Viacom 18 Obtains Court Order to Block 1,250 ‘Pirate’ Sites

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In India, a court has gone to extreme lengths to protect a new movie distributed by Viacom 18. A so-called John Doe order filed against at least 40 ISPs instructs them to block a minimum of 1,250 websites that might make the newly released Force 2 available to the public.

force2Blocking websites is becoming one of the most popular anti-piracy tools among rightsholders. The theory is that if Internet users can’t access pirate sites, they’ll head off to legitimate outlets and part with their cash.

Thus far, whole site blockades have been ordered against sites which courts determine are the worst infringers. Sites like The Pirate Bay, for example, which carries a significant percentage of links to infringing content and refuses to respond to DMCA notices.

Over in India, the approach is somewhat more aggressive, especially given the goals in mind. Rather than looking at the problem as a whole, rightsholders tend to head off to court to obtain a so-called John Doe order on a case-by-case basis, often with extreme results.

Viacom18, a joint venture between Viacom and the Network 18 Group, released the action movie Force 2 November 18. Unfortunately for them, a DVD screener copy of the title leaked online four days ago.

Wanting to protect its investment, the company headed off to court to try and do something about the rampant online piracy already underway. It’s unlikely it will succeed in stemming the flow, but the court has certainly taken the company seriously.

The Madras High Court has just granted Viacom18 an injunction which orders 40 major Internet service providers to block 1,250 websites which might be offering the movie, or links to the movie, to the public.

While that’s an extremely broad instruction, the order goes further. In addition to the 40, all other non-specified ISPs must also comply with the order. Furthermore, the order also covers any other site beyond the 1,250 already named.

Aside from its sheer scale, the order is particularly aggressive in that it orders whole websites to be blocked, not just the allegedly infringing URLs. That means that if someone uploads a copy to YouTube or Vimeo, for example, those platforms could face blocking in a nation where 462m people have Internet access.

Viacom18 is pleased with the court’s response to its calls for help.

“I welcome this order from the Hon’ble Madras High Court,” says Viacom18 group general counsel Sujeet Jain.

“It is estimated that India loses $2.5 billion to online movie piracy every year. With increased penetration of technology and internet in India, piracy through online distribution is expected to continue to be a major source of revenue leakage for the movie industry. This order is a significant development for the film industry in its fight against online piracy.”

Jain also announced that the company has launched an investigation into the source of the leak but how successful that will prove remains to be seen. DVD screener copies of Bollywood movies are extremely common, and it appears that the industry won’t be able to do much to stop the next inevitable leak.

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