Viewing pirated films online not an offence

Bombay High Court: In a recent order, a Single Judge Bench comprising of G.S. Patel, J has clarified that a mere act of watching a pirated movie is not criminal offence, however, selling or showing a pirated movie is a crime, as per the Copyright Act. This case was regarding a message which had started appearing on certain blocked URLs, which stated that watching or downloading a pirated film could result in a three year prison term and a fine of Rs 3 lakh under Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A read with Section 51 of the Copyright Act, 1957.
The Judge stated that he had noticed some media reports, that commented on the fact that the error pages being displayed by various ISPs gave an impression, that ‘viewing’ an illicit copy of a film is a penal offence under the Copyright Act, 1957. The Court clarified that this was inaccurate. The offence was not in viewing, but in making a prejudicial distribution, a public exhibition or letting for sale or hire without appropriate permission copyright-protected material.The Court also noted that these irresponsibly worded messages had created confusion among internet users and that it was no longer possible to leave it to these ISPs to construct appropriate error pages. The Court requested the plaintiffs’ counsel  to come up with an appropriate message with basic objective of helping those who are adversely affected by a blocking order, so that they are made aware of their remedies and can approach the Court for corrective or remedial action. [Eros International Media Limited v.  Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 6948, order dated 24th August, 2016]

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