After multiple attempts to contact the relevant authorities in the Indian government regarding the recent blocking of archive.org in that country, the Internet Archive received a response early this morning indicating that two court orders (here and here) were the source of the block. The orders identify a list of thousands of websites to be blocked for allegedly making available two separate films, “Lipstick Under my Burkha” and “Jab Harry Met Sejal”. Both orders come from the same judge of the High Court of Madras (civil jurisdiction). According to many reports, http://archive.org is blocked, but https is not.
Even beyond the fundamental and major problems with preemptively blocking a site for users’ submissions and content of which it is unaware, there are serious issues with these orders. We would like to know the following:
1. Is the Court aware of and did it consider the fact that the Internet Archive has a well-established and standard procedure for rights holders to submit take down requests and processes them expeditiously? We find several instances of take down requests submitted for one of the plaintiffs, Red Chillies Entertainments, throughout the past year, each of which were processed and responded to promptly.
2. After a preliminary review, we find no instance of our having been contacted by anyone at all about these films. Is there a specific claim that someone posted these films to archive.org? If so, we’d be eager to address it directly with the claimant.
3. Archive.org is included along with thousands of other websites in a list (entitled “Non-Compliant Sites”) to block for allegedly making available the two films of concern. The only URL the list identifies pertaining to us is “https://archive.org”. There are no specific URLs for alleged locations of films on the site, only the full domain. Was there any attempt to exercise any level of review or specificity beyond “archive.org”?
All in all, this is a very worrying development and is part of a harmful pattern of governments increasingly taking web content (and in many cases entire sites) offline in unpredictable and excessive ways. We have seen reports from scholars and academics that this block has disrupted their work. We hope full access to archive.org will be restored quickly.
UPDATE: the Indian news site MediaNama has analysis of the court orders and their legality here. That article also notes that the periods that the orders set for the blocks have both expired (the later one was to last through August 8). It’s unclear if it’s been lifted or is in the process of being lifted. We hope so and have inquired with the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.