Major Hollywood studios and other rightsholders consider site-blocking an effective tool to combat rampant online infringement. Opponents, on the other hands, view the tactic not only as a blunt instrument but one that can be easily circumvented.
What is clear, however, is that site-blocking is more effective when it targets many sites. This helps to ensure that when one site is blocked, users don’t flood to other platforms that aren’t.
As a result, entertainment companies keep returning to courts around the world to obtain orders requiring ISPs to add even more sites to their blacklists. Following an order handed down by the High Court in Delhi this week, Indian ISPs will have to add almost 120 new ‘pirate’ domains to their filtering systems.
Disney’s Application to Block 118 ‘Pirate’ Domains
The action, filed by Disney Enterprises “and others”, was heard via video-conferencing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Defendants include dozens of pirate sites, Internet service providers, the Department of Communications (DoT) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY).
The application notes that the plaintiffs are businesses incorporated in the United States and are all involved in the creation, production and distribution of motion pictures and other cinematographic works.
“The plaintiffs are aggrieved by the fact that certain rogue websites are enabling the down-streaming of their creative work which includes films and other entertainment programs, albeit, without requisite licenses. The plaintiffs aver that they have the copyright in the content of their creative works and, hence, need to be protected,” a judgment handed down on Monday reads.
Range of ‘Pirate’ Domains Offering Movies and Cartoons/Anime
The list includes 37 ‘pirate’ site defendants, none of whom were present to mount any kind of opposition. There appears to be a particular focus on sites specializing in anime and cartoons, including the massively popular Nyaa.si which took fifth position in our annual overview of the world’s most popular torrent sites.
Other notable entries listed in the application and specializing in this genre include Horriblesubs, Kisscartoon/Kimcartoon, Wcostream/watchcartoononline, kissanime, gogoanime, and 9anime. The majority of these platforms have multiple domains detailed in the application, so Disney and partners are probably hoping to wipe them out quickly to avoid a resurgence.
While streaming sites dominate the domains to be blocked, a handful of torrent sites are included in the application. In addition to Nyaa, large private torrent site IPTorrents also gets a mention, with the plaintiffs demanding that 11 domains/sub-domains are blocked by ISPs. TorrentDownload and YourBitTorrent2 complete the list.
Finally, the application demands that named proxy sites are also blocked by ISPs, including Unblockit.red and Proxyof.com. However, the judge’s order appears to consider a situation where the named sites deploy unblocking mechanisms of their own.
‘Dynamic’ Injunction Handed Down
The “injunction shall also operate in respect of the mirror/redirect/alphanumeric websites, which are put in play by [the defendant pirate sites] to grant access to the websites [referred to in the order],” the judgment reads.
Overall, the judge was happy to hand down the blocking order, noting that the plaintiffs are suffering “considerable damage” to their commercial interests. The balance of interests is in favor of the entertainment companies, the judge added, while handing down the following instructions;
“[The pirate site defendants] are restrained from, in any manner, hosting, streamlining, reproducing, distributing, making available to the public and/or communicating to the public or facilitating the same on their websites through the internet in any manner whatsoever, any cinematograph work, content, program and show in which the plaintiffs have copyright.”
While the injunction is unlikely to be followed by many or indeed any of the sites listed, the Department of Communications and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology are instructed to inform local ISPs that they must block the domains covered by the application. Furthermore, the plaintiffs can also file a new application if they need to block new domains, making this a so-called ‘dynamic’ order.
“The plaintiffs are given liberty to file an application…to array other rogue websites if the same are discovered after the issuance of the instant interim order. The purpose being that the Court, in these cases, needs to dynamically monitor such egregious illegality and, if necessary, pass interim orders to restrain similar rogue websites from illegally streaming the creative content in which the plaintiffs have a copyright,” the judge concludes.
The judgment of the Delhi High Court can be found here (pdf)