Google search engine would accept site-wide takedown requests for websites that prolifically infringe, such as The Pirate Bay. Though, of course, many fear the growth of site-wide web blocking systems, arguing that sites that operate a genuinely legitimate business, but which may inadvertently host or link to infringing content in the process, may be unfairly blocked as a result.