A recent article in Indiatoday (Are you a criminal?) stated that anyone who views a torrent file can go to jail for a period of three years and maybe with a fine of 3 lakhs has spurred great confusion among people, especially the urban population who uses the torrent extensively. This news made the same buzz in social media like the news of Artem Vaulin’s arrest (kickass torrent’s owner). Artem was arrested in Poland and as a consequence, Kickass torrent was shut down by the police.
What is a torrent? A torrent is a file sharing protocol which has been used across the globe to share large contents. Say you want to share videos of a marriage ceremony to a friend or a relative in another country you can use torrent to do that. Just like apps such as Share-it and Xender that are used to share large files between two devices, torrent is used the same way, only difference being the distance between the sender and the receiver will not be in close proximity.
Coming to the question of what really happened, it was a mere miscommunication of government policy which caused the article to go round and round across social media causing unnecessary fear among people. Using torrent is not a crime under Indian constituency, however, using torrent to share ‘copyrighted content’ is a crime and it has been a crime for a very long time now. The recent news was to emphasize the punishment in the message by displaying it on the blocked websites.
The message reads as "This URL has been blocked under the instructions of the Competent Government Authority or in compliance with the orders of a Court of competent jurisdiction. Viewing, downloading, exhibiting or duplicating an illicit copy of the contents of this URL is punishable as an offence under the laws of India, including but not limited to under Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act, 1957 which prescribe imprisonment for 3 years and also fine of up to Rs.3,00,000/-. Any person aggrieved by any such blocking of this URL may contact at email@example.com who will, within 48 hours, provide you the details of relevant proceedings under which you can approach the relevant High Court or Authority for redressal of your grievance"
Just viewing a torrent file and not ‘watching‘ it can cause you no harm. The government has taken serious measures to control piracy over the last few years which by itself is a humongous task and this one comes with a strong message. So, next time you try downloading latest Bollywood movie, be careful on what you're stepping into. The buzz created by misconception is growing day by day as people are not being aware of the actual truth. Some media uses fancy words to catch crowd’s attention and fails to deliver the real message intended, causing people to debate over their own views amongst each other, leading to the birth of the same news in different perspectives as in the above case. Don’t believe everything you read, please go ahead analyze the information provided and ask questions as one is entitled to know the correct information. Understanding the issue will avoid unwanted panics or misconceptions. As they say ‘Knowledge is power’.
Collaborator: Sathya Narayanan