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Sony Pictures got John Doe order for its movie Azhar


We had missed this earlier: The Delhi High Court had granted a John Doe order (or Ashok Kumar order) to Sony Pictures Networks India and Balaji Motion Pictures, last month, for their film Azhar. The order, which MediaNama has a copy of, allowed the blocking of 13 known streaming and torrent platforms, and 25 unknown platforms and operators (John Does).

John Doe and Ashok Kumar refer to unnamed persons or entities that, according to the court order, “are likely to infringe the copyright” of the co-producers, Sony and Balaji. Apart from the unnamed entities, the case was also filed against 34 internet service providers (ISPs), 5 multi-system operators (MSOs), and 20 local cable operators.

The court directed the 34 ISPs to ensure “the compliance of the plaintiff’s request to block the access of the URL of the infringing websites”.

Why was Vimeo named?

Last year, courts had made the list of sites submitted to the court, as part of John Doe pleas, not available to the public, like in the case of the John Doe order issued for Masaan. However, in this particular order for Azhar, Vimeo has been named, even though it’s not known as a website that hosts pirated content.

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Last year, Vimeo had also been named in the order for the movie Bombay Velvet. At the time, torrentfreak had pointed out that there were several other issues with the Bombay Velvet order. For example, it listed Pirate Bay’s .org domain even though the site is currently operating from a .se domain. Similarly, the domain name of KickassTorrents is both outdated and misspelled as kickasstoreents.com.

As we have mentioned earlier, courts need to take into consideration the misuse of John Doe orders by movie studios and ISPs to block legitimate access to websites, instead of getting specific links taken down. For example, the John Doe order in case of the order received from the Madras High Court, for the films 3 and Dammu, had led to the blocking of several websites including Dailymotion, Vimeo and The Pirate Bay (a complete list here).

Removal requests to Google

Sony Pictures Networks also sent removal requests for 1193 specific URLs to Google, pertaining to copyrighted content of Azhar. These requests were sent through five separate complaints (one, two, three, four and five) under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It’s not clear how many of these URLs Google has actually removed from it’s search results.

A timeline of John Doe orders issued in India

– Balaji Motion Pictures had also obtained a John Doe order for its film Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3, which released in January this year.

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– While in September last year, production company Hakikat Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. had got a similar John Doe order from Delhi HC for its film MSG 2: The Messenger.

– In May 2015, the Delhi HC had granted a John Doe order to Multi Screen Media for its film Piku.

– In the same month, Fox Star Studio and Phantom Films got a John Doe order for Bombay Velvet. More here.

– In March 2015, Shemaroo got a John Doe order from the Bombay High Court, for the movie Hunterrr. Shemaroo had named five multi-system-operators as defendants, along with John Doe.

– In September last year, Fox Star Studios got a John Doe order for the movie Bang Bang, which got 72 websites blocked.

– Back in 2012, Viacom18 had received a “John Doe” order for the film Gangs Of Wasseypur from the Bombay High Court.

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– In 2012 , an order received from the Madras High Court, for the films 3 and Dammu, led to the blocking of several websites including Dailymotion, Vimeo and The Pirate Bay (a complete list here).

– In 2012,  Tamil film ‘3’ (also made in Telugu and Hindi) received a John Doe order. The film’s producers R K Productions Private Limited filed a civil suit in the Madras High Court, to prevent copyright infringement, and were granted an interim injunction, directing ISPs from infringing copyright of the Producer in the film by communicating or duplicating or downloading and uploading it in any manner without a proper licence.

– The Indian Music Industry (IMI), an industry consortium of 142 music companies, hadobtained orders from the Calcutta High Court directing all Internet Service Providers (387 ISPs) to block 104 music sites which offered pirated music, starting with Songs.pk, the same year. Fifteen days after the order, 68 of the sites were reportedly blocked on MTNL Delhi.

– In July 2011, several ISPs including Airtel had blocked access to file sharing sites Mediafire.com, Megaupload.com, Rapidshare.com, Sendspace.com, Megavideo.com etc. Initially, the reason for the block was suggested as an order from the Department of Telecommunication (DoT), however it was later revealed that the block was instituted because of a John Doe order from the Delhi High Court, allowing Reliance Big Pictures to prevent piracy of its movie Singham.

– The same year, Reliance Entertainment got yet another John Doe order from the Delhi High Court to prevent piracy of its movie Bodyguard.

Image credit: Duncan Hull under CC BY 2.0

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