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Making this quick and painless.

Today, supporters of two Indian political parties claimed to be the first political party to have crowd sourced manifestos. Aam Aadmi Party and Congress.

Just want to say that this is not true. I have no idea if it was the first, but to the best of my knowledge, it seems the Pirate Party of Sweden was the first party to have a crowd sourced manifesto.

A moment of irony, because if it had patented this political party manifesto making method, they would have had the fastest rising political party in India and the biggest political party in India using their intellectual property. :p

For those who don't know, Pirate Party believes that ideas must be free and holds copyright reform as among its core goals.

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Dear Justice Vasuki,

I am writing to you with concern about the recent developments after an order of yours was used by Copyright Labs as a tool to block access to large parts of the internet. I really appreciate your clarification issued to the ISPs that the order was intended to only block specific urls and not entire sites. However, I have some concerns, that I would like to share with you.

It is my view that the Madras High Court order from you was deliberately misused by Copyright Labs to block off entire areas of the internet. In your order, you have not mentioned any websites. These websites were added by the lawyer of Copyright Labs, Advocate L H Harish Ram in his notice to ISPs demanding entire websites be blocked. It also isn't a minor request, but a huge list of 272 websites that Copyright Labs invented seemingly of their own accord.

Some of these websites have "tamil" in their name, which means their readership is significantly Indian, so they for all intents and purposes were supposed to be wiped out, because they "could" pirate the film. Other sites with large and diverse utilities were added to this list. VIMEO, for example is largely a site for independent filmmakers. To see pirated content, you are supposed to go to youtube, which (surprise!) isn't on this list. Maybe because Google does have lawyers in India and a tendency to expose bullshit censorship attempts. VIMEO has a lot of documentaries, independent films, instruction videos for applications, portfolios of personal work and more. VIMEO also has paid subscriptions for people who want to post more video content than the free option. Indian users who may have paid for it got harmed by the actions of this notice, because their payment did not result in their clients seeing their videos and additionally gave them a bad name for being blocked by the laws of the country - for no fault of their own. And then the ridiculous. At least one website on that list is completely incapable of hosting video content at all - pastebin is strictly text. How can it possibly host their pirated content? As you see, this was an arbitrary misuse and misrepresentation of your words.

Legal jargon can be difficult to understand, and it is easy for a layman to be confused by it or misunderstand the meaning of an order. However, Copyright Labs is a business specifically for protecting copyrights. Unless they are spectacularly incompetent, it is unlikely they did not understand the difference between your order and how they used it. Additionally, when people protested the blocks, they issued statements directly lying about their actions and said that they had not asked for entire sites to be blocked. In my view, that totally demolishes any possibility that they did not know what they were doing. It is an alarming thing for a business to be built around protection of copyright that silences entire swathes of the internet countrywide.

Even if every single Tamil internet film watcher saw only internet-pirated versions of their films, how many would they be among total number of Indians impacted by this action? This is like killing everyone in a village so that any militants among them are dead too or worse, killing all kids in a school, because they *could* grow up to be militants.

The question here is what will you do? Will there be any action taken against entities that use court orders as weapons against the fundamental rights of citizens for the sake of profit? Or will they enjoy impunity and be free to take such gambles knowing that it is a business profit if it works, and no loss if it fails? If so, why wouldn't people with money to burn continue to try to pervert our justice system for fun and profit?  Merely restoring access to the sites in question - as the situation currently stands, in my view is like being ok with a thief simply returning stolen goods if caught.

I have some suggestions.

  • Why make protections for specific films? Is it ok to pirate the others?
  • When such protections are provided that impact millions of lay people, a layman's version should be provided, which may not be legally binding without the very specific legal jargon, but helps the common man understand what the court really means from a trustworthy source in normal language so there is no possibility for crooks to invent their own interpretations. Anyone interested in details or legal aspects can study the actual order document for the legally accountable version.
  • Deliberate misrepresentation of the court's words, particularly against the rights of citizens should be punishable.

I have the common man's idealistic vision of our courts. I want to see the hero put the bad guys in jail at the end of the film, not merely recover the loot and set them free to bully the bastiwalahs again.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Vidyut

AamJanata

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Keeping this short and straight.

The blocks on the websites that happened recently, are not about controlling piracy, but about controlling the internet itself. If you look at the top popular sites where anyone can post content, you will see that increasingly, there are three kinds of sites. The first are those that have understandings on content removal with our government - think Google, Facebook, etc. The second are those whose access comes under threat - be it The Pirate Bay or pastebin. And of course, the third kind of site is the one directly or indirectly influenced by the government - news sites, for example.

In other words, if anything gets said that needs to be silent, the accessible part of the web can be forced into compliance one way or the other. Sites without such understandings either have to have content that will not bother the government or are at risk of being banned. If it were about piracy, it makes no sense to ban VIMEO, where there is very little pirated content, but keep access to YouTube, where you can get uploaded videos of just about every Hindi song ever - and by multiple users who are not the rights owners for those songs. Let alone other piracy. However, it makes sense when you factor in the fact that Google routinely takes down content on the demand of the government. It is an alarming worldwide trend. There are 250000 content removal requests on an average **per week* at Google. This is more than all of 2009. That is how rapidly censorship is growing.

It is less of censorship and more of control freakery. The government's interest is in knowing that they can take down content that they want to silence efficiently. This content may or may not be pirated, as is clearly understood from the large number of content removal requests for political reasons from India. Of course, at that time the reason was offending religious sentiments - a small fraction of the actual removal requests. In various ways and for various reasons, the government is making sustained attacks on free speech.

Do the math.