UPDATED: Indian Government Blocks Leading File-Sharing Services

According to growing reports coming out of India, users of several large Internet service providers can no longer access some of the world's largest file-hosting sites. On apparent order from the Indian government, RapidShare, MegaUpload, MediaFile, HotFile and many more are all being blocked at the ISP level.

India, the world’s second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, is without doubt a growing force to be reckoned with on all fronts. With increasing numbers of tech-savvy residents it is also a potential goldmine for music, movie and software companies.

Of course, with the spread of Internet access file-sharing is attracting attention too. Now it appears, for whatever reason, that the sharing of files is being curtailed by India’s government.

During the last 24 hours users of some of the country’s largest Internet service providers have found that they are barred from a selection of the world’s foremost file-hosting sites.

According to an initial report by a user known as Sushubh and screenshots first provided by Airtel customer Sunny Chahal, the blocks have been ordered by DOT, the Indian Government’s Department of Telecommunications. The screenshot below shows the message greeting Airtel customers.

Indiablock

Airtel is reported to have been the most aggressive, refusing access to a who’s-who list of cyberlockers including:

RapidShare.com
Mediafire.com
MegaUpload.com
Hotfile.com
SendSpace.com
Fileserve.com
MegaVideo.com
VideoBB.com
Novamov.com
Movshare.net
Filesonic.com
Putlocker.com
Depositfiles.com

Other ISPs have blocked some of the sites listed above, while the state-owned BSNL is reported as not yet blocking any. MTNL users report blocking, but only if they use the full web address of a site – omitting www unblocks the site in question.

This lack of consistency across ISPs has led to speculation that the problem is related to routing issues, but that would not adequately explain the presence of the blocking message which is greeting some broadband customers.

Naturally there is a belief that the action is an attempt to crack down on unlawful file-sharing but as yet there has been no official announcement from the authorities. Hayai Broadband India have announced that should they obtain a blocking order from the government, they will publish it on their website.

Inevitably the hot discussion centers around bypassing the restrictions. Some of the suggestions include using secure https:// instead of the usual http:// in a site’s URL, accessing a site by omitting www, and using various web-proxy sites.

Update: Ok, this is a very, very interesting situation. According to Indian news site Medianama, a company called Reliance Big Pictures served cease and desists letters on sites/services unlawfully offering the movie ‘Singham’ which releases in theaters officially tomorrow.

“A John Doe order is given against unidentified people, because the copyright owner doesn’t know who is going to infringe,” Big Pictures VP (Music and Anti Piracy) Sanjay Tandon told Medianama. “We anticipate that certain entities are going to infringe, and the Delhi High Court has granted us a John Doe order.”

It appears that having been served with the order, some ISPs overreacted and blocked entire sites, rather than just the Singham movie.

“Our only appeal with this order is that you cannot make the film available through your network,” added Tandon. “It’s a matter for the ISPs to look into, because it becomes their liability.”

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