Internet users in India are in a state of shock, panic, and, well, amusement. According to a new Department of Telecommunications notification, first reported by India Today, viewing or visiting a blocked URL or a banned torrent site — let alone downloading or distributing copyrighted content — will attract a 3-year jail sentence and a hefty fine of INR 3,00,00.
In the past, the Indian government has blocked and banned several hundred illegal URLs, including the ones that contain pornographic material. But until now, if users knowingly or unknowingly visited the banned territory, they would usually get this notice:
“Your requested URL has been blocked as per the directions received from Department of Telecommunications, Government of India. Please contact administrator for more information.”
However, now if users try to visit such URLs or view their content, they get this scary warning:
“This URL has been blocked under the instructions of the Competent Government Authority or in compliance with the orders of a Court of competent jurisdiction. Viewing, downloading, exhibiting or duplicating an illicit copy of the contents under this URL is punishable as an offence under the laws of India, including, but not limited to, under Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act, 1957, which prescribe imprisonment for 3 years and also fine of up to Rs. 3,00,000/-.
“Any person aggrieved by any such blocking of this URL may contact at [email protected] who will, within 48 hours, provide you the details of relevant proceedings under which you can approach the relevant High Court or Authority for redressal of your grievance.”
According to local reports, the Bombay High Court had recently asked Internet Service Providers in India to not just block URLs, but also explain to users why the URLs are blocked. Acting in accordance with the court directive, the Department of Telecommunications asked major ISPs to start blocking the torrent sites, as well as notify the users with what punishment would be meted out to them for illegally accessing the copyright infringing content.