Court Orders SOPA-style Blackout of 100+ Music Sites

Every single ISP in India has been ordered to block 104 sites offering unauthorized music. A total of 387 ISPs must block the sites immediately via DNS and IP address blocking, backed up with Deep Packet Inspection. While the IFPI praised the action, their Indian counterparts are singing are more interesting tune - they don't want to destroy their opponents, but bring them into the business.

“Content theft is a global problem and we must have a global commitment to solving it. This is an important opportunity for the Indian government to move forward with strong protections against online theft,” MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd told the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry conference this week in Mumbai.

“We encourage the Indian film industry to reject as we have, the false argument that you cannot be pro-technology and pro-copyright at the same time,” he continued.

In framing “content theft” as a problem affecting the county’s middle-classes and alongside a clear dig at the likes of Google and Wikipedia, Dodd’s words could have been pulled verbatim from any pro-SOPA speech. But unlike the United States, India doesn’t need new legislation to allow site blocking – they already have it – and Dodd must be as jealous as hell.

Indian film companies have previously obtained court orders to have sites blocked at the ISP level but in recent weeks the IMI, the RIAA-like Indian Music Industry trade group, has shown the movie industry how it’s really done.

In a series of court actions at the Calcutta High Court, 142 music companies of the IMI have succeeded in obtaining orders to force every ISP in India – 387 in total – to block 104 sites (list here) the industry accuses of online piracy.

And when it comes to implementing the blocks, there are no half-measures. ISPs have been ordered to implement DNS and IP address blockades and for those thinking of using a DNS outside India, Deep Packet Inspection will step in to ensure the domains remain blocked.

“This decision is a victory for the rule of law online and a blow to those illegal businesses that want to build revenues by violating the rights of others,” said IFPI CEO Frances Moore in a statement.

But in a clear signal that for the music and movie industries even the toughest of anti-piracy measures are never enough, Moore says that current developments are a good start.

“The court ruled that blocking is a proportionate and effective way to tackle website piracy,” Moore noted, adding that the Indian government should now “build on this progress” by advancing further legislation to tackle digital piracy.

As tough as the Indian court orders are, already their weaknesses are being probed. One of the key sites on the lists – Songs.pk – has already circumvented the blockade by resurfacing with the new URL of Songspk.pk since the blockade was incapable of physically taking the Czech-hosted site offline.

But although the Indian labels have taken the nuclear option in blocking huge numbers of sites, Apurv Nagpal, CEO of Saregama, one of India’s largest music labels says that they don’t want to destroy their opponents. Interestingly, Saregama acknowledges the pirate sites’ “passion for music” and says the industry wants to befriend them.

“We don’t want these sites to be shut down, we want them to pay a license fee and flourish as a business,” Saregama said. “There are legitimate businesses in operation too. The scope is there, and we want these sites to be legal.”

It would be a cold day in hell before Westerners heard the likes of Chris Dodd or Frances Moore make a statement as radical as that. But if the stick is to work long-term it has to be backed up with a sizable carrot, and if the pirate sites really do only want money, surely that’s their Achilles’ heel right there.

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