A report by India Today saying that the users of blocked torrent sites will now be served with a Rs 3 lakh fine as well as a 3-year imprisonment has sent shockwaves in the community. The report has been widely covered by leading media outlets, but it seems that the completely story it not being told.
India Today claims that users can be held accountable for the crime even if they are just viewing a torrent file, or downloading a file from a host banned in India. According to its report, anyone visiting these banned URLs will be served the following message:
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 upto Rs. 3,00,000/-. Any person aggrieved by any such blocking of this URL may contact at email@example.com 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.
In all fairness, the message is scary enough to push the users away from the website.
However, we decided to do a reality check. We accessed two of the biggest torrent databases –Torrentz2 and Extratorrent.cc – to see if this is indeed the truth. We did not face any problem in accessing Torrentz2 as can be seen from the image above.
However, when we tried to access Extratorrent.cc, we were served with a notice that the URL has been blocked as per the directions received from Government of India. The message is exactly the same as it was earlier. There is no mention of any fine or jail time being served to the user.
Even if it was to be believed that there is a provision for a fine or imprisonment in the new directions, there is no information regarding how the complete process will take the course. How will they track the enormous number of Internet users who throng the torrent websites daily? Lack of information at this time might limit any decisive action from the authorities. Or maybe, the ban will be lifted after an outrage from the youth who are the biggest users of the torrent websites.