Like many other countries around the world, India’s copyright law allows rightsholders to limit access to pirate sites.
Major entertainment industry companies regularly obtain injunctions that require local Internet providers to block websites to prevent piracy.
In essence, these measures are straightforward as specific domains are identified for blocking. However, injunctions can be issued before infringements take place and can be dynamic or temporary, depending on the situation.
In the early years, blocking injunctions were used as a blunt instrument, instructing Internet providers to block legal platforms such as Vimeo, while GitHub and the Internet Archive also ended up in the crosshairs years ago.
GitHub Blocking Troubles
Accuracy-wise, some progress has been made over the years but that doesn’t mean that overblocking is no longer an issue. Throughout this year, several GitHub users have reported persistent problems accessing the platform.
The issues related to GitHub appeared in January of this year, when several Indian developers noted that they could no longer use the site properly. The main Github.com domain was still accessible but raw.githubusercontent.com, where code is typically stored, was blocked.
This made it impossible for developers to work on projects and several applications that used GitHub-hosted code started to return errors.
“This URL has been blocked under the instructions in compliance with the orders of a Hon’ble Court,” a typical error message read.
Since some pirate apps use GitHub it’s possible that raw.githubusercontent.com was listed in a copyright-related injunction, resulting in massive overblocking. As far as we know, the court order in question hasn’t been published but several ISPs were affected.
Problems Persist Despite Reversal
After some backlash, the underlying order was reportedly retracted, after which GitHub started working properly again for most Indians; but not for all. After nearly a year, there are still widespread reports from people who can’t use the site.
“From the past few weeks I am unable to access raw.githubusercontent.com on my Jio network,” one Redditor writes, with many others sharing a similar experience. On X, several users are reporting that they continue to have issues too.
Not all subscribers appear to be affected and other Internet providers don’t appear to have the same issue. This suggests that the affected ISPs didn’t properly unblock the URL earlier this year when the court order was retracted.
GitHub is aware of the problems in India. The Microsoft-owned platform informs us that it’s investigating the issue to see if full access for all users can be restored.
“As the global home for all developers, we firmly believe that everyone should be able to contribute to the future of software development regardless of where they live,” GitHub informed us.
“We are aware of reports that there may be issues with accessing the raw.githubusercontent.com domain in India and are investigating to determine how access can be restored.”
Transparency / Speculation
The lack of transparency regarding Indian court orders and retractions doesn’t help to solve the problem. To the public at large, it still isn’t clear on what grounds GitHub was partly blocked.
One potential tie-in could be the PikaShow app. After becoming the official sponsor for the Afghani cricket team during last year’s Asia Cup, Indian rightsholders pulled out all the stops to block the app.
Through an injunction, GitHub was ordered to disclose information on the developers behind the PikaShow account, but it’s possible that a separate blocking order also targeted the site’s raw.githubusercontent.com URL.
The above is pure speculation, which emphasizes the need for more transparency. That’s especially important now that Indian authorities are requiring domain registrars to comply with blocking orders too if they want to continue operating in the country.
Meanwhile, the developers affected by the continuous blockade have to find ways around the technological restrictions. Luckily, that’s not too hard for this tech-savvy audience.