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HC asks ISPs to set up independent ombudsman to tackle piracy

mumbai Updated: Sep 10, 2016 18:17 IST
Kanchan Chaudhari

The Bombay high court has suggested that all the internet service providers (ISPs) come together to set up an independent ombudsman to tackle online piracy and the wrongful blocking of uniform resource locators, or URLs.

Justice Gautam Patel felt that “such an agency (an independent ombudsman) would be of great assistance to the court in these John Doe matters (used for people or places whose identity is unknown or kept secret) and other ISP, internet, and software-related issues.”

“In John Doe cases, the ombudsman might serve to provide a first level of checking of the plaintiff’s (producer’s) claim,” the judge said. “At a later stage, it could address individual grievances (about wrongful blocking of links),” the court added. 

The ombudsman may also work more closely and meaningfully with ISPs to ensure effective communications and responses to aggrieved parties, the judge said , adding, “I would urge the ISPs to consider this proposal urgently.” 

The issue cropped up during hearing of a plea by Eros International Media Limited seeking orders to block several links on different websites allowing illegal downloading of the movie Dhishoom, produced by it. Acting on the plea, the court had ordered blocking of some URLs and had asked the ISP concerned to display an error message whenever someone tries to access the link that it had been blocked on orders of the court. 

The error message, while protecting copyright, was ordered to be displayed to ensure that freedom of speech and expression was not infringed upon by wrongful blocking of links. 

Later, Tata Communications approached the court saying that it was not possible to display the error message owing to the size of the message. The court, accordingly, reduced the size of the message, but also ordered the telecom major to designate a nodal officer, who can be contacted by any person aggrieved by wrongful blocking of the links. 

At the same time, the judge also realised that there was no mechanism to monitor functioning of the nodal officers and also that of the ISPs. “But I do not see what option is currently available,” Justice Patel said , underscoring the need for the ISPs to come together and establish an office of an ombudsman, to whom all such grievances and complaints could be routed.