Thursday, January 12, 2012

Can Google And Facebook Be Blocked In India?

Recently we covered an article titled should Wordpress be blocked in India? The article was a result of the increasingly denial of US based and foreign companies to comply with Indian laws like copyright law and cyber law of India. As matters of fact foreign companies are openly violating the intellectual property rights and cyber law of Indians and even if contacted they are not willing to remedy the situation.

Techno legal experts in India have even suggested that US must change its policy towards foreign IP infringements and must stay away from getting involved in controversial laws and actions. However, it seems foreign companies are not listening and experts in India have suggested taking drastic steps like reasonable judicial blocking of such offending websites in India.

According to Praveen Dalal, managing partner of law firm Perry4Law and leading techno legal expert of India, Websites Blocking in India by Judiciary must be Just, Reasonable and Fair. There should not be an “Unreasonable” or “Casual Approach” towards Blocking of Websites in India by Indian Courts. If Websites are “Violating” Laws of India and they have been “Notified” to this effect and still they “do not Remedy the Situation”, then the Safe Harbour Protection under Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 is “Lost” and such Websites/Owners can be Prosecuted in India, informs Praveen Dalal.

This explains the prosecution part of such websites. However, what happens if the prosecuted websites fail to comply with court’s directions? Such Websites can be “Legally Blocked” in India if they fail to “Comply” with Court’s Directions or Directions of Indian Government Agencies like Computer Emergency Response Team, India (CERT-IN) that are duly ordered in this regard by a Designated Officer, informs Praveen Dalal.

The way foreign websites are refusing to comply with Indian laws, blocking of such websites in India is going to increase. In fact, US has proposed laws like Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PIPA) and the "Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that are primarily targeted toward foreign websites blocking, including those of India. India must also enact such law that can block foreign websites if they do not comply with Indian laws.

While pre screening of contents is not possible yet there is nothing that prevents foreign companies from removing objectionable contents. In fact, they are legally bound to remove such offending contents once they become aware of such contents. Cyber due diligence for India companies and foreign websites is now well established and websites owners cannot deny the same.

In fact, the Delhi High Court has today reiterated this position that websites of social networking site Facebook India and search engine Google India can be "blocked" like in China if they fail to devise a mechanism to check and remove objectionable material from their web pages.

The court proceedings against Google and Facebook would continue before the magistrate's court and it would decide the fate of these two companies as per Indian laws. The arguments put forward on behalf of Google and Facebook seem to be weak and they must come up with something really brilliant to show that they are compliant with Indian laws.