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TV firm secures mega web-block in India

By | Published on Tuesday 8 July 2014

Multi Screen Media

You might have thought sport was all about biking now, but no, that football kicking festival in Brazil is still going through the final motions, and Indian TV company Multi Screen Media, a Sony subsidiary, is really keen that fans of the game in India watch the remaining games via its channels, and not through dodgy streaming or download sites.

And to that end it recently secured a mega-web-block injunction in the Indian courts forcing internet service providers in the country to block no less than 219 websites. Though the original legal filing last month reportedly listed 479 offending online services.

Multi Screen Media secured the rights off World Cup maker FIFA to broadcast the competition in a number of countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Though, of course, footage is also available online from a plethora of unauthorised sources.

In its legal filing the TV firm said that these online platforms were involved in copyright infringement which was costing the company revenue, and also potentially depriving the government of the taxes paid on television subscription fees.

With time of the essence for Multi Screen Media to capitalise on its rights to air the World Cup, the broadcaster’s lawyers added that it was tricky to target the offending websites with litigation directly, and therefore web-blocks – court orders forcing ISPs to block access to infringing sites, which, of course, have now been employed in various jurisdictions – were the best way forward.

The judge hearing the case concurred on this point, writing in his ruling: “Learned counsel for the plaintiff submits that many of the websites [in the list] are anonymous in nature and it is virtually impossible to locate the owners of such websites or contact details of such owners. It is further submitted that many of these rogue websites also hide behind domain privacy services offered by various domain name registrars”.

And so the blockade was ordered. Now, web-blocks have become a common tool employed by rights owners in their fight against online piracy in a number countries, not least the UK. And it’s quite common for web-block applications to list a number of websites which content firms believe primarily exists to enable and encourage copyright infringement. Though one court order blocking 219 sites in one go is quite phenomenal.

The ruling also arguably makes already controversial web-blocking even more so. Certainly the original list of offending sites provided by Multi Screen Media stood out in that, alongside the usual suspects like The Pirate Bay, it included a few services owned by Google, as well as Kim Dotcom’s file-transfer firm Mega (the replacement to MegaUpload, which has generally caused less outrage in copyright circles than its predecessor).

The downsized list had the Google-owned set-ups removed, though it’s not clear if Mega is still amongst the platforms to be blocked in the region. It’s thought the list of targeted sites was prepared for Multi Screen Media by a local anti-piracy firm called Markscan which TorrentFreak has already accused of sending “erroneous takedown notices” relating to Google services.

The company told the file-sharing news site that it had both automated and staff-led checks in place to ensure its takedowns don’t target legit websites. Though if the anti-piracy agency is prone to order notices against non-infringing sites, that can affect the credibility of everyone involved in the takedown and web-block game.